Coffee Day!

photo: anthony_p_c via Flickr

September 29th is Coffee Day.  I’ll be sure to celebrate in my usual way as soon as I wake up: strong brewed coffee with half and half.

Coffee is something a lot of people enjoy, so it’s not surprising the Food Police try to spoil the fun with claims that coffee is somehow bad for health.  The myth that coffee causes dehydration persists, despite actual evidence that it doesn’t.  In fact, coffee without all the add-ins adds to fluid intake.

Good things about coffee:

  • Coffee contains several antioxidants.
  • There’s evidence that coffee consumption is linked to lower risk for Parkinson’s Disease and Type 2 diabetes.  However, Association Does Not Equal Causation.  It could be something else about coffee drinkers that lowers risk for these.
  • It’s enjoyable.
  • It’s also vegetarian and vegan.

Bad things about coffee:

  • We’re in the habit of loading it up with excess calories from sugar, sweetened flavored syrups and cream.
  • Not only do we load it up with excess calories, we order super-sized portions of this stuff.
  • Drinking a lot of coffee could give you a buzz from too much caffeine, leading to sleep disturbances.  Especially bad idea for kids.

Does espresso have less caffeine?  It depends on whether you’re comparing servings or volume.  While espresso has more caffeine compared to coffee when compared by volume, the typical serving of espresso is much smaller, so can you end up consuming less caffeine.  Another factor: type of bean.  More expensive arabica beans are much lower in caffeine, while robusta beans are higher.  So coffee that contains more robusta beans will have more caffeine.  Unfortunately it’s not always possible to get that information.

Caffeine is metabolized by a specific enzyme system that varies from one person to the next.  Normally the system can ramp up activity when people habitually drink more caffeine.  People who drink no coffee may have little initial ability to quickly metabolize caffeine, so when they do drink coffee, they feel it.  The best solution for caffeine is to know your limits.  If 2 cups of coffee makes you unpleasantly jittery, cut back.  If you know coffee from a certain coffee bar makes you jittery, find an alternative.

By the way, not only is it Coffee Day, but Wednesday was Better Breakfast Day.  Better than what, you might ask?  My answer: better than:

  • nothing
  • sugary coffee or tea only
  • sugary coffee plus sugary pastry or donut
  • giant stack of syrup-drenched pancakes
  • “energy” drink
  • toaster pastry
  • “breakfast” bar (candy bar in Health Halo disguise)
  • sugar-sweetened cereal

I could go on.  I wrote about breakfasts earlier this week, and noted a surprising finding from market research firm The NPD Group: breakfast is the least skipped meal (lunch is most) and take-out breakfast is the fastest growing restaurant segment.  So we’re trying to eat breakfast, we’re just not sitting at a table at home eating eggs and toast.  Most likely, you’re sitting in a car or at a desk.  This doesn’t mean you can’t eat a decent breakfast though.  There are plenty of good take-out options, like oatmeal, bagel sandwiches, burritos, whole grain muffins yogurt, fresh fruit and wraps.  No excuses.  Better Breakfasts aren’t anymore difficult or expensive that that other stuff.

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