Java Jolts and Caffeine Cravings: How to Drink Your Coffee the Healthy Way


The world’s coffee consumption is enormous. After oil, coffee is the most traded commodity in the world, a trade worth over $100 billion.

But coffee is a controversial drink. Produced mostly in the poor world for consumption by the rich, it can be politically divisive. And nobody seems able to agree whether it is good for you or not.

However, there are a lot of coffee drinkers who want to control their habit and a lot of ex-coffee drinkers who swear that giving up was the best thing they ever did.

So how can we enjoy our coffee-drinking healthily and responsibly, and what can we add to it, or take out of it, to make it better for us?


Caffeine is a drug, and like any drug consumed on a regular basis, it needs to be treated with respect. Its enjoyable aspects are well known: the Java Jolt, the increased speed of mental and physical activity, and the ability to cope with fatigue. There may be other beneficial effects as well. Nobody has shown an absolute danger in caffeine.

For some people, there are negative effects of caffeine as well: sleep problems, agitation, digestion problems and palpitations. People’s tolerance varies hugely, but anyone will have a point where their caffeine consumption begins to have negative effects.

So should we start by taking out the caffeine? It depends. If you get no ill-effects from the amount of coffee you drink, then there is probably little point. If you do begin to regret your caffeine, then decaf may be the first step; it does not remove anything from the coffee except the caffeine and perhaps some of the bitterness, so it can help you sleep better while still giving you most of the advantages of a good cup. Alternatively, cut out the last coffee of the day, then the one before that, until you get back to equilibrium.


Like most agricultural products, coffee is generally grown with the help of a cocktail of pesticides and fungicides. The processing method is fairly brutal for the beans, so there is very little chance (or evidence) of harmful chemicals making it as far as the consumer. If it concerns you, you should look for coffee that is organic or grown in one of the most traditional producer countries like Yemen. This is said to be the best (and most expensive) coffee you can buy.

As a related (not consumer health) issue, you may well be concerned about the conditions of the workers who grow the coffee. If so, look for organic or fair trade products.


Now we get down to the real issues. Sugar is one of the most over-consumed and useless products available. It is addictive, has no nutritional value, and is linked to some of the biggest western lifestyle diseases: obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Probably a lot of people who are addicted to coffee are actually addicted to the sugar they put in it. Cutting out the sugar will help to get your consumption under control. It will also help you to appreciate the taste of the coffee you are drinking.

Of course, regular sugar indulgence also plays havoc with your teeth.


It may seem like the obvious alternative to sugar is an artificial sweetener. Sweeteners do not contain the empty calories of sugar, but surprisingly, there is plenty of evidence that they have little or no effect in reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

This article about artificial sweeteners also highlights the fact that they can be almost as bad for your teeth as sugar.

At present, it seems that Stevia may be a better way to sweeten your drink, but there is little research so far about its benefits and risks.


While getting rid of the artificial additives to our coffee, commercial creamers may be the next thing to go. These highly processed amalgamations of chemicals can be high in fructose and trans fats. Dairy cream may be high in saturated fat, but it is a natural product that can make your coffee more acceptable to the palate while avoiding the dangers of sugar and sweeteners.

Cut Back or Cut Out?

If it is sugar, sweeteners or creamers that you are considering, then the advisable way is to cut them all out if you want to do something that will have a health benefit. Whether you do it by degrees or go cold turkey, the objective should be zero tolerance.

If it is caffeine, then it is your call.

Lauren White is a student at medical school. When not cramming for exams, she enjoys keeping fit and healthy and also enjoys writing articles when she can. She focuses on health topics which have been published around the web.