Why Your Morning Coffee is Probably NOT Killing You

Post by Doreen MacLean R.D.

“I drink too much coffee” is something I hear an awful lot. Usually it’s one of the first things that a new client will tell me—and then they’ll follow that up with “but I don’t take cream or sugar.”

What I wish I could tell just about every single of one of them is this: You probably aren’t drinking too much coffee! A cup of coffee in the morning is definitely okay. So is two. Heck, even three. Four? You’re pushing it, but you’re probably okay.

There’s actually a lot of research into coffee and its effects. A lot of the research that has been done is observational (which means that researchers ask people who much they drink and then observe to see what diseases they get), rather than interventional (which means that researchers take a group of people who don’t drink coffee and make half of them start drinking coffee and have the other half abstain, and see what the differences are between the two groups). This means that a lot of the research isn’t gold-standard, but it still gives us a pretty good idea of the risks and benefits of coffee.

Some of the benefits of coffee are reductions in disease development. Those who drink moderate amounts of coffee (1-3 cups/day) are less likely to develop diabetes, Parkinson’s, liver disease, and colon cancer, and may be less likely to suffer a stroke. Coffee also has not been shown to promote heart disease, and may promote better cognitive function in later years. There is a lot of speculation about why we see these benefits, and it is suggested that it may be due to the antioxidants, minerals, or caffeine found in coffee.  And how can we talk about coffee without talking about the caffeine? Caffeine has been well-researched, and has been shown to improve sports performance if taken before exercise, and also to mildly improve alertness and focus.

Cofee Time

While there are a lot of great things about coffee, there are also some risks associated with it. Too much caffeine can have negative effects on the body (as can too much of anything). Excessive caffeine can contribute to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, poor sleep or insomnia, and daytime fatigue. Caffeine can take up to 8 hours to completely clear the body, so it’s best to avoid coffee after 2pm.

Some people are also more sensitive to caffeine than others. Researchers have found a genetic mutation that determines how fast or slow a person’s body breaks down caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you should avoid too much coffee, as you might be at higher risk of developing heart disease or high blood pressure if you drink too much. You should also avoid coffee in the afternoons as it will be more likely to disrupt your sleep compared to someone who isn’t caffeine sensitive.

So what’s the bottom line? Coffee is good for you, up to about 4 8-oz cups per day, and depending on how sensitive you are to the caffeine and how healthy you are. So go ahead and enjoy your morning coffee!

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Hit the Reset Button This Month!

As summer vacations wrap up and kids head back to school; we settle back into a more regular routine.  Over the years many of my clients have come to me asking for tips on how to get back on track with their healthy habits.  My suggestion…. Hit the reset button and focus on a few simple habits.

Reset button

Here are four most common healthy habits you might want to hit “reset” on this fall.

  1. Lack of Exercise– There is nothing wrong with reducing your regular workout routine for some relaxing vacation time but as we head into the fall, setting aside specific time for you and your family to be active is important. Set an example for your family and show them that even with your own busy schedule you make time for physical activity each week. We have plenty of fitness activities for all ages at the Sportsplex this fall- See our Fall Brochure for details.
  2. Dinning Out- While travelling and socializing we often find ourselves eating out more frequently in the summer months or indulging in meals we wouldn’t normally eat as often. The fall is a great time to focus on preparing your own healthy meals at home as much as possible.  Need help? Ask Doreen our onsite Dietitian for tips on preparing healthy meals for your family.
  3. Sweet Treats- We all love to grab an ice cream on a hot day or have s’mores by the campfire but try limiting your sweet treats to once a week!
  4. Alcoholic Drinks- Cold beer on a patio, frozen cocktails at the cottage, champagne & OJ with brunch …they add up! Cheers to a great summer, but try limiting your alcoholic drinks to the recommended standards.  I often suggest clients take a break from weekday drinks and save having a cocktail or beer for on the weekends while relaxing.

The secret to success when improving your healthy habits is making small changes each week and avoiding the “all or nothing” approach.

How to Build a Balanced Meal

This is something that people struggle with all the time. What is a “balanced” meal? How do you put one together? How long is this actually going to take?

balanced-meal

Let’s tackle the idea of balance first. Balance can be defined a few different ways. One of the most common ways to look at balance is by using Canada’s Food Guide. The Food Guide has four food groups—Vegetables and Fruit, Grains, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives. A balanced meal will usually have three of the four food groups. Another way to look at balanced meals is to look at the composition of the foods. A balanced meal will have all three macronutrients—Protein, healthy Fat, and Carbohydrate.

Neither of these definitions of balanced is perfect. If you are looking at food groups, it’s possible to get three food groups, and not get any of those all-important veggies. It’s also possible to use the PFC guidelines and not get veggies. Ideally, you can use both to evaluate your meals, and add the caveat that there needs to be a vegetable or a fruit in there somewhere in order to count.

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So what does that actually look like in terms of food? Let’s take a typical breakfast, lunch, and supper meal.

Breakfast: scrambled eggs and buttered toast.

According to the Food Guide: This meal has two of four food groups (meats and alternatives and grains), and one serving from the “others” category.

According to PFC: This meal is balanced, with a source of protein (eggs), fat (butter), and carbs (toast).

Make it better: Add a piece of fruit on the side or throw some veggies in with the eggs—throw in some frozen or fresh spinach, or some bell peppers, and maybe some mushrooms too. Wash it down with a glass of milk to hit all four food groups, and for another bit of protein.

Lunch: Green salad with peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, onion, and fish, and an olive oil-based vinaigrette.

Food Guide: This meal has two of the three food groups (vegetables and fruit and meats and alternatives), as well as a serving from the “other” category.

PFC: This meal has a source of protein (fish), fat (dressing), and carbohydrate (vegetables).

Make it better: Add some quinoa, wild rice, or other grain to the salad to get a third food group as well as some healthy fibre and some staying power, or sprinkle a serving of grated cheese on top for all four food groups.

Supper: Baked chicken breast with steamed broccoli and cauliflower and a side of wild rice.

Food Guide: This meal has three of four food groups (meat and alternatives, vegetables and fruit, and grains).

PFC: This meal has a source of protein (chicken) and carbohydrates (broccoli, cauliflower, and wild rice).

Make it better: Add a glass of milk to hit all four food groups, or use some butter on those vegetables to make them taste delicious and get in some fat. Alternately, instead of steaming those vegetables, toss them in some olive oil and roast them while the chicken is baking.

But what about snacks?

A balanced snack follows the same principle—variety. When using the food guide, a balanced snack will have two of four food groups. When using the PFC method, a balanced snack should have at least two of the three macronutrients.

Some good snack ideas that follow this guide would be: Fruit and peanut or almond butter, grapes and cheese, cheese and crackers, fruit and nuts, hard-boiled egg and veggie sticks, or veggies and hummus dip.

Now it’s your turn: How do you make sure your meals and snacks are balanced? Leave a comment below!