By: Erika Armetta, ‘16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
There’s no hiding the fact that college students love their coffee and tea. From late nights studying in the library, seemingly endless labs, and classes at the brink of dawn, I sometimes need a boost of caffeine to function throughout my day. With 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drinking coffee or tea daily, it’s no secret that we love our coffee.
There are so many myths going around about what is and isn’t healthy concerning coffee and tea. Here are the facts about some of your favorite caffeinated beverages:
- Where does it come from? Grown from the berries of an evergreen plant, coffea. The coffee “bean” is actually just the seed of the fruit from the coffee plant.
- How much caffeine is in a cup? There is 95 mg of caffeine in the typical, 8 oz cup of coffee. However, this differs between which types of berry or “bean” you get. The Arabica bean is generally the kind you have in your morning coffee and contributes to about 70% of the world’s coffee. The Robusta bean has almost twice as much caffeine as the Arabica bean and is commonly found in instant coffee.
- What are the benefits of coffee? There are numerous benefits to having a cup of joe in the morning. Properties of the coffea berry have been linked to decreasing many diseases including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.
- Where does it come from? Tea is brewed from a variety of plant leaves picked at differing times during their life cycle.
- What is the amount of caffeine in a cup? There are usually between 15-70 mgs of caffeine in a cup of tea.
- What are the benefits of tea? There are many types of tea with a big number of health benefits. The three most common teas and their various benefits are outlined below:
- Black tea is the most popular of the teas. It has been linked to cancer prevention, and lowering risk of developing heart disease.
- Green tea is packed with antioxidants, and can help improve cholesterol levels, prevent arterial clogging, and decrease risk of stroke. It has also been linked to preventing many types of cancers like lung, breast, and stomach.
- White tea is made from young tealeaves and is unfermented. It packs the most antioxidants of the three teas.
How much is too much?
When you’re at McKeldin past your bedtime and cramming for that exam in 12 hours, remember to not exceed a daily total of 400 mg of caffeine (or about 4 cups of coffee) in one day.
What are the drawbacks of caffeine?
Despite what many people think, coffee and tea do not stunt your growth. But, there are some downsides to consuming too much caffeine. The most apparent is that it can create restlessness, insomnia and can increase anxiety levels. It can also increase blood pressure, cause headaches, and cause an uneven heart rhythm. Many college students take medications that can affect the central nervous system. Adding caffeine to the diet can cause unsafe cardiovascular side effects in these individuals.
Caution- drinks may be unhealthier than they appear.
Be wary of premade coffees and syrups from your favorite locations. Some seasonal favorites can pack more than 300 calories in a small cup (PSL’s, I’m looking at you)! You can still enjoy your coffee drinks, just be aware that they contribute to your overall caloric intake.
Some campus favorites of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have their beverages’ nutritional information outlines on their websites. Often times just switching the milk from whole to skim or the syrup to the sugar free version or asking for “no-whip” can save you empty calories without sacrificing enjoyment. Give it a try!
Caffeine can be a quick pick-me-up for early mornings, drawn-out afternoons, or late nights, but as with anything, moderation is key! Caffeine can only give you a temporary boost of energy. However, adequate sleep and fueling your body consistently throughout the day will give you sustained energy all day long.
To learn more about how to get more energy to fuel your day, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or UHC-Nutrition@umd.edu.