In today’s health-conscious world, many of us try to adjust our diet to ensure we’re getting enough nutrition and fewer calories and preservatives. In the quest for a balanced diet, caffeine often gets a bad reputation.
The reality is that caffeine as an ingredient isn’t a bad thing. It’s how we consume our caffeine that makes it seem negative.
When you consume caffeine naturally, it can be a great thing! Sure, you don’t want to load up on a caffeinated beverage right before bedtime. But if it’s early in the day, or caffeine doesn’t make you hyperalert, there are some incredible benefits to having this ingredient in your diet plan, as we’ll share here.
1. Caffeine is Absorbed Quickly
Caffeine gets into your bloodstream within 45 minutes, peaking shortly after that. When you drink it, your gut absorbs and dissolves the ingredient, so it won’t last long. Any food in your stomach will delay the speed of caffeine absorption, though.
If you use caffeine to stay awake by drinking carbonated sodas, sugary coffees or teas, or other unhealthy foods and beverages, you’re drowning the positive effects in all those calories and dangerous ingredients. It’s not surprising that you have a sugar and caffeine high, followed by a crash a few hours later.
But since caffeine is one of the few things that can cross into the brain barrier, you’ll notice a boost of energy almost instantly when you drink it on an empty stomach.
Mixing caffeine with certain medications, like aspirin and acetaminophen for migraines, can make the medication more effective. There are studies that show caffeine can also enhance the impact of THC in cannabis, as discussed here by Veriheal.
Keep in mind that it is possible to develop what’s called a “caffeine tolerance.” Consuming the ingredient regularly can reduce the stimulating effects, causing you to need more and more caffeine to get the energy boost. On the other hand, quitting caffeine cold turkey is likely to create withdrawal symptoms like headaches, drops in mood, fatigue, and irritability.
2. Natural Caffeine is Found in Nutritious Places
Skip the coffee drinks at your favorite drive-thru shop, and load up on naturally caffeinated foods and beverages instead. There are plenty of places caffeine occurs in nature, and you can find it added to healthy dietary add-ons, too.
Look for freshly ground coffee and cacao beans. Caffeine is found in large quantities in these beans, as well as the fruit and leaves of the trees. If you must have an energy drink, avoid those with additional ingredients outside of vitamins and minerals.
Some examples of nutritious ways to get your caffeine fix include:
- Coffee or espresso without added sugars and unhealthy ingredients (you can use natural sugars and milk to sweeten your drink)
- Black and green tea
- Dark chocolate (milk chocolate has caffeine but not as much, and it doesn’t include the healthier benefits that its darker alternative contains)
- Guarana, a South American plant with extract from seeds used for energy drinks and supplements
- Caffeine supplements
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, a healthy adult can have about 400 mg of caffeine daily. If you’re pregnant, limit this to 200 mg.
3. Caffeine Can Help You Avoid Certain Diseases
Researchers have conducted studies on this popular ingredient for decades, and many of them link caffeine to healthier living.
Some research shows that women who drink coffee regularly have a lower risk of the deadliest conditions for females, such as stroke, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and kidney disease.
Part of this is because caffeine helps your body process glucose better. When you’re able to get sugar in and out of your system efficiently, you are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. And because caffeine stimulates your blood to flow stronger, it helps your heart pump blood throughout the body, reducing the risk of heart complications.
Research on Parkinson’s disease links caffeine intake with a reduced risk of developing this condition. Those who have the disease already may use caffeine to help control their motor function.
Further research suggests that caffeine can help your liver function better, too. Caffeine drinkers frequently have healthier liver enzyme levels than their non-caffeine consumer counterparts. This is especially helpful if you enjoy alcohol, which is known to damage the liver and kidneys.
4. And, Of Course, Caffeine Gives You Energy
Although the previously discussed benefits of caffeine are important to our health, most of us instantly link “caffeine” with energy.
No matter how you absorb it, whether through healthy or unhealthy means, you’ll get the energizing effect because caffeine is a stimulant. Stimulants increase activity in your brain and nervous system, setting your body abuzz. As this happens, the chemicals in your body circulate faster, moving hormones like adrenaline and cortisol everywhere.
This increase in activity is why small doses of caffeine help energize and focus you, but in large amounts, it can make you jittery and nauseous. Signs you have too much caffeine in your system include:
- An increase in body temperature
- Excessive thirst/dehydration
- Frequent need to urinate
- Dizziness and/or nausea
- Heart palpitations/increase in heart rate
- Feelings of restlessness, excitability, anxiety, and/or irritability
- Shakiness, trembling
- Tiredness but trouble sleeping
If you notice any of these symptoms, try flushing the caffeine out of your body by drinking water.
Be sure to recognize that just because you’re drinking energy drinks or other caffeinated beverages, that doesn’t mean you’re staying hydrated. If the caffeine and sugar content is high, you need to balance those drinks out with lots of water. You can still get the energy fix and stay healthy, too!
Unless your doctor specifically forbids caffeine in your diet, it can be to your advantage to include this ingredient in your meals each day. The trick is to find healthy ways to consume caffeine and keep your consumption within the suggested levels for your situation.
When you do that, you’ll get the full benefits of this impressive ingredient, including energy boosts and a potentially healthier lifestyle!