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What’s really inside your cup of Joe?

By in Culture

CÉLINE GRIMARD

Fall is upon us and students’ cups are being filled to the brim with warm delicious blends of irresistible coffee, but what exactly are we ingesting?

This is a pretty broad topic for an avid coffee enthusiast, as there are many different types of coffee available, from the Americano to that intoxicating creamy classic, the Tim Hortons double-double.

On campus it seems like there is always a lineup at Tim Hortons and Starbucks, these being the main caffeine-to-go fuel stations for the student body. However, Health Canada recommends that Canadians limit caffeine intake to no more than 400 milligrams per day, which is three 8 ounce — 273 millilitres — cups of brewed coffee.

For the Tim Hortons lovers out there, that translates into one small and one medium cup of coffee or one extra-large. For the Starbucks enthusiast, this is the equivalent of two tall cups.

As we all know, coffee contains caffeine which can feel essential to fuel our sleep-deprived bodies and to make our professors happy with our work. So are there any health benefits to drinking this rich, dark liquid?

Students will be happy to know that coffee is filled with antioxidants which help reduce the risk of diseases such as liver cancer and colon cancer. It has also been suggested that coffee helps in preventing depression and suicide.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study in 2014 that found drinking more than one cup of coffee each day helps reduce your risk of type two diabetes. So as long as you drink coffee in moderation, it may be beneficial.

Not everyone follows Health Canada’s moderation guidelines, though. Everyone has their own preferences for caffeine intake, but what are the possible downsides of going overboard?

Exceeding the recommended 400 milligrams of caffeine per day can result in some possible side effects. The Mayo Clinic warns that heavy daily caffeine use can be linked to insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, fast heartbeat and/or muscle tremors. If any of those symptoms seem familiar, maybe it’s time to bring on the decaf.

Moderation is key, but it’s important to remember that these health benefits and detriments only apply to caffeine, not to add-ons like sugars, syrups or creams. So unless you’re drinking coffee black or with a small amount of milk, some of your favorite go-to study drinks might be doing more harm than good.

Student Health Services at the University of Saskatchewan reports that a double-double coffee from Tim Hortons — two sugars, two creams — has more added sugar than a chocolate dip doughnut.

It may come as a further surprise that when you order just a regular Original blend Tim’s coffee — which comes with one cream and one sugar — you aren’t always getting one standard creamer and one standard spoonful of sugar. The size of your beverage determines how much more cream and sugar goes into it.

At Starbucks, a tall Americano has only 10 calories, whereas the tall Caramel Macchiato contains 140 calories — and that’s only if you specify non-fat milk.

The World Health Organization recommends only six teaspoons of sugar a day. When you look at the nutritional information on both Tim Hortons’ and Starbucks’ menus, it is easy to see that this adds up very quickly.

There are nine grams of sugar in a small regular Original blend Tim Hortons’ coffee. A tall non-fat milk Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks contains 24 grams of sugar, which is almost your total daily recommended six teaspoons of sugar per day, all in one go.

If you start getting into the realm of Venti Frappucinos, these numbers skyrocket. The Heart and Stroke Foundation warns that consuming too much sugar is associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and cavities.

Coffee is often portrayed as a student’s best friend. It certainly can be, since it is perfect for long nights staying up late studying, waking up for early morning classes and great conversations at your favorite cozy coffee shop. Just be aware of what you’re adding to that caffeine kick and don’t indulge too often, so you can stay healthy within your habit.

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