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Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The best part of my day...

It has recently come to my attention that I spend a small country's Gross National Product on coffee and I am not alone. This became ever apparent when my beloved home grind and brew machine ground to a halt, so to speak and I have decided NOT to replace it. We live in downtown Vancouver. There are more coffee shops in our area than there are trees and we have the largest rain forest north of the Equator just a short 10 minute walk away. This is not a proud statement about the times we live in, no judgement here people, just truth. I can chose from Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Artigiano's (phenomonal lattés BTW- not a plug but a fact), BLENZ, WAVES, The Wicked Cafe and the list goes on. I could sustain a caffeine high for 14 hours a day without ever using the same coffee shop twice, all without leaving the comfort of my 20 block radius.

I am not complaining. I am quite pleased with my current coffee situation. I like not having a coffee maker. It takes up a great deal of counter space, it needs to be cleaned and cared for and most importantly I make shitty coffee. I'd like to think I have a modicum of other talents, being a barista is not one of them. I can never get the coffee to water ratio right. Is it a one scoop to one cup thing? Does this vary according to blend of coffee? I have been told by many that I need to use distilled water and the right beans but have failed to pursue any of this. It is far too much work for my true drug of choice. And so as any fiercely independent woman would do in this situation, I have donated my old coffee maker to Salvation Army and now rely on someone else to make my coffee for me.

It has been over six months into my "Don't do it yourself" venture and it has dawned on me that I am racking up quite a bill. Shockingly, I am NOT a fancy coffee girl. I prefer a good, plain, large drip coffee. The occasional low fat latté is a bit of treat but only when I can sit in a café and drink it like a civilized person while the world passes by. Otherwise for my Daily Fix I prefer a standard mild blend. This has of course been financially advantageous but nonetheless, I am spending upwards of $2-$4 per day (depending on the amount of work I need to get done) on coffee. I justify my $1500 a year habit with the usual "I work hard, I deserve it", that many of us will use to justify anything worth purchasing. Every now and then it dawns on me that if I gave up the caffeine ghost I could broaden my shoe closet? In fact as I sit in my local café, espresso coursing through my veins, trying desperately to be witty for just one more week, i am painfully aware that Italian drink to my left is impeding my ability to enjoy the true gifts the Italians have given to society... expensive footwear.

Apart from my footwear realization it has also come to my attention among my java journeys that coffee is truly a personal choice. One's coffee choice is one's fingerprint on life. I am a "Venti Mild blend, 2 fingers of cream with 4 artificial sweeteners" or as I like to call it. "Venti mild, Skinny with legs". My husband prefers an Artigiano Machiatto (I still have no idea what is in it). My friend "K" is a die hard for a good Tim Horton's double-double. Our coffee choice is as much a personal statement as is our choice of car, bank, hair colour or religious affiliation. We develop it over time and stick with it almost militantly. It is our little declaration to the world about who we are. For example, people who use travel mugs care about the environment and like their coffee very hot. Low fat choices declare one's interest in healthier choices and one's overall high maintenance. In my experience people who like Mocha's are embracing their inner child and those with a taste for an Americanno have really good taste in handbags. There is no science to this- it is purely speculation on my part.

Where there IS science, thankfully is in the health benefits to coffee drinking. Firstly, the average cup of coffee contains about 200 milligrams of caffeine. In short it is about 2% caffeine, 98% "other stuff". It is likely that other stuff that offers it some benefit. There is an overwhelming amount of observational studies showing a benefit of coffee consumption of 1-4 cups per day to reducing Parkinson's and Diabetes. Twenty studies worldwide show that coffee, both regular and decaf, lowers the risk for Type 2 diabetes, in some studies by as much as 50%. Researchers out of Harvard University say that is probably because chlorogenic acid, one of the many ingredients in coffee, slows uptake of glucose (sugar) from the intestines. (Excess sugar in the blood is a hallmark of diabetes.) Chlorogenic acid may also stimulate GLP-1, a chemical that boosts insulin, the hormone that escorts sugar from the blood into cells. Yet another ingredient, trigonelline, a precursor to vitamin B3, may help slow glucose absorption. The take home message here is that a drink once thought to cause harm may even be helpful!

And so always a fan of science, another day, another four dollars. I finish my cup and this weeks' Girlfriend's Guide with the knowledge that life is about choices. I choose to leave my coffee in the hands of those who have the proper respect for the bean. I choose my Venti with cream and chemicals in the hope that all those antioxidants will cancel out whatever crap I put in the coffee in the first place. I order my coffee, make my personal statement about who I am and what I want and move on into the world knowing I may have prevented disease with yet another cup. Am I drinking coffee to PREVENT Diabetes? No. That is what healthy eating and exercise is for. But at least I can justify my $1500 a year as a health expense. After all, health really is priceless. My next mission is to find a study showing that Manolo Blahniks are good for your cholesterol.

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