Is Coffee Bad or Good for You?

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If you’re anything like the average American, you’re probably downing about 3 cups per day of caffeine-filled – and highly addictive – coffee. Whether you’re an americano, cappuccino, or soya latte macchiato with vanilla syrup and extra foam kinda guy or gal, if you do drink coffee, you probably couldn’t imagine getting through the day without it.

I certainly couldn’t, before I quit. In fact, you would not wanna talk to me in a morning before I got my fix, unless you wanted an encounter with some kind of human-monster hybrid. My poor family…

As I was guzzling my caffeinated, sugary latte, I didn’t quite realize the damaging effects it was having on my health. All I knew was that if I didn’t get one, I’d be hit with a headache and a seriously fuzzy, unworkable brain. Cue the coffee. And then the next one when the effects wore off. And the next one. And the… you can see where I’m going with this.

You’d think that if something we consumed daily had the potential to leave us with the effects akin to those of a hangover, we’d stop. But it’s just something we accept as ‘normal’: a product of our hectic and demanding lives. And this just isn’t the case.

When I learned about how damaging caffeine could be, I stopped drinking it. Talk about a challenge. If I was grouchy just before my morning coffee, imagine the level of grouch my family experienced when I was trying to quit altogether! The true strength of this drug – and it is indeed a drug – is grossly underestimated, and ignored. In fact, as Murray Carpenter, journalist and author of ‘Caffeinated’, explains, we’ve all been grossly underestimating the power of this neuroenhancer, along with the power the global companies who don’t want to keep it a well-hidden secret.

In fact, it doesn’t really give us ‘energy’, it negatively affects our health and it very very negatively affects our sleep.

Here’s 5 reasons to ditch the caffeine, and how!

1. It affects our physical and mental health

There’s no denying that caffeine can have its benefits, in the short term. In some cases, it can make us feel more alert and productive. But this isn’t ‘real’ energy, like fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds offer us. It’s simply a chemical stimulation and that tricks us into thinking we’re in an emergency situation: our pupils dilate, our heart rate quickens, and our blood pressure increases.

For some, this helps us to feel more alert after drinking, temporarily, but it’s not exactly great for those suffering from anxiety. John Arden, phD, recommends cutting back or eliminating coffee completely if you experience symptoms of anxiety, as caffeine compromises your ability to feel calm. This isn’t shocking, considering the effects of coffee are akin to those of a panic attack!

Given the physical and mental effects on our body when we sip this drug-loaded beverage, including the worrying effects on the heart, as well as the potential for an increase in acid reflux, it’s no surprise that too much of it can potentially be lethal.

Whilst doctors say it’s generally safe to drink a few cups per day, we know that energy drinks, which tend to be packed with the stuff, can be deadly if too many are consumed in too short a time (watch this video). So it’s not just coffee we have to be careful with.

Soda, energy drinks, tea, chocolate and even candy can be filled to the brim with caffeine. It’s pretty easy, then, to consume loads more than we think!

Another health concern around the brewed stuff is the chemical acrylamide, which occurs naturally in cooked foods such as coffee, but is known to cause cancer in animals. In 2013, the FDA issued a warning to food producers about the chemical, which is used to make plastics and treat waste water. It seems the jury’s out on how much is ‘safe’ for human consumption due to lack of testing. Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t like the idea of something which can cause nerve damage to humans if they’re exposed to it in the workplace, floating around in my morning beverage.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, we can even be left with feelings of depression after the initial ‘pick me up’ that we sometimes get from coffee, leading us to crave more, and feel that high again.

2. It negatively affects our sleep

There are countless scientific studies which show that caffeine has a detrimental effect on our sleeping patterns. Caffeine, despite the fact that the feeling of ‘alertness’ that we sometimes experience after drinking it lasts a very short time, actually stays in our system for 8-10 hours after drinking it. Getting our bodies and minds, then, to feel calm and wind down for sleep, can be tough.

And it’s not just a groggy mood that you’ll be left with, after getting little sleep. Caffeine actually  affects stage 4 sleep the most – the deepest and most restful stage – which recharges your immune system. Lack of stage 4 sleep, then, can lead to being more susceptible to colds. Not only that, but it’s widely documented that a lack of sleep could lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems, as well as increased risk of serious conditions like heart disease.

