Caffeine and Alcohol
Except for water, coffee is the world’s most consumed beverage. And wine grapes are the world’s most abundant crop. But neither of these beverages, though they have significant cultural, social, and historical heritage, have much nutritional value.
Caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant. Both of them alter the way your body functions, and both, when taken in excess, are damaging.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found in the coffee bean, cocoa bean, kola nut, and tea leaf. Taken as a mild stimulant, caffeine increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It restricts blood vessels to the brain, which prevents sleep, and causes the release of adrenaline, which makes you alert.
When abused, caffeine causes anxiety, stomach irritation, headaches, and insomnia. What’s worse, it is addictive. Those who consume more than 300 milligrams a day will suffer withdrawal symptoms when cut off from their supply. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, irritability, jitters, and headaches as blood vessels in the brain dilate.
Additionally, caffeine is a diuretic, flushing your body of fluids. This makes caffeinated beverages a poor choice as fluid replacements.
In addition to your favorite beverages, caffeine can also be found in some medications. Medicine for migraines often includes caffeine, which makes the drug work quickly. And caffeine is sometimes used to counteract drowsiness caused my certain medications, such as antihistamines.
Caffeine is not stored in the body, so its effects are not permanent. It can be felt 10 to 15 minutes after ingestion, and the effect lasts two to three hours. Tolerance for caffeine varies, but most adults should limit intake to 200–300 milligrams per day. One cup of coffee is about 90 mg, and sodas average around 40 milligrams.
To cut back on caffeine, it’s best to go slowly. Limit your caffeinated soda and tea intake, and switch your coffee to half-caffeinated. Then take heart in knowing that your headaches will disappear in a week or two.
Alcohol was first coveted as a way to purify water. But its virtues were soon eclipsed by its mind-altering effect and addictive properties. Alcohol is not in and of itself nutritious, and though certain forms may contain healthful properties, they are negligible in comparison to the damage they do.
Regularly consuming more than the recommended two drinks per day maximum (one for women) raises your chance of getting high blood pressure, stroke, and certain cancers, including liver, colon, esophageal, mouth, and breast cancer in women. Alcohol promotes dehydration, and it impairs muscle coordination, reflexes, reaction time, and balance.
In addition, heavy consumption commonly results in malnutrition. While it does not contain many nutrients, alcohol does carry about seven calories for every gram. The calories replace those that would otherwise be consumed by nutritious foods, and alcohol inhibits the functions of many nutrients that are consumed.
Like all extras in your diet, alcohol should be used in moderation.