Ask Elsa: I'm trying to cut down on coffee but I'm finding it really difficult.
I feel I need it to keep my energy and concentration up during work. I'm currently on four cups a day, any suggestions?
A The reason people get hooked on drinking coffee, especially in the morning, is because it makes them feel more energised and alert. However, after their first cup of coffee, they don't feel any better than people who never drink coffee. Coffee drinkers just feel better than they did when they woke up, in other words, drinking coffee simply relieves the symptoms of withdrawal from coffee! It's highly addictive.
In addition, the more caffeine you consume, the more your body and brain become insensitive to its own natural stimulants, dopamine and adrenaline. You then need more stimulants just to feel normal -- pushing your body to produce more dopamine and adrenaline. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, irritability and exhaustion. Heavy coffee drinkers often describe themselves as feeling tired but wired, not a nice feeling.
If you drink coffee with meals it can also inhibit the absorption of vital nutrients such as iron and B vitamins. I would suggest that you cut down on the coffee gradually. Start by replacing every second cup with a decaffeinated alternative. Herbal teas are great but if you simply can't live without the taste of coffee I'd recommend you try Clipper organic decaf coffee (available from health food stores) which is free from chemical solvents.
Q I always have ham or corned beef in my sandwich at lunch time. My wife says lunch meats are bad for me, how so?
A I'm afraid your wife is right. In fact, The World Cancer Research Fund recommends that we avoid eating processed meats altogether. This is because processed meat increases the risk of developing bowel cancer -- one of the most preventable, but also one of the most common cancers in Ireland.
Processed meat is defined as meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding other chemical preservatives. It includes ham and popular lunch meats such as salami, corned beef and pepperoni.
I'd suggest that you eliminate or at least cut down on your intake and start reading the labels on packaging. The two main additives to avoid are the preservatives sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. These are added to prevent the growth of toxic micro-organisms in the meat which can kill. You'd be better buying deli premium meats such as sliced turkey on the bone which contain no additives. Better still, start experimenting with alternative sandwich fillings such as tuna, chicken, egg, cheese or hummus. Variety is the spice of life-and the key to a healthy diet too!
Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajones nutrition.ie