I drink tea and coffee all day, even at night. Are tea and coffee really healthy or unhealthy? What is the truth about how caffeine can help or hinder me from having a healthy life? – Jamie, TN
This is an excellent question & certainly something that many people seem to struggle with these days. As a culture we’re overworked, under-rested and, as a result, highly caffeinated. Plus, because caffeine is an addictive substance that often causes withdrawal when you try to quit, it can be quite hard to shake the feeling of tired to wired and back again.
There are two sides to the argument about caffeine, on the one hand, moderate amounts of caffeine have been found to improve concentration, increase memory function, reduce muscle soreness and even possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, it also interferes with your absorption of vitamins & minerals, stimulates stress hormones, spikes your blood sugar and dehydrates your cells, causing premature aging.
From the sound of things, your personal caffeine consumption is certainly above average. Over time, consuming at your current rate could fatigue your adrenal glands, putting your body in a perpetual state of stress and exhaustion. Cutting back on your caffeine, especially from coffee, can bring things back into balance, help you sleep better, and allow your body to absorb important nutrients it could be missing out on.
If you were one of my clients, I would encourage you to choose tea over coffee for awhile. Yes, you’ll still be consuming caffeine, but the caffeine in tea is more bio-available to your body than the caffeine in coffee. Plus, since tea is super high in antioxidants, the healthy benefits far out way any damage done by the caffeine that accompanies it.
The other great thing about the caffeine in tea is that it varies from type to type. This is helpful when trying to reduce your stimulant consumption slowly to avoid withdrawal. You can start off by trading your cup of joe for a nice black tea, the most caffeinated variety of teas. Then switch to oolong, green & white teas, the next step down. Until finally you can switch things up entirely with some tasty herbal teas. With the exception of yerba mate, herbal teas contain no caffeine at all, but they do help to replace the ritual of waking up to a warm beverage. If you find that you miss the earthy taste of coffee after cutting back, you may want to check out Teeccino, an herbal tea brand that’s roasted to mimic that java taste without the harmful caffeine.
Michelle Shea Walker, H.C.
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