Myths about Coffee You Need to Stop Believeing
“Put that mug down! Don’t you know that coffee is bad for you?”
If you’ve ever heard these phrases or anything similar when it comes to your morning cup of java, you’re certainly not alone. Coffee has become something of a bad word in the past few years, suddenly being associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, and a host of other health problems.
While it’s true that you want to consider the amount of caffeine you drink every day, just as you would anything else you eat or drink, not everything you may have heard about coffee’s effects on your health is entirely accurate, and some things may be downright incorrect! Before you toss out all your mugs, note a few myths about coffee and caffeine that you may have bought into, and the real truth about coffee’s effects on your health.
- “Coffee gives you immediate energy”
When you drink coffee, it actually takes about 30 to 60 minutes for its caffeine to be absorbed into your system and give you that jolt of energy you expect. Why, then do you sometimes feel instantly energized when you have your morning cup? You might be feeling the placebo effect, meaning that your brain has tricked your body into feeling energized simply because it associates the smell and taste of coffee with energy. This may be why some people feel the same amount of energy no matter the types of coffee they drink, even though different coffee beans vary in their levels of caffeine. If you have just a taste of coffee and you instantly feel energized, consider that you might simply be feeling that same placebo effect; this means you might even be able to switch to decaf or a brand with less caffeine and still feel as energized as ever!
- “Espresso is stronger than regular coffee”
In reality, a cup of espresso may use the same type of coffee bean and the same amount of coffee that is used to brew a standard “American” cup, but it tastes stronger because of how it’s prepared. Espresso is made by adding steamed milk to the ground coffee, so there is usually a much stronger coffee flavor that is preserved. When brewing coffee as you do with your coffeepot, the beans are diluted with steamed water, so the taste is much weaker. The difference in these prep methods only affects the flavor of the finished cup, not the caffeine levels of the coffee bean.
- “The more you drink, the more energized you’ll feel”
In truth, the body can develop a caffeine addiction that causes it to become accustomed to certain levels of this chemical in your system. If you drink more and more coffee every day, your body will simply adjust to these caffeine amounts, so it actually has less effect on you over time.
- “If you can’t sleep, have coffee in the morning to help”
A small bit of caffeine can certainly help with fatigue you might be feeling from not sleeping well, but there is a danger in relying on caffeine and this coffee effect and ignoring chronic insomnia. Consistent inability to sleep can be a symptom of a number of serious health problems, and insomnia itself can cause headaches, daytime drowsiness, damage to your blood circulation, high blood pressure, and even early death! Rather than always relying on your morning cup of java to get you going, it’s better to see a doctor and have your insomnia treated medically and properly.
- “Coffee in the afternoon will keep you up all night”
This is another of those “caffeine facts” that is actually a myth, as the reality is that it only takes some 4 to 6 hours for caffeine to be fully metabolized and then flushed out of your system. If you have a cup of coffee at 2:00 in the afternoon, the caffeine should be gone from your body no later than 8 o’clock that night. If you find that you can’t sleep, rather than assuming it’s a caffeine addiction, see a doctor for a medical checkup, as mentioned above.
- “Coffee causes heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis…”
If you’ve developed a caffeine addiction from long-term, regular drinking of large amounts of coffee, you might have withdrawal symptoms when you switch to decaf, including headaches and fatigue. Having high levels of caffeine every day may make your heart race and make you feel jittery, and may be linked to increased risk of high blood pressure and some cardiovascular diseases.
However, the key phrase here is “high levels.” Many experts agree that some 400 milligrams of caffeine every day is a safe amount for adults, whereas some 600 milligrams per day is when it becomes dangerous. This may be the equivalent of four to seven cups per day, but remember that there are varying levels of caffeine in different beans and types of coffee; be sure to read labels when shopping to find out how much caffeine you’re actually drinking. To be safe, you might try a brand with less caffeine or mix caffeinated with decaf coffee, or just limit yourself to perhaps no more than two cups per day.
- “The darker the coffee bean, the stronger it is”
A coffee bean’s color typically comes from how it’s roasted, but roasting doesn’t affect caffeine levels. You might assume that a lighter color to your ground coffee means that you’re getting a low or safe amount of caffeine, when in reality, your particular brand may have far more caffeine per ounce than another. Note, too, that a darker roast may give a coffee bean a richer flavor, but flavor is also not an indication of the amount of caffeine in the drink. As with counting calories, you need to check the numbers on the label so you always know exactly how much caffeine you’re getting every day.
As with everything else that affects your overall health, you might talk to your doctor about your personal caffeine consumption and ask him or her if it’s safe. If you’re like most adults, chances are your doctor will tell you that your morning cup or that mug you enjoy in the afternoon to keep you going isn’t hurting you at all. So, don’t fall for the coffee myths and, as long as your doctor has given you the green light, enjoy that warm and steaming cup without guilt!