Modern nutritional science is only 100 years old, which is not surprising that we are constantly being sucked into new and conflicting information on what we should consume – or, in some cases, we remain adamant about simple food myths that might not be the case anymore. In a time when food guidelines are said to be constantly changing and the opinions of online sources are often unsubstantiated and ad hoc and unsubstantiated, we asked eight experts on food and drinks to break out the nonsense and reveal the truth as it is.
What is the absolute truth behind Coffee?
“I’m surprised that people still think coffee is bad for them,” says Dr. Astrid Nehlig, the research director at Inserm, the French scientific research center Inserm as well as one of the top researchers in the field of coffee health, brain function, and health. When she began her research into Coffee more than 30 years ago she frequently encountered coffee producers who were worried about their products being discovered to be hazardous. “But a lot of progress has been made in the last 10-15 years.”
What can we learn about Caffeine today? “Coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds, so what we are looking at is not just about caffeine,” Nehlig explains. “It enhances alertness, but simultaneously helps to relax our bodies. It helps focus and increase concentration, but it also prevents sleep, particularly if you consume too much or stay up late.” There is no way to be all equally in this regard caffeine affects our brain’s adenosine receptors. Still, a significant portion of us are not affected by this effect. This is the reason for the multitude of people who drink espresso following dinner and go out around 11 pm. “It’s also about the accumulation of caffeine during the day, which is related to how we metabolise caffeine – in one group of the population, caffeine builds up in the body, but the other group eliminates it very quickly.”
Nehlig says: “Coffee has often been thought to be harmful for heart health. However, we have now worldwide research that suggests that coffee helps prevent cardiovascular diseases, strokes and coronary heart diseases, and also reduces mortality associated with heart disease.” Nehlig claims there is also evidence to suggest that Coffee can protect you from the type two diabetes irrespective of body fat. It’s undoubtedly protective against Parkinson’s disease, and specific against cognitive decline throughout the lifespan. Coffee doesn’t increase our chance of getting cancer. “It’s neutral, or even protective in some cancers, like the liver, colon, endometrium and some non-hormonally dependent breast cancers.” The reason this happens, remains to be determined, but Nehlig’s theory is that it has related to Coffee’s array of antioxidants.
This shouldn’t be a license to consume as many flat whites as possible; still, Caffeine can cause problems. “Research shows adults shouldn’t go over 400mg [of caffeine] a day, which is 4-5 small cups, and no more than 200mg in one sitting.” (Coffees that are sold by high-end chains could contain as high as 300mg in a single serving.)
“For some people caffeine will either trigger anxiety or worsen symptoms of anxiety,” states Murray Carpenter, author of Caffeinated How Our Daily Habits Hook, Helps and hurts us. “Some who really suffer from anxiety have never experimented with eliminating or minimising caffeine.” (My anxiety became to the point that I needed to quit Caffeine during the worst phase of the pandemic in the year 2020. I still miss it.) Caffeine can also make insomnia worse. “In both scenarios, I think it’s important that people experiment with changing their caffeine habits and see what improves,” Carpenter says. Carpenter. There’s no solution for all. “But if you don’t experiment, you won’t know.”
Are alternatives “milks” better for us than dairy?
“Are plant milks high-processed food items? They are indeed,” says Dr. Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian, British Dietetics Association spokesperson, and the senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School. “There is a large green and healthy halo that is attached to foods that are plant-based, but this isn’t always influenced by the chemical composition of the food itself. Are we aware if similar outcomes occur for people who consume other processed foods, such as lots in bacon-based sandwiches? No, not yet.”
Illustration: Lalalimola/The Guardian/Alamy
As Mellor says that research on the subject hasn’t been conducted, but it could also be challenging to study as people who consume dairy substitutes made of plants may be inclined toward a diet that is lower in other processed foods (although processed meat and cheese replacements are on the rise) as well as possess different traits that put them in healthier categories. “It’s OK if you want to use them to whiten your coffee, but I wouldn’t rely on them as a major source of nutrition,” Mellor explains. Mellor prefers that people select natural, such as vegan desserts instead of prepared desserts that are made from vegan dairy substitutes.
“We are a bit over-reliant on dairy as a source of protein,” Mellor says. Mellor, however, the solution isn’t necessarily plant-based alternatives that, aside from soy, do not contain much protein. Besides, almond milk may include just two percent nut, giving only 1.25g protein in 100ml. This is like oats. In comparison, dairy milk has around 3.5g in protein for 100ml. Many milk alternatives include additional nutrients that are similar to the cow’s milk (although typically not the iodine is typically found in dairy) however, organic plant milk is hardly ever added with nutrients.