No, we are not going to discuss the hilarious Saturday Night Live skits where comedian Mike Myers portrayed a TV host, Linda Richman. (That topic would likely be more fun). I’ll cover some pros, cons and factoids about what is apparently the most popular source of the world’s most widely-used drug, caffeine. I may also cover an alternative caffeine source and runner up in US popularity—tea.
I don’t pretend that these are exhaustive lists, but they give a general idea. (I’ll bet most people pick and choose in the points to justify continuing to do what they have been doing).
- It smells fantastic. In fact, on a hunch, I just did an internet search for “coffee scent air freshener”, and yes there are tons—candles, diffusers of various types, sprays, and some to hang in your car. Not enough? There is even coffee scented perfume and aftershave.
- It tastes good. I remember NOT liking my first cup. I was a senior in high school working a summer in my dad’s office. I wanted to be like the adult staff and said “yes” when someone took orders. The second time, I asked for mine with cream and sugar but it was still disgusting. Now I love it black.
- It wakes up our brains. It increases mental activity and alertness and even has anti-depressant effects.
- No calories. It may also cause you to eat less.
- Stimulates metabolism. That is why coffee is often a part of diet plans.
- Contains antioxidants. Some of the many health benefits of coffee are likely because antioxidants (phenols) are among the 1000 substances it contains. Studies show that daily coffee consumption protects against Alzheimer’s, cancers, diabetes, gallstones, gum disease, heart failure, liver disease, neck pain, Parkinson’s, suicide and deaths from all causes. (The studies were done pre-pandemic, but who knows?)
- Removes floor wax. Years ago, when I got to my office (as Operations Manager at Goodwill Industries) and I started up the communal coffee pot and walked down the hall. When I returned, it was obvious that I had not put the pot in place! The coffee, which was now on the floor, cleaned the tile…including removing most of the wax. This is not a widely recommended procedure. (I guess I needed to drink coffee to be awake enough to be trusted to make coffee.)
CONS and Questions:
- Over stimulation. Some people don’t handle the caffeine in coffee well and become nervous, anxious, or irritated. However, we probably all know someone who is irritated before and until they have their coffee. Coffee is more likely to interfere with sleep if consumed late in the day, but everyone is different, and it can take 24 hours to totally clear caffeine from the liver.
- Diuretic? I’ve seen science on both sides of this issue. Perhaps the usual quick trip to the restroom is simply the water intake and that the caffeine may make nerves in the urinary tract more sensitive.
- Causes hairy warts. Certainly, it does not. I totally made that up just to see if you were still paying attention.
- Interfere with intermittent fasting? Moderate amounts of black coffee do not interfere, but adding cream and sugar do.
- Causes calcium loss. Coffee does stimulate the urinary loss of calcium but adding milk to coffee can offset that. Besides dairy products, many foods such as kale, broccoli, almonds and fortified cereals are rich in calcium.
- Migraines? Some people think that coffee triggers their headaches. Others think it provides relief. Excedrin thinks so because their pain relievers contain caffeine.
- Vitamin B1 loss. As Bill Sardi has taught us, coffee (along with alcohol and sugar consumption) interferes with our use of critically important vitamin B1. Don’t take your B supplements within a couple of hours of having coffee. To be safe, supplement the vitamin.
- Cardiovascular effects? Coffee does not seem to increase blood pressure at least for most people. Anyone with irregular heartbeat should check with their doctor and perhaps experiment to see if cutting caffeine helps.
- Fake energy. If you have no energy without your coffee fix, it is not a caffeine deficiency. It is probably time to review the health basics and identify the real problem.
- Haters. I was given a book by some anti-coffee activists. It did not mention any benefits and blamed coffee for everything from low birth weight babies and preterm labor to climate change (well, almost). I don’t think there was science to back up their assertions. Decades ago when I had health food stores, there were coffee substitutes such as Dacopa made from Dalia root. At the time, nutrition lore was basically that since it was enjoyable, it must not be good for us. (Same thinking as carob to replace chocolate.)
- Read the labels. It is quite possible that the worst problem with coffee beverages is what else they contain…i.e., sugar. Here is an example: A Starbucks’ venti size Caramel Ribbon Crunch Crème Frappuccino® Blended Crème contains 78 grams (about 20 teaspoons) of sugar or more than 2 full size Snickers® bars!
- Espresso. The caffeine content of a shot of espresso (resist the temptation to pronounce it eXpresso) is 63 mg per ounce. You might expect that to be higher than coffee but read on.
- Brewed. Depending on the bean and how it is brewed, according to Consumer Reports (CR), coffee contains about 12 mg caffeine per ounce…therefore, an 8-ounce cup would contain 96 mg. Again according to CR, a tall Starbucks Pike’s Place Medium Roast has 160 mg caffeine. Starbucks “Tall”, of course, translates to “short”. (You sometimes see a person ask for a shot of espresso to be added to their cup of coffee…you do the math on that.) Starbucks (30 ounce) Iced Coffee contains 280 mg of caffeine.
- NoDoz® tablets / Mountain Dew. Just as a frame of reference, the pills that one might take to stay awake driving across West Texas each contain 200 mg. A 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew soda contains 91 mg. of caffeine and 77 grams of sugar (19 teaspoon) from high fructose corn syrup.
- Decaf. Decaf is not without caffeine, depending on brand and preparation may contain from 1% to 20% as much as regular.
- Organic is better. Lots of pesticides are used on coffee. In fact, it may be one of the most chemically treated crops in the world.
- This blog is getting too long, so I think I’ll write about tea another time. In closing, let me just note that white and black tea also have benefits, not just green tea. (They all come from the same plant but are processed differently.) I hear good things about Macha, but personally, I think it tastes like it must have been scraped from under the lawnmower. If you were particularly interested in tea info and don’t want to wait for me, this website seems to be a useful reference.