‘Coffee has always been a source of comfort’

Atlantic Canada loves its brew — but there are surprising health benefits in your morning cup




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For years, his love of coffee has been as strong as the coffee itself. Despite growing up in a tea lover’s house, Mike Butler was always drawn to coffee — first the smell, and later the taste. During university, the Wolfville, N.S., man started drinking coffee for the social aspect. Coffee became his closest and most reliable friend, he says. Today, Butler drinks coffee every day. “Do I need it? Yes! Why? Not because of the caffeine, per se, but because it makes me feel great, is a part of my day, and it’s a way to be social,” says Butler. Butler loved coffee so much he eventually ended up working for five years at the T.A.N. coffee shop in Wolfville. “Coffee has always been a source of comfort and is universally and globally a sign of friendship,” says Butler. BUILDING BONDS Susan Whalen knows firsthand how coffee can bring people together. Every morning at 10 a.m., Whalen’s parents met her grandparents in their Bedford, N.S. apartment or garden for a daily cuppa. It was more of a ritual to meet and socialize than actually about the coffee, she says. “I still have an olfactory memory of their fragrance,” says Whalen. “This is a very vivid childhood memory.” “The more time we spend together with family and friends the stronger the bonds become,” she says. And with National Coffee Day occurring on Sept. 29, it’s fitting to take time to appreciate this popular drink. HEALTH BENEFITS Did you know there are health benefits you reap in each cup of coffee you drink? According to Danielle Farrell, the in-store dietician for the Dominion stores in St. John’s, Mount Pearl, and Conception Bay South, N.L., coffee is a source of antioxidants. Drinking moderate amounts — either caffeinated or decaffeinated — has also been linked to health benefits such as lower risks of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, she says. “Caffeine is a stimulant that increases activity in your brain and nervous system, as well as increasing cortisol and adrenaline in the body,” explains Farrell. The stimulating effects of caffeine usually kick in within five to 30 minutes and can last eight to 12 hours. A moderate intake of caffeine can make you feel refreshed and focused. Less than 200 mg of caffeine (equivalent to one or two cups of coffee) can make you more alert, put you in a better mood and make you feel less tired. It can also improve physical work and your thinking, she says. COFFEE TRENDS Butler feels coffee has always been trendy, but as for what is trendy, Francis says that seems to also go through waves and depends on where you live. Butler has noticed one trend with younger coffee drinkers: they’ve caught on to the coffee and energy drink craze but often think they are drinking good beverages without being educated on the source. They also love sugar and the intense energy of it all, whereas Butler says he was raised to appreciate the social aspects of coffee with friends. “Once you add four pounds of sugar, flavouring, cream, whipped cream and everything else, that’s not coffee. That’s dessert,” says Butler. KNOW THE LIMITS No matter how you take your coffee, knowing your limits is important. The recommended daily limit for caffeine for healthy adults is 400 mg per day, says Farrell, equivalent to three to five eight-ounce cups. Keep in mind, she cautions, the amount can vary based on the type of coffee and strength of the brew. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should limit caffeine to no more than 300 mg per day. Keep in mind caffeine is also found in teas, soft drinks and some foods like chocolate, all of which contribute to your total daily intake, says Farrell. The reason for this limit is to minimize the side effects of drinking too much caffeine, such as insomnia, irritability, headaches and nervousness. As your body gets used to caffeine, it starts to build a tolerance, and you may need more of it to get the same effect, explains Farrell. “You can become mildly dependent on caffeine from regularly drinking as few as two to four cups of coffee per day,” she adds. It might feel as though you cannot function before coffee or that you aren’t fully awake until you’ve had your morning cup. Some people find that they are unable to focus or experience increased brain fog in the absence of caffeine, she explains. If you suddenly stop drinking caffeine, it’s possible to have withdrawal symptoms as soon as 12 to 24 hours later, for anywhere from two to nine days, says Farrell. Symptoms may include headaches, problems sleeping, feeling irritable, tired, and depressed, lack of energy, feeling down or having trouble focusing or concentrating. If you do want to cut back on your caffeine, Farrell suggests doing so gradually by reducing your caffeine intake over two to three weeks to help prevent withdrawal symptoms. Try replacing some of your coffee with decaf or half-caf or begin to substitute some of your regular cold caffeinated beverages with water, she says. ALTERNATIVE PREPARATIONS Ayurvedic lifestyle coach Suzi Fevens of Waterville, N.S., teaches people a natural system of medicine based on their own bodies. She says people should prepare their coffee differently depending on their stomach and gut. For example, people who have a more sensitive stomach should always have some sort of dairy or dairy substitute, as well as sweetener, to balance out the bitterness of coffee so it won’t upset their stomach. Adding specific spices can also make the coffee easier to digest, says Fevens. Try adding cardamon pods or ground cardamon to the cup before pouring the coffee in. Cardamom has a unique quality that helps eliminate caffeine toxicity from coffee, which tends to be what causes stomach upset/distress. WHAT’S THE SECRET TO MAKING GREAT COFFEE? Butler says it’s a better product when it is sourced with the best intentions. He also likes buying fresh, locally-roasted coffee because it feels more personal, like he’s helping a small business that needs it. LEVEL UP YOUR COFFEE The next time you are out for a coffee, Butler highly recommends that people try something new from a local producer. Change is hard, says Butler, but he urges people to use their bean to find the best bean.