We all love the sweet smell and wonderfully bitter taste of that perfect espresso mixed seductively with velvety milk, and now that both the WHO have deemed it good for you, and experts like Cliff Harvey are preaching its positives, should we really be so worried about those creamy cups of espresso?
Should we keep our addiction in check?
Caffeine itself is a stimulant that releases small amounts of adrenaline into your blood. It blocks receptors in your brain responsible for fatigue and drowsiness which can be incredibly handy when you need to be alert and focused on a task, but it is not so helpful when you are trying to sleep.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released in your brain when you consume coffee, and it is responsible for feel good aspects in your body; often referred to as your brain’s happy-drug. It is also released when you laugh and when you exercise so if you combine good coffee with good friends, your mood can be elevated by a simple $4 cup of joy.
What are the negatives?
Everyone has different levels of caffeine tolerance and while some can build this up over weeks or years of increased caffeine intake, my recommendation is to keep your tolerance fairly low. If you consume more than required; like many things consumed in excess, you start to reap negative consequences of over indulgence. Headaches, withdrawal symptoms, sleeplessness and irritability are the most common side effects of too much caffeine, along with inhibition of iron absorption, and a decreased blood pH and increased acidity.
This puts stress on your immune system, lowers optimum nutrient absorption rates, and isn’t ideal for your skin, heart, bones, and mood.
What are the positives?
Good quality coffee (and tea) work as a physical and mental stimulant with the added benefits of antioxidants such as polyphenols that help fight free radical damage in your body. There have been a lot of quality and reputable studies supporting the argument that coffee in recommended doses improves athletic performance and workplace productivity. It can support heart health, increase brain function and lower risks of many serious diseases when enjoyed in moderation. For even more information, check out this interview with nutrition expert Cliff Harvey.
What is the best way to enjoy it?
1. The NZ recommended maximum is around 300mg a day (2-3 espresso shots or 4-5 cups of tea) but to maintain optimal blood pH and immunity, I would stick to 1-2 espresso shots your favourite way well before 1pm.
2. Always wait at least 30 minutes after eating greens before enjoying coffee or tea; especially if you are a vegetarian, to allow your body to absorb as much iron as possible without coffee blocking that absorption. Sip lemon water between your food and coffee to counter balance the acidic pH of your blood that occurs when you do drink coffee, and to allow a more alkaline system for maximum nutrient absorption at other times, combined with healthy immune system.
4. Always keep your coffee consumption earlier rather than later in your day.
It is very important to note that we are talking about naturally occurring caffeine in coffee, tea and dark chocolate only. I absolutely and whole-heartedly advocate that energy and artificial drinks should be avoided at all times. They offer no nutritional benefit, and often cause harm.
Healthy coffee alternatives
Sometimes we just need the habit to continue and could easily pass on the actual coffee, so if you're after a beverage which can replace coffee then here are our favourites right now.
1. Matcha - a green tea powder that is amazing in an almond milk latte
2. Dandelion Tea - incredibly beneficial to your digestive system
3. Turmeric - made into a latte with a little black pepper for absorption
4. Herbal Coffee - many organic companies offer a mixture of herbs and spices like chicory and licorice root to create a coffee-like beverage