People may joke about needing their coffee to function in the morning, but in all seriousness, caffeine is a drug. It’s most often consumed in coffee, tea, soft drinks and, in smaller doses, chocolate. While we seem to have a love affair with these foods, there’s been quite a bit of confusion and even controversy surrounding caffeine. Research seems to say conflicting things about the effects of caffeine.
If you drink lots of coffee (5 cups or more per day) you are more likely to get headaches, says a new study in The Journal of Headache and Pain. But going cold turkey can mean mood swings, irritability, and (yes) more headaches. Catherine Ziegler, a San Francisco nutritionist, tells us how to kick the coffee habit successfully.
Reduce Intake Gradually
Slowly weaning your body lessens symptoms’ severity, says Ziegler; cut consumption by 25 percent every week for a month.
Here’s how: Reduce the number of cups per day; add decaffeinated grounds to your morning blend; or replace coffee with less-caffeinated warm beverages like green or black tea.
Caffeine raises the stress hormone cortisol, putting your body in fight-or-flight mode, explains Ziegler. Perpetually escalated cortisol exhausts adrenal glands, leaving you more fatigued in the long run. As you quit, give your adrenals a little extra support.
Here’s how: Get eight hours of sleep per night; exercise at moderate intensity five times per week; and take adrenal-supporting supplements like B vitamins, magnesium, and ashwagandha.
Power with Protein and Fat
Caffeine can raise blood-sugar levels, says Ziegler. While you’re quitting, you’ll have the urge to reach for sugary, carb-rich foods for a quick buzz. Instead, opt for high-quality protein paired with healthy fat for sustained energy.
Here’s how: Eat an apple with almond butter; smoked, wild-caught salmon on a flax cracker with guacamole; or a coconut-milk-and-berry smoothie blended with protein powder.
You do not need to eliminate coffee, it has shown to provide many health benefits. But you may want to limit the amount you drink and maybe mix it up with a few cups of green tea.
By Cheryl Meyers