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Keep your coffee habit healthy

If you need to add flavour to your coffee, try a little natural vanilla, cinnamon or cocoa (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Well, I made it back to Bermuda, broken arm and all. I celebrated freedom from quarantine with the Irishman, floating around in the ocean with my arm in a trash bag on a raft of noodles! Despite being wrapped in plastic in 90° heat, it was super relaxing – especially after all the stress of the journey back. Coordinating the timing of PCR test results and travel authorisations had me in a spin, I confess.

Now it’s back to reality and back to work with a whole set of new challenges. I had to ask my lovely neighbour to unzip my dress so I could get changed after work … good thing I know her well. The kids are still in England for a few weeks so I have lost my super-cute personal assistants. The Irishman is amazingly helpful (and surprisingly good at hair) but there are definitely moments when I am by myself and get stuck. It’s all a learning curve. I’m realising just how lucky I am to temporarily have one arm out of action. It’s a tiny insight that’s teaching me a lot.

Yesterday, I downloaded voice dictation for typing and managed more work in 20 minutes than in the previous four hours. Oh my god, it was life changing. It’s not especially sensitive and I basically sit here yelling at my laptop but it’s amazing. Voice dictation does bring with it a whole new set of typo risks. I was e-mailing clients about our amazing new personal trainer Oronde, which came out as ‘a wrong day’. So I’m double checking everything, even more than usual. I’m writing this with dictation too – so who knows what you’ll get.

Fortunately, the sleep deprivation is fading as I’m figuring out new ways to sleep. So there’s less caffeine in my world – a good thing as it has always tipped me towards anxiety. Most busy or fatigued people I know fuel their day with a caffeine injection, and a little caffeine is probably OK for most people. In fact, for some people, it’s even protective, but you do need to be careful. I’ve seen people totally undermine all their good intentions with a bad caffeine habit, so let’s take a look at what to look out for. I gave you these tips a few years ago, but we could all do with a refresher and I’ve updated all the information. Here we go:

Keep your coffee habit healthy:

Avoid the creamers, syrups and sweeteners

Coffee does contain some antioxidants, pretty powerful ones at that, but if you load it with synthetic creamers, extra-sweet syrup or sugar, then it’s one step forward and ten steps back. If you need to add flavour, try a little natural vanilla, cinnamon or cocoa. If you want sweetness, try the SweetLeaf stevia drops from Miles (the only brand I like, the others are cut with dextrose or other less ideal options). Gradually, cut back the amount you use so that your sweet taste buds are less stimulated. It will make it easier to say no to sugar in other areas of your life. Instead of creamer, just have a little real cream or milk. If you make it grass-fed and organic, it’s even better. Ideally, and for maximum antioxidant absorption, ditch the creamer all together.

Don’t let it interfere with your sleep

By all means, if you need a kick start, have some coffee in the morning, but if you have a hard time sleeping, avoid caffeine after about 2pm. If you’re tired, try an electrolyte drink such as Nuun, available at Miles Market and most pharmacies. If you’re just after the ritual, switch to rooibos tea for the afternoon instead. It’s caffeine-free but antioxidant-rich and it’s SUPER relaxing.

Don’t let it replace your water intake

If you drink six coffees a day and next to no water, you’ll have problems. I once had a client who drank one glass of fruit punch a day, with no other water. She was having epidural injections in her neck to try and get rid of migraines. Guess what? She drank more water and the migraines stopped. It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook the basics. Drinking lots of coffee is diuretic and can induce nutrient loss, especially minerals like calcium, which is not good news for bone density. Also, the primary cause of fatigue is dehydration, so if you’re dehydrated you’ll just feel more fatigued. Nip the cycle in the bud by drinking more water instead of caffeine.

Careful of the keto coffee

This is a big subject and hard to cover quickly. However, the long and the short of it is this: YES there’s evidence to suggest that some people, as part of a keto diet, find keto coffee excellent for fat burning, boosting mental clarity and increasing energy and satiety (feeling full). However, it can nudge out other more nutrient dense and equally efficient keto breakfasts, such as a veggie omelette and berries. Also, pumped full of butter and coconut/MCT oil, one coffee can pack a whopping 400 to 500 calories. So if you’re not fully keto, it’s not a sensible addition. Also, whether keto is good for YOU or not depends on three things in my opinion: 1. is it sustainable? 2. is it a good fit based on your genetics? Some people are biologically suited to a high saturated fat/high protein diet, but others are not, and 3. are you a hyper-responder to cholesterol? Good quality saturated fats don’t (as a rule) increase your risk of heart disease, but some people hyper-respond to dietary cholesterol and if you’re drinking butter-loaded coffee, it could elevate your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), total cholesterol and triglycerides, significantly. So have your doctor monitor your stats.

Careful of the volume, in general

Research outcomes vary in their assessment of the impact that caffeine has on blood pressure. We are understanding now that this is likely to do with that fact that genetics play a role in how you metabolise caffeine, and this hasn’t previously been factored in. Fast metabolisers of caffeine can usually consume up to 400mg of caffeine before their risk of high blood pressure increases. And in fact, for fast metabolisers, one cup of coffee has been shown to be protective from a cardiovascular perspective. Fast metabolisers should also see an improvement in their sports performance with moderate amounts of caffeine. However slow metabolisers can only safely consume 200mg of caffeine. One “shot” has about 115mg, and the caffeine won’t improve sports performance. I do have a test in the clinic that can help you determine this, and other elements, of your genetics. It’s fascinating.

Ideally, consume caffeine with protein, especially at the start of the day

If you roll out of bed, have a big coffee and then only have breakfast at your desk, then you’re missing a trick. Caffeine on an empty stomach can elevate your blood sugar and send it crashing down rather quickly. That will just make you crave more caffeine, and sometimes sugar too. If you have it with a protein rich breakfast – a veggie omelette, for example, then you will mitigate that risk. If you’re really on the go and don’t have time to eat, then add a scoop of grass fed collagen for a little protein. My favourite brand is the Great Lakes collagen hydrolysate on the shelf at Miles – they will stir it in for you at the coffee bar too.

If you go decaf, go organic, or water-processed

Commercially decaffeinated coffee uses a chemical process which leaves undesirables in your coffee. The water-method is slower but more natural and also gives you a much better flavour. I absolutely love the Devils Isle decaf for that reason. Miles also have an organic, fair trade, instant decaf coffee by Mount Hagen that is totally delicious.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns.

Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram .

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Published August 13, 2021 at 8:02 am (Updated August 13, 2021 at 8:02 am)

Keep your coffee habit healthy

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