Coffee: a Blessing or a Curse?

Bettina Sanford, Staff Writer

About 64 percent of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis. Furthermore, according to CreditDonkey, all together Americans drink about 102 cups of coffee annually, which can be broken down to about 280.5 million cups per day. Older Americans are the biggest coffee drinkers, with 74 percent of seniors aged 55 and up having at least one cup of coffee per day. The 18 to 34-year-old crowd drink the least amount of coffee. But what about types of coffee? The newest generation of regular coffee drinkers is driving an upward trend of gourmet coffee consumption. More than one-third of the gourmet drinks (like cappuccino and lattes), and 22 percent of people in the 18-24 age group drink espresso and are more likely than their older peers to drink their coffee away from home from shops like Starbucks and BigFoot Java. 

Drinking coffee at a young age could affect your health. Caffeine is addictive, which means that the more you drink, the more you need and want to have it. It means that when you do not have it, you could get a headache, feel jittery (“the shakes”), and feel “not yourself” without it. Side effects include symptoms of withdrawal, which anyone using drugs can experience, though the symptoms can be different for each person. This is why drug addicts keep going back for more drugs, because without them, they feel terrible and the only way to correct that is to take more.

It is the same with caffeine. It is a stimulant, which means it keeps your brain and body awake. While a morning cup will not disrupt your sleep at night, an afternoon cup can. This means that it can take you longer to fall asleep, and even interfere with a good night’s sleep. Doctors tell us that on average teens need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If your teen is not getting that amount, you can see effects on grades, mood, and depending on what your teen puts in his or her coffee, there can be side effects of weight gain. For example, iced vanilla lattes and other specialty drinks are often high in caffeine, fat and sugar, which means extra calories that may encourage unwanted and unhealthy weight gain. 

But while there are some health concerns, there are also benefits. Coffee is not just a drink; it can also be a social interaction tool. In fact, getting coffee is an affordable experience many teens like to participate in together. Many teens also drink it as a source to quickly relieve drowsiness, which can be handy for individuals who may be tired after a late night of studying for an exam or a busy schedule that includes part-time work on the weekend. Some even use it as a memory boost according to Healthy Eating, which states, “Many teenagers often spend a significant part of the week studying for tests, presentations and exams. Drinking a single cup of strong coffee, according to a 2014 study published in “Nature Neuroscience,” can improve your memory. If a student struggles with memorizing information for schoolwork, moderate coffee drinking might help keep her memory sharp for up to 24 hours or even beyond.” 

Getting your daily intake of caffeine can be through other potentially healthier forms. Shape a daily fitness, health, and lifestyle website, promotes 15 alternatives to caffeine.

Green Tea

Green tea has slightly less caffeine than a cup of coffee but enough to give you a boost without any of the coffee jitters. The drink is also packed with health benefits, says Nadine Taylor, registered dietitian and author of Green Tea: The Natural Secret to a Healthier Life. “Catechins are powerful antioxidants and potent disease fighters that are found primarily in green tea,” she says.

Nutty Smoothies

Nuts, which are high in protein and fiber, make a healthy afternoon snack, but they’re also nourishing whipped into a smoothie. According to certified nutritionist Angela Pifer, smoothies made using ingredients like cashew milk, protein powder, and nut butter help elevate your blood sugar levels. “A 3:00 p.m. slump is not innate to us,” Pifer says. “Since food gives us energy, it’s more of a problem with our blood sugar dropping.”

Licorice Tea

Even if you didn’t like licorice candy as a child, you’ll appreciate the benefits of sweet, spicy licorice tea. The bold-tasting brew is actually caffeine-free, but supports overburdened adrenal glands, which are organs that respond to stress. “Licorice is an adrenal tonic and increases energy. It adds a pleasant taste to tea blends and can also be taken in tincture form,” explain Dr. Linda B. White and Steven Foster, authors of The Herbal Drugstore.”

Wheatgrass Juice

This natural energizer is known as a liquid shot of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Some people don’t mind the taste and others do, but all agree that wheatgrass is one of the most nourishing juices. “Because of its easy digestibility and rapid assimilation, it’s a natural energy supplement, whether alone or added to a protein-type supplement drink,” says Gloria Gilbère, doctor of natural health.”

Siberian Ginseng Tea

Siberian ginseng tea gets its kick from the slightly bitter ginseng root, but if you can’t down the brew on its own, sweeten it with a dollop of honey. The herbal drink is supposed to stimulate your concentration, according to White and Foster. “This favorite, tried-and-true fatigue-buster is safe for long-term use in most people,” they explain.

Reishi Mushroom Tea

A staple in traditional Chinese medicine, the soft, flat reishi mushroom makes for one invigorating (and healthy) libation. White and Foster recommend “combining 1/3 ounce of chopped or powdered reishi mushroom with three cups of water, then bringing the tea to a boil and simmering for 30 minutes before drinking in doses.”

Chai Tea

“Native to India, this soothing beverage is commonly made with rich black tea, milk, and a variety of spices, like cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom. A steaming hot mug of chai tea will help you get over an afternoon hump. An added bonus? Though you’re automatically cutting your caffeine intake by drinking chai, the tea’s smooth, creamy flavor tricks your mind into thinking that it’s coffee!” said White and Foster.

Fruit Juices

Lemon water, pomegranate juice,  and prune juice and many more can be a cleaner alternative to caffeinated, sugary drinks.

At the end of the day, it comes down to preference, why you would drink the drink, and what form it may derive from. Some people drink coffee to stay awake, or to get a little boost of energy, others love the way it tastes and enjoy the many complex ways it can take shape like in the form of an espresso or a Starbucks Frappuccino. People may even enjoy the memories they associate with the drink, such as an order from Starbucks reminding you of when you went out with your friends during lunch and got a flat tire on the way back during the hour (may or may not be speaking from personal experience). A drink is a drink, but it is important to know the benefits but also potential health concerns associated with it, as it may impact your health later down the line. Keep this in mind the next time you take a sip of that latte.