Many people have fallen into the caffeine trap and can barely function until they get their morning fix. For some, this caffeine jolt is also a necessity in the afternoon or even throughout the entire day. Drinking too much caffeine can result in undesirable health issues, like insomnia, high blood pressure, and anxiety. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that drinking acceptable levels of caffeine can actually have benefits for your health, such as increased metabolism and mental focus.
Sure, giving up caffeine completely can make you healthier, but it is a big step. This article will teach you how to keep drinking your daily caffeine, while improving your health.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a compound that is naturally found in certain plants. It can be found in over 60 types of plants, not just coffee beans and tea leaves. Although it is found in plants, some caffeine is made synthetically. Both the natural and synthetic forms are used to make a variety of stimulating drinks, supplements, and other products. On the chemical level, the natural and synthetic versions are exactly the same and have the same effect on the body.
How does caffeine work?
Caffeine wakes us up because it blocks a neurotransmitter in the brain that makes us lethargic and sleepy. This makes us feel alert and awake with a boost of energy. There are controversial opinions and research about the effects of caffeine on the body. However, there are some benefits related to caffeine consumption including increased focus, better memory, and improved athletic performance.
The popular stimulant also increases urination and rids the body of extra salts. If you are not properly hydrated, this can make you dehydrated. To consume caffeine in a healthy way, make sure to also drink water throughout the day.
How much caffeine is too much?
Many sources claim that 300-400 mg of caffeine per day is safe. However, everyone’s sensitivity is different so get to know your own tolerances. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, abnormal heart beat, anxiety, dehydration, headaches, dizziness, and prolonged shakiness.
If you decide to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet, you can expect some withdrawal symptoms. This includes headaches, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and irritability. Luckily, these symptoms will not last forever and should go away after a few days to a week.
What are healthy sources of caffeine?
Since caffeine comes in many sugary sodas, unhealthy energy drinks, and sweetened coffees, drinking caffeine on the daily can lead to weight gain and the associated health risks. However, caffeine is not the culprit for the extra calories – it is the excess sugar, cream, and milk that add empty calories to your diet.
Quitting caffeinated drinks will surely take away the extra calories. However, it may come with consequences. Caffeine withdrawals can lead to headaches and fatigue for a period of time until your body adjusts. If you aren’t up for the drama, no worries – there are plenty of healthier ways to consume caffeine.
Fresh brewed tea
There are so many kinds of tea with a variety of flavors that you are bound to find one you like. Whether you like a stronger black tea, earthy green tea, or a lighter white tea, you can find each one infused with fruit, spices (like chai), coconut, and much more.
Since tea has little to no calories, it is a great option if you are trying to lose weight and be healthier without giving up caffeine. Plus, tea is packed with a variety of antioxidants and other plant nutrients that are beneficial for health. Antioxidants help prevent damage from toxins that enter the body and reduce the risk of cancer. Tea also contains compounds that are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, better blood vessel function, and lower cholesterol.
Tea is also a valuable asset for bone health. The phytoestrogens and minerals in tea help maintain healthy bones.
If you are trying to reduce your caffeine intake, tea may be a good option for you because it contains less caffeine than coffee per cup. Here is a table comparing levels of caffeine in common teas:
|Coffee||Black Tea||Green Tea||White Tea||Oolong Tea||Yerba Mate Tea||Matcha Tea|
|125-150 mg||60-75 mg||15-30 mg||10-15 mg||30-45 mg||70-85 mg||60-80 mg|
If you aren’t worried about reducing caffeine intake, tea is still a great option. It has less caffeine than coffee, so you can drink more of it without over stepping the caffeine level. That means you can take in more antioxidants too!
An easy way to reduce the amount of sugar and fat in your coffee is simply skip adding it in. Sounds easy, as long as you do not mind the taste. But you may just learn to love it, as many people do.
Black coffee also contains a variety of nutrients including antioxidants. However, when those nutrients are surrounded by excess sugar and fat, they have trouble being absorbed into the blood to be used by the body. Drinking coffee black can get you the caffeine boost you are used to in addition to beneficial antioxidants that improve health. Win! Win!
Coffee also contains vitamins and minerals that are all necessary for metabolism and energy production in addition to several other benefits:
– Potassium: Essential for fluid balance and nerve and muscle function.
– Magnesium: Helps immunity, and is needed for healthy bones.
– Manganese: Reduces inflammation.
– Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Aids in energy metabolism.
– Niacin (Vitamin B3): Helps turn food into glucose for cells to use as energy.
– Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): Necessary for making new blood cells.
Another upside to coffee drinking is liver health. There are many studies that suggest drinking black coffee is associated with a healthier liver. Which is great because the liver helps to cleanse toxins out of the body, which drastically improves health!
