For anyone who has a daily coffee routine, the idea of giving it up can sound impossible.
Coffee, or caffeine, can become highly addictive, and some people end up drinking several cups per day. Registered dietitian and blogger Abbey Sharp of Abbey’s Kitchen, said if you consume more than 400 mg of coffee per day (about four cups), it’s time to cut back.
“Too much coffee can cause symptoms like jitters, increases anxiety, GI (gastrointestinal) discomfort and changes in heart rate, so if you’re experiencing these side effects, you need to cut back your intake right away,” she said.
“Coffee does carry health benefits when it’s consumed in moderation, so it is not necessary to cut it out completely. Also, if you are drowning your coffee with high fat creamers and sugary sweeteners, then I would suggest trying to cut back a bit because that may be outweighing the benefits of coffee.”
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But unless you’re really overdoing it, cutting back on what you’re adding to your coffee may have a bigger impact on health.
Recently, country singer Carrie Underwood’s personal trainer said she quit drinking coffee by replacing it with homemade juice every morning, Women’s Health reports. But Sharp said this may not be ideal for everyone — and also not beneficial if you are drinking store-bought juice.
“Juice may give you a bit of an energy boost because it’s rich in natural sugars, but it’s not the same ‘high’ you would get from caffeine,” she explained. “Too much juice can also crash your blood sugar shortly after. Second: juice, unlike coffee, is high in calories and carbs. If she was to not be replacing something else in her diet with the juice, these calories could add up and cause weight gain overtime.”
The best alternatives
Sharp said if you’re trying to cut back or give up coffee, start by replacing it with other beverages. “Green tea carries abundant health benefits because of its antioxidant content and typically contains less caffeine than coffee,” she said.
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“Green tea is also less acidic than coffee, making it less harsh on your stomach. Also, with green tea you don’t often add creamers and sweeteners like you would be a coffee because it’s not as bitter which helps you keep calories and carbs at bay.”
Sometimes people don’t even want coffee, they just want to sip on something. “Sometimes you’re not craving coffee per se, but rather some kind of liquid to sip on, so it’s possible you just need a hydration boost. Water too boring? Try spicing up your water with lemon slices or orange slices for flavour.”
Kombucha is also another good alternative, it’s packed with flavour and still has caffeine.
Why it’s hard to give up coffee
Coffee is a stimulant to the central nervous system and relying on it every morning makes people dependent. “Drinking coffee every day can also become a huge part of someone’s comfortable routine. Maybe you go for a coffee break with a colleague or enjoy a quiet cup with your spouse before the kids get up. For these social reasons, it can be really hard to give it up,” she explained.
And if you’re wondering how long it would take to give it up for good, it really depends on the person and how much coffee they consume. “Our responses to coffee are very individualized so it’s hard to give anyone a timeline of how long it takes to get off coffee.”
“If someone is drinking six cups per day and then quits cold turkey, it will likely be a long, painful road for them and they will likely experience a ton of side effects, usually within the first week. My recommendation is to start slow by mixing your caffeinated coffee with decaf until you can wean yourself off or cut back.”