One of the biggest changes I noticed when I quit the cups was an improvement in sleep. Rather than tossing and turning for anything up to an hour when trying to fall asleep, and eventually resorting to browsing the internet on my phone for distraction, which only made things much worse, I found that I fell asleep easily. I had so much more energy throughout the day (after the initial detox period, at least), that I got more done, exercised a whole load more, and felt tired enough at the end of the day to drift off into an uninterrupted slumber. Well, when my son stopped waking up every 3 hours, that is.

It’s therefore unsurprising that it’s recommended that caffeine isn’t consumed for at least 6 hours before you plan on sleeping, given the significant effect on sleep patterns and quality.

But if it has such a negative effect on one of the most natural, and crucial, parts of our lives, why do we need it at all?

3. It can make us feel more tired

What?! I know, but hear me out.

Coffee is the nation’s go-to pick me up. But is it actually helping us feel more energetic? In fact, coffee can wreak havoc with our circadian rhythm (our body clock). The hormone cortisol is released when you wake up in the morning, which makes you feel alert. You might assume coffee contributes to this feeling, but studies have actually shown that coffee can reduce your levels of cortisol, potentially leaving you feeling even more fatigued than you were to begin with. And what happens then? You think you need another coffee…

As you might have guessed from the title of my blog, there’s a simple, yet highly effective solution to a lack of energy: a raw vegan diet. If you don’t want to change your diet, but want more energy, you can try a glass of celery juice every morning. It is truly a miracle drink.

Related Post: 9 Unbelievable Benefits of Celery Juice, And How It Should Replace Your Morning Coffee

4. It affects vitamin and mineral absorption

Not only does it have a pretty detrimental effect on our physical and mental health and energy levels, but, long term, it could prevent you from absorbing the vitamins and minerals that are vital for a healthy body. Even if you’re a super healthy raw vegan, if you still drink coffee, your body may not be benefiting from as much of the good stuff that you’re eating as it should, simply as a result of your daily cups of coffee.

In fact, the absorption of calcium, vitamin D, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper can all be interrupted by caffeine.

A study on the effects of caffeine and iron absorption found that when coffee was consumed with a meal, iron absorption decreased dramatically. Given that iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the US and how essential it is for our energy levels, it’s crucial that we absorb every bit that we can. Raw vegan foods high in iron include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds and spirulina, so make sure you’re packing in plenty of those. Green smoothies are great for getting plenty, and they aren’t just glasses of pulverized kale (thank the Lord), as I explain here!

Related Post: Top 7 Incredible Green Smoothie Benefits

Calcium absorption can also be affected by the consumption of caffeine. The National Osteoporosis Foundation advises that caffeine may decrease calcium absorption and drinking more than 3 cups a day may cause bone loss. Couple this with the fact that countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption have the highest rates of osteoporosis, and it’s pretty clear that a few cups of dairy, caffeine and sugar-laden beverages could do way more harm than good.

5. It’s not great for your bank account

You might love your daily takeaway coffee, but your bank account certainly doesn’t! In fact, the average American spends $21.32 on coffee each week, which amounts to over $1100 each year, and that average even includes non-coffee drinkers. So really, the only ones laughing are the global coffee chains… all the way to the bank.

Health reasons aside, this is one seriously expensive habit. I know that I’ve saved a huge amount of money since quitting the caffeine 4 years ago – when I got pregnant with my son. Before then, daily trips to the coffee shop on my way to work were commonplace. I often spent over $25 dollars a week on my fix, which, unless you’re pretty well off, makes a big difference. Plus, quitting the coffee shop trips means I am now always known by Nadia, and not Nada, Nadie, Nadine, Adie, Maria or, my personal favourite, Hiya.

Bringing the health reasons back to the table, the idea of paying $20 dollars a week, and probably much much more for many people, to feel crankier, get less sleep, and potentially put our health at risk (especially when toxic dairy and sugar-loaded syrups are thrown into the mix), seems like a pretty terrible deal.

So why aren’t we warned about this stuff?

When finding out all this, quite frankly, shocking information, my first thought was, why didn’t I know this before?

I realised that the same misinformation around nutrition that plagues our society and keeps us sick, was being circulated about caffeine.

When I researched the benefits of a raw vegan diet, I found that the meat and dairy industries spend a whole ton of money on advertising and lobbying, keeping us misinformed, keeping us spending, and keeping us sick. But those industries are making handsome billion-dollar profits, so who cares if a few people die as a result of their products, right?

