I love coffee! Having worked in hospitality, and trained as a barista, I have been very spoilt in the world of coffee bean goodness!
Having lived in the New Zealand - the home of the 'flat white', I was also spoilt in being able to get decent coffee in any number of awesome cafes. I only realise this now back in the UK, where getting a decent coffee is pretty non existent! As we all know - the UK is all about having 'a nice cup of tea', (I am English, and do of course love a good cuppa!) coffee just doesn't get a look in.
Fortunately things are slowly shifting and there are some rather nice independant roasterys popping up - I now tend to drink coffee at home to ensure I get a decent cup - and love coffee from Roundhill, Clifton, and Origin - all up and coming, and all passionate about bringing delicious coffee to a land of tea drinkers!
You can't beat the smell of it in the morning; I personally buy beans so I can have it freshly ground too. I think it is also part of the ritual, that I particularly love at the weekends - eat a cooked breakfast, make coffee, read the newspaper = bliss
Caffeine can help us feel more alert, more focused, and can improve our concentration. It also has health benefits; it is known to have certain protective compounds that has shown to reduce the risk certain cancers, strokes, dementia, and parkinson's disease.
Coffee contains antioxidants (in a nutshell, mini mops that clear away any crap in our bodies!), including polyphenols - which are micronutrients that seem to do a lot of good things to us - much of which is yet to be understood; but what is known is that they seem to protect us - and in particular our liver, improving it's conjugation phase of detoxification - this is where it metabolises and removes toxins by making them more water soluble, more diluted as it were, and ready to be excreted (through our wee!)
As antioxidants, polyphenols may improve individual cellular survival, may induce apoptosis (cell death, our cells are constantly being replaced by new ones) and prevent tumor growth (the result of an imbalance of the rate cells die and replicate); this is why they are seen to be so active in degenerative diseases.
Too much of a good thing?
But, as much we love it, it may not love us. When it starts to creep to 2, 3+,a day it becomes a problem. When you find yourself saying 'I need another coffee to get me through...(insert whatever the reason is here!)', when you start to feel tired at that 2-5pm slot, and are visibly slumped, feeling the need for another bump, this is not a good sign.
It can make us restless, anxious, irritable, it can make our hands tremble, it affects our heart rate, and can cause insomnia.
It directly affects the central nervous system - stimulating the 'fight or flight' or stress response - triggering messages and releasing hormones that would usually be used when faced with imminent danger.
Caffeine causes our blood vessels to dilate, so blood can be rushed and redirected towards the brain and heart; the heart pumps faster, and the brain becomes alert. It goes onto send messages to our adrenal glands to pump out extra cortisol and adrenaline - hormones that make us feel awake, and causes the feeling of a 'buzz' we get.
The thing is, is that these hormones have other jobs too - which includes modulating our blood sugar levels, metabolising the foods we eat, and making sure our immune systems are running as they should.
Cortisol maintains our circadian rhythm - our body clock - making sure we are awake during the day, and able to sleep at night. Having coffee intereferes with its output; especially when we drink it in the afternoon, when it should be producing less in order for us to get a good night's sleep. Our poor adrenal glands get stressed out, when they should be able to help us deal with stress, and all because we love caffeine!
Then there is our brain, and a chemical called adenosine - responsible for a range of biochemical processes that includes sleep promotion, it binds to matching receptors in the brain to tell us we are tired. Caffeine looks exactly the same, and sneaks onto adenosine receptors to instead keep us awake; it essentially tricks and overides the brain's processes; making us not so smart after all!
But, then we get 'the crash' - our adrenals have over-pumped their quota of hormones for the day; caffeine eventually leaves our brain receptors, allowing adenosine (which has now accumulated, having had nowhere else to go) to bind back where they belong, telling your brain you are tired now, but even more so!
So what do we do? DRINK MORE COFFEE! Who'd've thought such a delicious drink could cause so much havoc?!
Some things to do if you feel the caffeine strain...
Coffee is delicious, so let's not deny ourselves - but let us also regard it as a treat, something to savour perhaps, rather than as a commodity. Drink it with friends whilst having a natter (you'll no doubt have that catch up faster once it hits!) , or have all to yourself during some 'me time', and keep it as a want rather than a need - coffee should be enjoyed, so take the time to do so.
Emma is passionate about promoting good health, and likes to keep things simple. She enjoys yoga, meditation & being outdoors, yet likes to indulge in coffee, wine & cake - Everything in moderation!