Wellness Wednesday Caffeine Edition – 12/2/20
It’s an all-caffeine edition of Wellness Wednesday
Ah, caffeine. While this mighty molecule seems as much maligned as praised, a predilection for its effects seems intertwined in the DNA of the Merrimack Valley’s hard-working people. And now that the real-deal winter is upon us, we have all sorts of ways to savor its electric poetry: after a frosty afternoon of leaf raking, during a chilly morning commute, or alongside a cozy read of your favorite local magazine.
I’m not above a little bias confirmation when it suits me. I love caffeine in all its forms, and if a scientific paper comes out suggesting the drinks that contain it might be good for me? Count me among the believers. Fortunately, science seems to confirm my faith more often than not.
Starting with the mild — yes, cocoa counts. Legit hot chocolate can boast around 25 mgs of caffeine, whereas the stuff made with powder might only have 5. You might want to consider this when dispensing it to children before bedtime. But otherwise, the health benefits of chocolate are well-documented. Add to the claims made in its favor a small study published last month and reported on at Insider.com.
The author notes: “Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at 18 healthy adult men who completed two increasingly difficult cognitive tests. The participants were tested after receiving either a cocoa drink high in flavanols, or a placebo drink of processed cocoa without flavanols.
“The study found participants who drank the flavanol-rich cocoa performed significantly better on the cognitive tests, completing them 11% faster on average compared to when they drank the placebo.” In short, hot chocolate seems to boost cognitive abilities, and this appears to correlate with its abundance of flavanols — plant compounds that appear to have a positive impact on human health. The abstract of the original study notes, “Emerging evidence also suggests that flavanol-rich diets protect against cognitive aging, but mechanisms remain elusive.” The implications are big, particular when you them in the light of age-related conditions such as dementia.
Brew a cup and read on.
Another organic plant compound, polyphenols, seem to confer health benefits in the appropriate dose. They are thought to help with weight control, diabetes, cardiovascular health, and are used traditionally to aid digestion. Tea is abundant with them, but not all teas are created equal. Want to know the breakdown? TeaGuardian has an infographic that makes it easy to understand. In short, if you want to boost polyphenol content, drink the real stuff: tea freshly brewed from tea leaves, not tea bags, not the stuff that comes in a bottle. But you probably figured that, right? Additionally, opt for the leaves from the top of the plant.
At last, we come to coffee, the King of Caffeine. Big claims are made for its health benefits over at BGR.com. Dig this: “Based on the latest research, it seems that drinking a seemingly large amount of coffee is not only not bad for you (at least in terms of overall health) but it may actually boost your defenses against things like Alzheimer’s disease as well as heart disease. It’s also been shown to reduce stroke risk and mitigate the chances of developing diabetes.”
This is the point where I’m supposed to blah blah blah say all things in moderation blah blah and check with your doctor, blah blah. And you really should. I mean, I’m joking, but I’m not. You’re really not going to trust important health decisions to some dude on the internet just because he can string some sentences together, are you?
And if all this has you curious and wanting to learn more about how to brew, and not just why, the coffee curious should check out YouTuber James Hoffmann, a cafe owner, barista champion and mad scientist of all things ground and steeped. See for yourself, here. He has no peer in the tea world, although Tea House Ghost does a great job of teaching techniques that will up your tea game. You can find his videos here.