Is decaf coffee the “new sobriety”?
I can’t handle my chosen drugs the way I used to anymore. I thought it gave me energy and made me have fun. Now, even just a tiny bit makes my mind race and my palms sweat.
Caffeine, I thought we had an understanding.
Even for those of us who don’t make resolutions, the start of a new year feels like a reasonable time to evaluate where we want to make positive changes in our lives. This year, I’ve found that I have a lot of company in not being defined as a “but first, coffee” person.
A 2021 Ipsos poll found that Americans are drinking less coffee than they were before the pandemic, especially in terms of the amount of cups they consume daily. The survey also found a sharp generational gap, with Boomers most likely to drink coffee more than once a week, while Generation Z is the least likely. Likewise, consumer sales of packaged coffee have declined since 2019. It’s no wonder Today declared decaf the “new sober” earlier this month.
While part of this is due to the steady rise in the cost of coffee, much of it has to do with changing tastes and values. Last year, market research firm Mintel reported that “39% of coffee drinkers want to reduce their caffeine consumption.” The word “reduce” is the key here: I will probably go completely caffeine free and become a teetotaler or vegan, but I also realize that I feel much better when I cut back a lot.
For starters, there’s the headache factor. Feeling like I have a short window of time in the morning to drink coffee before an epic throbbing headache kicks in is ridiculous — especially when I travel and try to adjust to different time zones.
“Caffeine is a big problem for people with migraines,” says John Katz, founder of migraine-friendly nutritional brand Amea. “Caffeine is known as a vasoconstrictor, which means it narrows blood vessels in the brain. The interesting thing is that migraines occur when blood vessels dilate, so the caffeine actually helps relieve an active attack, but it causes rebound when the caffeine wears off.”
According to Katz, reducing his caffeine intake “has helped significantly” reduce the frequency of his migraines.
“Reducing my caffeine intake has greatly helped reduce the frequency of migraines,” says John Katz.
And as the anxiety-prone and sleep-starved among us know, there are plenty of other reasons to keep your caffeine consumption under control.
“Although it provides a temporary boost in alertness and cognitive function, excessive caffeine consumption can have negative effects on your health, including restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, upset stomach, and rapid heartbeat,” says Paul Didone, MD, medical director at True Self Recovery. . And muscle twitches.”
Didion notes that the FDA “suggests a maximum intake of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for most adults. That’s roughly the amount found in four cups of brewed coffee. However, individual tolerance to caffeine can vary, and some people may experience side effects.” In smaller quantities.”
I get heart palpitations just thinking about drinking four full cups of coffee, but of course, coffee isn’t the only source of caffeine. Switching to herbal or decaf tea in the morning if you’re still drinking Coke or Snapple in the afternoon won’t do much to break the dependence. Not all teas are created equal either.
“Many people make resolutions to stop drinking coffee and remove caffeine from their diets, yet they replace coffee with matcha, which also contains caffeine,” says Nancy Mitchell, a registered nurse and contributing writer for Assisted Living. “Green tea is one of the most secretive sources of caffeine because most people don’t suspect that herbal drinks may contain any.”
“People are making decisions to remove caffeine from their diets, but they are replacing coffee with matcha, which also contains caffeine,” says Nancy Mitchell.
Then there’s my greatest love of all: chocolate.
“The source of caffeine that tends to sneak up on people the most is chocolate,” says Katherine Rall, a registered dietitian at women’s health company Happy V. “We all know there is caffeine in things like coffee and colas, and most people who are highly sensitive to caffeine know better than to drink caffeinated beverages in the afternoon or evening. But the evening is also the time when we tend to eat sweets or a little “Indulging at the end of a hard day, and for many of us, that indulgence is chocolate.”
A 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate can contain up to 23 milligrams of caffeine. This is not a huge amount, but it is enough to feel the effects or exceed a person’s daily comfort level.
Although it’s very easy to spot where caffeine is (unlike salt and sugar, which can be more ambiguous), and although most of us would prefer fewer headaches and better sleep, kicking the dependency can be difficult.
For me, even a small increase in caffeine consumption (eating an “endless cup” breakfast or having an afternoon iced tea) can lead to a miserable cycle of headaches and stress — and the feeling that I need more caffeine to stave it off.
Paul Didion recommends cutting back gradually by starting small.
“Instead of cutting out caffeine, consider gradually reducing your caffeine intake,” he says. This might mean brewing a blend that’s half caffeine (half regular, half decaf) or reducing your daily intake by one drink each week until you reach your desired goal.
He also notes that “dehydration can worsen withdrawal symptoms.” “Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. And get enough sleep: Adequate sleep can help your body adapt to the caffeine drop and reduce feelings of fatigue.”
I know that a big part of my love affair with coffee has always been tied to its ritual and rhythm. We consume things not just for the taste, but also for the experience. Most days, having a cup (which contains about 2 milligrams of caffeine) in the morning is enough to make me feel like I’m still enjoying something I love.
It helps that decaf has come a long way from the crappy decaf my grandmother used to sip when I was growing up. As barista Laura Honey wrote in Homes & Gardens last year, “newer, gentler ways” to remove caffeine from coffee while retaining “the oils, antioxidants and fiber you might drink from a regular cup of coffee” means there are plenty of decent options. That arouses the flavor of solid things without stimulants.
For my fellow morning caffeine drinkers and non-caffeine drinkers, switching to herbal teas or southern dandelion standby can be a reasonably painless switch. If your caffeine source is Coke — and more than half of Americans drink soda every day — switching to flavored sodas could offer a similar kick.
I still enjoy an espresso on the weekend every now and then, and I love chocolate, although I’m frugal if I have it in the evening. Getting off the over-caffeine hamster wheel has helped me significantly manage three of my biggest triggers — headaches, sleep deprivation, and anxiety — but the key to feeling happy and alert in the morning still lies in what I get myself into. My mug.
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