Coffee, for most of us, is a daily go to. It’s a warm comforting cuppa that tastes and smells amazing! But here are a few things to consider before you buy your daily fix.
Are your beans fair trade?
The coffee beans you buy can have an indirect impact on the people involved with producing, processing, and sourcing it. As best you can, aim to buy coffee beans that pride themselves on fair trading practices. It’s just one small (but daily) way you can pay it forward and make your world a happier place 🙂 .
Are you using a reusable coffee cup?
Coffee cups are filling up our rubbish bins – fast. Using a reusable coffee cup, especially if you’re a regular, will help to reduce the strain on our already waste-overloaded environment. It’s estimated that in Australia alone, we use 1 billion disposable coffee cups per year! That’s about 3 million coffee cups per day!
What milk are you having with that?
The type of milk you have with your coffee can be a great way to add extra protein and calcium to your day. If you’re sticking to a regular cow’s milk, aim to go for the low-fat or skim options – as full-cream (especially if used daily) can impact your waistline and cholesterol levels.
By choosing a low-fat milk or soy milk, you’ll get about 8 g of protein and 300 mg of calcium, meeting roughly 12% of your daily protein and 30% of your daily calcium needs per cup. If you’re opting for almond milk, be mindful that it’s a low protein option (1-2 g per cup) and sometimes lower in calcium (150-300 mg) than other milks.
Have your cup before 12 pm if you don’t have the coffee gene
The caffeine in coffee helps stimulate adrenaline which helps keep you alert and focused. But this isn’t ideal in the evening when you’re getting ready for bedtime. So as a general rule, aim to get your coffee (or coffees) in before midday.
Caffeine has a half-life of about 4-5 hours in healthy adults. Meaning, if you had your cappuccino (with 140 mg of caffeine) at 6 am this morning, by 11 am you’ll still have half of the caffeine (70 mg) present in your body. This isn’t the same for everyone though. Some of us have higher amounts of the ‘coffee gene’, called CYP1A2, which breaks down caffeine quicker – reducing the half-life. If this is you, you could still drink your cappuccino in the late afternoon and get quality shut eye soon after.
Be mindful that if you’re: drinking a bigger dose of caffeine, are female, on the pill, have a smaller body size, pregnant, or you’re just not a regular coffee drinker – it’s likely your body will take longer to break down caffeine. And you’ll be more sensitive to its stimulating effects for longer.
Keep to 1-4 cups of coffee per day
About 1-4 cups of coffee per day appear to be the safe range if you choose to drink it.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand have recommended a ball mark figure of about 210 mg of caffeine for adults per day (that’s about 3 instant coffees or 1-2 cafe coffees per day). The consensus is still not clear, but safe levels for most adults appear to be between 200-400 mg per day (about 2-3 cafe coffees per day – only 1 shot).
If you’re pregnant, it’s recommended you keep your caffeine intake below 200 mg per day. The World Health Organisation highlights that having caffeine amounts higher than 300 mg per day during pregnancy may impact on “growth restriction, reduced birth weight, preterm birth or stillbirth”.
The amount of caffeine in common foods and drinks include:
|Dark chocolate, 70%||4 squares (25 g)||15 mg|
|Green tea||250 mL||32 mg|
|Diet coke beverage||1 can (375 mL)||41 mg|
|Black tea||250 mL||48 mg|
|Instant coffee||250 mL||78 mg|
|Energy drink||1 can (250 mL)||82 mg|
|Cappuccino (1-shot)||250 mL||140-175 mg|
|Long-black||250 mL||145 mg|
Source: NUTTAB 2010.
Don’t forget that most cafe coffees have 2 shots of coffee instead of 1 – so it’s easy to reach close to 300 mg of caffeine in just one cup.
Also, some other foods that may be of interest: Remedy Kombucha states they have about 10 mg of caffeine per 100 mL of kombucha. And according to Source Bulk Foods, matcha powder has about 68 mg of caffeine for every 2 g serve of dry powder (approx. 1 teaspoon).
Potential health benefits
Studies are showing that coffee drinkers may have lower rates of Parkinson’s, liver cirrhosis, heart disease, and overall lower mortality or risk of death. However, it appears these benefits are only present in fast coffee metabolisers – yes those with the CYP1A2 gene. As the caffeine is broken down quicker, the body may benefit from the polyphenols and flavonoids present in coffee better – possibly contributing to the health benefits observed. However, for slow coffee metabolisers – these health benefits don’t appear to be seen and in fact may have an opposite effect.
A great example of this is a study which followed 553 young Italians and showed that those that were slow caffeine metabolisers had a higher risk of hypertension or high blood-pressure (see Figure 1). While fast metabolisers were protected and showed lower blood pressure readings. Indicating that slow metabolisers had an increased risk of heart disease, while fast metabolisers had a lower risk.
Figure 1. Fast and slow caffeine metabolisers and their risk of high blood pressure.
Source: Palatini et al. 2009
Caffeine is a well-known diuretic. Aim to get a few glasses of water in before you have your morning coffee so that you keep your body well hydrated.
Be mindful of stress or anxiety
Caffeine can trigger higher levels of stress or anxiety for some. So, if you’re more susceptible to stress, review your daily coffee intake and aim to keep to 1-2 cups per day (or the occasional 1-2 cups each week). It may be helpful to request one shot instead of two, opt for instant coffee, or go for decaf instead to keep your caffeine dose low. Experiment to see what amounts of caffeine and times taken that fit in best with your daily routine and lifestyle. Or try caffeine free for a few weeks or months and see how you feel?
Sports nutrition and performance
Small amounts of caffeine may be beneficial if you’re an endurance athlette or do high intensity training. Studies have shown that caffeine may help reduce your perception or feeling of tiredness – helping you to run those extra few km’s or get out those extra few reps in at the gym. About 1-3 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight (or about 80-240 mg per day for an 80 kg athlete) may help increase performance, but speak to your dietitian for more personalised recommendations. Please note: more caffeine is never better, as too much can cause tummy upset, higher heart rate, anxiety, and reduce sleep and recovery.
Look for other warm alternatives
With the cooling weather and the rainy days, a warm hot drink can be just the fix you need. Instead of coffee, consider other warm drink options that can be just as satisfying (and more hydrating) like:
- A herbal tea (peppermint, rooibos, and camomile to name a few);
- A chai (made from tea leaves not powder) or turmeric latte; or
- A freshly squeezed lemon and a knob of ginger in a cuppa of warm water; or
- A warm cup of homemade soup.
Stay warm and keep dry.
Marike and the Nutrition Sustain Team 🙂