What to eat before drinking coffee

The British public drinks around 70 million cups of coffee each day, with over 57% of people choosing to have it first thing in the morning.While this might be due to the widely ac

What to eat before drinking coffee

The British public drinks around 70 million cups of coffee each day, with over 57% of people choosing to have it first thing in the morning.

While this might be due to the widely accepted notion that a hit of caffeine before work will help kick-start your day, new research questions whether that's really the best time of day to consume it.


Logic would suggest that the best time to drink coffee is when your brain can use the caffeine most efficiently, yet science suggests it might not be first thing in the morning. Why?

1. Drinking coffee with iron-rich food slows absorption

Whether it's a cappuccino with your avo toast or a flat white with your smoothie bowl, sinking a coffee with your breakfast is as routine as brushing your teeth.

But new analysis from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition suggests that eating iron-rich foods with a coffee first thing may undo the iron's nutritional benefits.

Speaking to the BBC and Trust Me I'm A Doctor, nutrition scientist Professor Paul Sharp from King's College said that consuming the two at the same time makes it harder for your body to absorb the iron. That's because coffee is full of chemicals called polyphenols that are very efficient at binding to the iron and making that iron less soluble.

Iron-high foods include:

  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • wholegrain breads
  • cashews
  • dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach
  • tofu (if you haven't yet, try this tofu scramble from Hazel Wallace)

If you're eating any of these for breakfast, Prof Sharp advises having 'a small glass of orange juice or an orange to help increase your iron uptake. You might also want to consider postponing your morning coffee until at least 30 minutes after you've eaten.'

If you think you might be iron deficient, do read the WH guide.

2. Caffeine interferes with the body's cortisol production

Anothe reason the best time to drink your morning coffee may not be first thing comes in the form of your cortisol production. Cortisol is one of the key hormones your body produces, which as shown in the below Journal of Clinical Endrocrinology and Metabolism grahic naturally cycles throughout the day.

Generally speaking, you produce more cortisol in the morning, peaking at around 8am, to help you wake up, and less at night to help you feel tired and fall asleep. However, what most people dont realise is that caffeine interferes with the body's production of cortisol and causes you to produce less, just when you need it the most.

As a result, you're consuming the caffeine when it's least effective on the body.

Whats worse is that over time the body comes to rely on the caffeine boost (rather than letting the cortisol do its natural job), which is why people develop a caffeine dependence.

Indeed, a study carried out in 2008 found that habitual coffee consumption in the morning increased a persons tolerance to caffeine because it replaced the natural cortisol-induced boost instead of adding to it  and thus had very little effect on a persons alertness or productivity levels.

Therefore, what scientists have concluded is that its best to drink a cup of coffee when cortisol naturally dips in the day, so you feel more alert during an energy slump. Officially speaking this is between 10 a.m. and noon, and between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

It might be a hard switch to make  but we promise the rejuvenated caffeine kick will be worth it.

Now you know when the best time to drink your morning coffee is, check out these healthy breakfast meals or these healthy breakfast buys under £4.99.

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