The widespread availability of foods containing caffeine has led experts to suggest that 80% of all people in North America have measurable levels of caffeine in their brains from embryo to death. Wenk, Gary L. (2015, Chapter 9, p 185). Your Brain On Food.
Have you ever questioned your coffee-drinking habit? If so, I can relate.
For decades I have been in a loyal, passionate relationship with this beautiful, black beverage.
As with all relationships, though, time has seen changes.
I became aware of the amount I was drinking, or rather the utter randomness of it all (anywhere from 2-5 cups per day) during my first annual detox, some 10 years ago. During the detox, for 4 weeks caffeine is one of a number of things that get purged.
Coffee, though, is a jealous lover. And it punished me quickly with a 24 hour withdrawal headache.
Shaken but determined after my first day, I managed through the entire 4 weeks caffeine-free.
By the time the detox was over, I was amazed to notice I had far less interest in coffee. My habits short-term had begun to change. I even wondered if coffee was permanently losing its hold on me. But, no. I went back. And every year since, when the detox is over, I go back. Dopamine hits, even in small amounts, have their lure.
Then came the questions
But over the years of playing this break-up and make-up game with coffee, something shifted. I started to question whether I needed so much of it in my life. Ultimately I found the answer was a calm, clear, no.
Coffee’s flavor had even begun, at times, to lose its attraction, especially later in the day. Too obvious. Too harsh. I never would have believed I would write something like this, and even now it makes me feel like a traitor. I used to scoff at people who decline the drink while murmuring things like, “Coffee doesn’t sit well with me,” “I’ll never sleep,” or the worst, “I prefer tea.”
Perhaps I was in denial
Maybe I had a mental block because I identify so much with being a coffee drinker – and not just any coffee, but always a dark, full-powered French or Italian roast, illegally hot, no sugar or milk. So perhaps it has taken me time to budge just a little from the image I cultivated of myself as this hard-core consumer of high-grade jet fuel.
Years went by. Somewhere around detox number 8 I got my hands on an alkaline/acidic inducing food chart and noticed my precious beverage landed squarely on the wrong side of health. Most people are eating too many acid-forming foods, relative to alkaline-forming, which could lead to disease.
I also increasingly wondered about the opportunity cost. If I am drinking coffee then I am not drinking something else, like plain old-fashioned water, for example. Our bodies need water in abundance. Would it not benefit me more to sub in water for a couple of those coffees?
In the end, this opportunity cost may be coffee’s biggest downfall. Its other, some would say negative effects – a bit of raised cortisol and adrenalin – feels for me in the morning like everything I want.
Slowly, carefully, I began experiments in cutting back. Eventually, I ditched my afternoon coffee because I could see that too often I was reaching for it merely out of convenience – when it was freely on offer at a meeting, for example, or just because I was casting about for a work-break activity.
After putting this coffee drinking habit under the microscope, I have finally settled into a routine of thoroughly enjoying 1 or 2 strong, sexy, hot cups early in the day. Then after 10 am I kiss it good-bye. On the rare occasions when I am out for an especially fine dinner and a nightcap is in order – or a dessert – something shifts again, and I am easily tempted into another strong cup of brew. Because, I think we can all agree, crème brulée just tastes better that way.
Meanwhile coffee’s aroma is often somewhere in the background, whispering that while not every human responds well to its charms, I am one of the lucky ones that it happens to love back.
If I need more validation, I am comforted by the documented benefits: it’s one of the highest antioxidant-containing substances known to man. It possibly helps in resisting Alzheimer’s & dementia. It likely helps in suppressing type 2 diabetes. Plus, coffee drinkers tend to live longer than non-caffeine drinkers. Nothing to object to there.
So, yes, I am one of those people who have questioned my coffee drinking habit. And in the end I have decided that it is in my life for the foreseeable future. Some food is good for the body, and some is good for the soul. For me, coffee in the morning, is both.