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has recently gained popularity among the general public. It is a great option for someone who aims to drink less caffeine (but still some), and looking to improve their overall health. Kombucha has about 10-25 mg of caffeine per cup and it packs a variety of health benefits.
Kombucha is loaded with probiotics, which are the good kind of microbes found in the digestive system. When the digestive system is happy, the rest of your body is happy. A healthier gut has been linked to a better mood, less depression, a healthy heart, better immunity, and even weight loss! So why aren’t you taking advantage of this awesome elixir?
Guarana is a Brazilian plant, but you may have seen this ingredient on energy drink labels. The Guarana plant’s seeds have twice as much caffeine as coffee beans. The healthiest source of Guarana is in a supplement, not an energy drink. You can find this stimulant as a pure supplement or included in a multivitamin.
Since Guarana has high levels of caffeine, play it safe when introducing this supplement to your diet. Too much caffeine can lead to high blood pressure, increased and irregular heart rate, anxiety, sleep issues, and a variety of other negative side effects.
Espresso infused water
There is a reason for the coconut water hype. The high levels of potassium in coconut water help lower blood pressure, improve hydration, and increase metabolism. Zola is a coconut water brand that has infused espresso into the mix. Since caffeine may improve performance in a workout, this drink may be your new Gatorade.
Caffeinated mints and gum
There are a variety of caffeinated mints and gums on the market today. With low calories and breath freshening benefits, why not? If you are worried about coffee breath, caffeinated mints or chewing gum may be a perfect substitute to get your daily caffeine fix.
What will they think of next? You can now get your caffeine from water. There are a few brands out there with varying levels of caffeine but most have zero calories, just like water. Replacing your daily sweetened Starbucks with a calorie-free caffeinated water is a great way to lose weight effortlessly and improve overall health. Many brands also contain added electrolytes so it makes a perfect gym partner.
What caffeine sources should be avoided?
If your trying to be healthier without giving up caffeine, there are many new drinks and supplements to try. However, make an effort to read labels and watch out for high sugar content and other stimulating ingredients that can be bad for health. Excess sugar is not only bad for your teeth, but also for your heart and your waistline. Here are a few caffeine sources you should avoid if you are trying to lose weight or be healthier:
Energy drinks may sound like a good idea, but the risks outweigh the benefits of the energy boost. A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that consuming energy drinks increases the risk of heart arrhythmia and can dangerously increase blood pressure. Caffeine is not the only stimulant in energy drinks. Many ingredients, like Taurine, can have negative impacts on blood pressure and health as well.
Most sodas contain 25-50 mg of caffeine in a 12 oz beverage. But they also come with 40 g of added sugars. When the body does not need sugar for energy, it will convert the sugar to fat and store it for later. Continuous consumption of excess sugar leads to weight gain and can result in diabetes.
Many people have found that they can lose weight by simply switching from soda to water, mineral water, or tea. If your main caffeine source is soda, it may be time to consider another option, like the healthy options listed above.
Specialty coffee drinks
Flavored coffees are loaded with cream and sugar. Starbucks’ Frappuccinos can have over 80 mg of sugar! In addition to being linked to obesity and diabetes, high sugar consumption is directly linked to heart disease, depression, and accelerated aging…yikes!
Bottled ice teas
While it may be convenient to purchase bottled tea, be careful about which one you choose. Many of those teas on the shelf have more sugar than soda! The healthiest way to consume tea is freshly brewed and without added sugars. However, if you prefer to buy your tea, simply check the label and only purchase unsweetened versions.
Surprising sources of caffeine
The cacao plant is another that contains caffeine. The darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it contains. Darker chocolate also has higher levels of antioxidants. In a 50 g serving of dark chocolate, you can get about 50 mg of caffeine, which is more than green tea! You can also get caffeine from hot cocoa if it is made with real cocoa powder. However, if you are trying to be healthier, it may be best to avoid the chocolate…sorry!
PMS and headache medications
Many brands of PMS and pain relievers use caffeine in their formulas. The stimulant is added because it acts as a diuretic, which makes you pee more, thus reducing bloating. Some medications have up to 60 mg of caffeine in a dose. So if you are hoping for some relief at night, you may want to find anther way – like turmeric infused water or tea.
Some protein bars
A variety of protein bars are infused with caffeine. Certain Clif Bars have more caffeine than a soda! This can be fine, especially on a long hike or consuming it for breakfast. Just make sure you are aware of your caffeine intake.
Beauty and hygeine products
Caffeine is also added to some cosmetics and personal hygiene products. Turns out, caffeine has the ability to restrict blood vessels. When applied to the skin, this effect can help to reduce inflammation, tighten pores, and reduce dark circles under the eyes. The antioxidants in coffee scrubs help to fight free radicals that may lead to premature skin again caused by sun exposure. You can find caffeine in all kinds of beauty products these days including body wash, scalp scrubs, lip balms, moisturizers and more.