Monday, January 2, 2012

Hot Coffee - crutch or lifesaver?

I drink hot tea every day, and my choices vary depending on my mood or the time of day.  In the morning I’ll have decaffeinated green tea flavored with fruit essence (mango and pomegranate being my favorites), at night I’ll drink chamomile several times a week, and in between I’m partial to Earl Grey or Harney & Son’s Paris blend.  Tea is fantastic for the new low-carber for a couple of reasons.  For one, there are no carbs in tea!  And two, it fills your stomach in between meals – critical when you’re starting a regimen and ridding your body of carb cravings or whatever else you’re giving up.
However, when I drink coffee, I can almost skip a meal – and I never skip meals.  Give me a grande decaf drip with room for heavy cream, and I can skip breakfast.  I have to believe that there is a fundamental difference between hot coffee and hot tea, so I decided to investigate.

I found evidence to the contrary of what I just stated above. 

Atkins and other lifestyle eating programs strongly advocate that caffeine should either be completed removed from your diet or at least severely limited.  Caffeine can interrupt with your sleep levels, but it can also trigger sugar cravings.  Drinking caffeinated coffee on an empty stomach can be damaging to your stomach lining, and if you include coffee as one of the liquids you are tracking to consume, you will probably end up being dehydrated.  There exist a host of health concerns, some of which you can read here and here at Mark’s Daily Apple.

So now I’m really confused.  I drink 100 ounces of water a day – give or take 8 ounces.  I drink decaffeinated coffee and primarily decaffeinated teas.  I put 1-2 ounces of heavy cream in my coffee and never use a sugar-substitute (it’s all about the cream for me).   And I also need to consumer quite a bit of food to fill this nearly 6-foot tall frame.  But I’m still not hungry after drinking a big mug of coffee with cream.

I don’t think it’s wise to use hot beverages as a regular trick to fool your stomach and mind into thinking you’ve had a meal.  After all, your body does need proper food to keep it functioning.  But I do occasionally find myself in situations where if I can’t participate in whatever food orgy is occurring around me, I can indulge in a generous cup of creamy coffee.  And then I don’t feel so left out, or worse – diving in to something I shouldn’t.

While my research resulted in a big goose egg, I will continue to use decaffeinated coffee with cream as an end-of-day treat or at luncheons when the dessert course is being served.

How about you – do you have any tricks for staying the course? Does coffee inhibit your ability to deal with cravings?



Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I just started eating your way last week and I am really excited about it...though hopelessly in love with bread and sugar! I cannot give up my morning coffee...just love it too much. I drink bold with sugarless cream. The sweetner I use is Stevia. So, far I do not think it is a problem or makes me desire to eat. Usually what triggers a sugar desire for me is eating some dessert! If I go without the morning coffee, I get headaches...yes, that is caffeine addiction!

Adrienne said...

I am with you all the way on the coffee thing. In fact, I am enjoying a half-decaf, French pressed coffee with heavy cream at this moment. And you are right: it does fill you up. I have issues with breakfast as I am not a fan of the egg. I can have 2 cups of coffee in the morning and not worry about a mean until a few hours later.

I do not find coffee or tea induces any cravings for me. Perhaps if I drank lots of caffeine I would be tempted??

Anonymous said...

Pam - Congrats on starting a low carb lifestyle! I hope you are seeing positive results INSIDE your body and not just inches or pounds (we want those, too, but this is really about being healthy inside). I really don't think caffeine triggers cravings for me - a diet Coke, yes. I know it has to do with me trying to avoid sweeteners in general, except for naturally sweet foods like fruit - nature's candy.

A - I'm wondering if the caution against too much caffeine consumption has to do with how the liver and kidney processes it and if insulin is released. My MIL drinks a pot of Folger's a day, and she has a sweet tooth. I drink three European cups of coffee from a French press, and if I have lots of cream and some water I do not have hunger. It even helps when my husband is sitting next to me eating a big yummy.

Leigh said...

First I am so excited about your new blog! I read both of your other blogs. I have never noticed coffee inducing any cravings for me. I am just now experimenting with xylitol for a sweetner. I have very mixed feelings. I am trying to get onto the paleo/low carb way of eating, but I have a problem with the sweetners as I try very hard not to eat any faux or processed foods. I wish I could like my coffee without sweetener, but I cant. Tea yes, coffee no. Looking forward to many more posts.

Anonymous said...

Leigh - There's an interesting article in today's WSJ about artificial sweeteners. I'm really wondering if it's better to start weening yourself from sweet things and go plain. When I bake, I don't use Splenda but Agave nectar. It's not "low carb", but it's low-glycemic and is not fake so it is an appropriate substitute for paleo/primal eating (so is pure maple syrup).

Anonymous said...

I have a cup of coffee every morning with heavy cream and a packet of Stevia. My feeling is this falls into the not perfect, but not too terrible role. If I were using those completely artifical "non dairy creamers" that would be another story. I used to love those and was totally grossed out when I read the ingredients finally. I find my morning drink helps keep me satisfied all morning long and doesn't up cravings for anything, as with you, it has the opposite effect. I am generally pretty strict with what I eat but I appreciate the Primal 80/20 rule and figure this fits in there.