News Bites
Better Nutrition|January 2022
Caffeine, Peanuts, CoQ10, and Iron Deficiency.
By Vera Tweed, Photography by Getty Images

Caffeine: Friend or Foe?

You probably know if caffeine gives you jitters, interferes with your sleep, or creates other unpleasant side effects. And then, you likely avoid it (or you should). But if you don’t experience any downsides and love your coffee and tea, could caffeine secretly be harming your health?

The answer depends on the source of your caffeine and the quantity you consume. Coffee, tea, and cocoa contain anti-inflammatory plant nutrients known as polyphenols in addition to caffeine. Studies have shown that these polyphenols help to keep blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels, reduce depression, improve heart health, reduce risk for stroke, help to prevent belly fat, and improve insulin sensitivity, which helps prevent type 2 diabetes.

Research also shows that coffee and tea are our top dietary sources of antioxidant polyphenols, so if they aren’t also loaded with sugar or syrup, they can be healthy beverages.

Other Sources of Caffeine

Caffeine is added to cola-type sodas, energy shots and waters, and energy gels and candies, which don’t contain the beneficial polyphenols naturally found in coffee and tea—but do contain sugars or other additives that are definitely not beneficial.

Caffeine is used to enhance exercise performance. It can also increase the amount of fat the body burns, with or without exercise, but this may not result in more calories being used. A recent study found that people who took caffeine before exercise burned more fat but less carbohydrate. All told, the caffeine did not change the total number of calories burned.

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