Like cars, work schedules and taxes, coffee is ever so present in modern daily lives. Many cannot work without it, let alone start their day. Big and small fortunes are built in delivering espressos or brewed coffee to workers on weekdays. As such, I consider coffee as the biggest recreationally available drug of our times.
Yet health impacts of coffee and are not well-known.
Caffeine increases cortisol levels, generates rapid heart beats or tachycardia, and decrease hydration levels. It is catabolic and spikes your blood sugar levels. It is also a neurotoxin alkaloid and blocks the brain’s adenosine receptors. This means in simple terms that in large doses like found in coffee, it will make your heart work harder, makes you feel more energetic thanks to increased blood sugar and will disguise natural body fatigue to your brain.
After a few hours though, blood sugar will fall and you will feel more lethargic. People with depression can experience a more severe drop in their mood once the effect wears off.
It is true that regular coffee consumption lowers cancer risk, but so does tea. Increased cortisol levels and irregular blood sugar levels is bad news for population at risk such as pregnant women, those with metabolic syndrom or Type-2 diabetes. Those with adrenalin fatigue such as tech entrepreneurs, overworked active mums or stressed middle level executives should also skip the cup. Worse, coffee beans have compounds that can increase cholesterol. We may conclude those looking for a less stressful and more natural life (such as listening to your body) should stay away from coffee.
So what are the alternatives?
A first good step is avoiding sugars with your coffee. Stirred into coffee, refined sugar will give people an immediate rush. After the rush passes, people are often left depleted and lower in mood than they were before. Hello depression!
Brewed, non boiled coffee is the first alternative. In contrast to espressos and similar, the paper filter in brewed coffee will filter the compounds associated with increased cholesterol. So next time, skip on the fancy and expensive options and just order the cheap brewed coffee! Decaffeinated coffee, which has been filtered industrially, also doesn’t raise cholesterol levels.
For those looking to stabilize their cortisol and blood sugar levels, black tea is a sensible option. It contains more caffeine than other teas and can be a an even better alternative for those looking for the “coffee rush”. Black tea also lowers cortisol levels by up to 52%.
Green tea is one of the healthiest options with well-known antioxydant properties and positive impacts on cholesterol, cancer risk or diabetes. It is also widely available. For those looking for daily energy, look into green tea matcha. Originally from Japan, there are $10 or $20 packs on Amazon that will last you for months. A few pinches is enough for a cup and will deliver you all day energy. A green tea matcha can deliver as much caffeine as a brewed coffee cup but has L-Theanine, a component with a calming, relaxing effect that slows the release of tea-caffeine.
And remember, don’t add milk to you tea or brewed coffee!
- Antonino Salvaggio, Maurizio Periti, Lino Miano, Giuliana Quaglia and Daniela Marzorati. Coffee and Cholesterol, an Italian Study. American Journal of Epidemiology Volume 134, Issue 2Pp. 149-156
- B K Jacobsen and D S Thelle. Coffee, cholesterol, and colon cancer: is there a link. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1987 Jan 3; 294(6563): 4–5.