Like the meat and dairy industries, the global coffee companies, considering how powerful they are, wouldn’t want us to unhook ourselves from a product we spend so much of our well-earned cash on daily. And, considering 85% of Americans drink caffeine regularly, that adds up to a hell of a lot of profit.

As Murray Carpenter in ‘Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Hooks, Helps and Hurts Us’, explains, big coffee, energy drink and soda brands have continually avoided efforts to regulate caffeine use in products, and it’s pretty obvious why. In 2016, the biggest coffee chain in the world (who could it be?!) recorded a record income of $4.2 billion. Imagine all the vitamixes, cheesecakes and medjool dates you could buy with that… I’m so uncool.

What about decaf?

When I found out about the dangers of caffeine and the power of big coffee companies in keeping us hooked, I thought that the best move was to switch to decaf. Not my first preference, I’ll admit, given that the popular phrase ‘Death Before Decaf ’ was a mantra I pretty much lived by since I started drinking the stuff.

The problem with decaf coffee is that it still contains, albeit in small amounts, caffeine and is highly acidic. This could cause irritation to your stomach, especially for those with digestive issues or gastritis. It’s therefore best to find natural alternatives that’ll aid your digestion. Raw vegan to the rescue!

What’s the alternative?

Okay, so I realise I keep talking about this (although it is a raw vegan blog, so I guess as a reader, you’re expecting it), but, in their infinite awesomeness, raw foods and a decent night’s sleep are all you need to fuel your body and mind and keep you zip zapping through the day. No matter what your barista tells you.

You’ll see a huge spike in your energy levels if you try eating raw vegan, especially if you’re currently eating something near to the Standard American Diet. A diet of highly processed foods can lead to, among a whole host of other ailments, fatigue. So there’s no wonder many of us are constantly reaching for a double shot cappuccino to get us through to lunchtime.

And you don’t need to quit your morning cup of tastiness. Simply whip up an easy raw vegan alternative, like this simply delicious fully raw coffee from Fully Raw Kristina. Packed with energizing coconut water and dates, along with cinnamon and vanilla to sweeten it up, this cup of deliciousness will have you feeling ready to take on the day, without the crash an hour later. Like your coffee creamy? Blend up a creamer using soaked almonds. Is there anything that plants can’t do? No. No there isn’t!

So how do I quit the coffee?

Although there’s no ‘right’ way to free yourself from the defiant grasp of caffeine, I wouldn’t personally advise quitting cold turkey.

Given how highly addictive caffeine is, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and fatigue no matter how you do it, and you might also experience other symptoms such as irritability, nervousness and dizziness, especially if you go from drinking a few cups a day to none at all overnight.

The way that I quit was to cut down gradually. Slow and steady, and all that. Before I was aware of the negative health effects, I was drinking 3-4 cups a day, so I started off in the first week by sticking to 3. The next week, I cut down to 2, and so on, until I no longer relied on it for artificial energy.

Instead, I let fresh fruits and veggies do all the work, naturally. I certainly experienced withdrawal symptoms when I was cutting down, but I think it was much easier for me (and the people around me!) to do it this way. Plus, I’m still married, which might not be the case had I quit cold turkey. When I say I was grouchy, I mean it…

If you need some further advice and inspiration, look no further than the raw vegan OG Fully Raw Kristina, who gives you the lowdown, not only on how to quit the caffeine, but the detrimental health effects too, all from a branch of a very famous coffee chain! It just wouldn’t be one of my blog posts without including one of her videos, which are super quick and easy to watch, and incredibly informative.

It goes without saying that, whilst you’re cutting down the caffeine, the best way to combat the withdrawal symptoms and make this amazing change for life is to eat as many raw vegan meals and snacks as possible.

Take a look at my other blog posts for everything you need to thrive on the healthiest diet out there, from what the raw vegan lifestyle is, the incredible life-changing benefits that come with it, and how to get started.

If that wasn’t enough (you lucky lot!), I already explained why celery juice – stay with me, guys – is a fantastic morning pick me up. You’re gonna have to trust me on this one. Just read. Your life and your health will never be the same.

Related Posts: 9 Unbelievable Benefits of Celery Juice, And How It Should Replace Your Morning Coffee

Happy de-caffeinating everyone!