Trying to Kick That Caffeine Habit? Turning to Decaf Might Not Be Your Safest Bet

I am a sucker for a warm cup of coffee in the morning. Admittedly, I sometimes pour myself a cup before I even get on the bike to teach an early morning Flywheel class. No big deal. The problem arises, when I get to work and have my second, then third and maybe even fourth cup. I mean how many cups are really in a large? In order to stay focused on my busy lifestyle, sometimes it seems like I need caffeine to pull me through.

photo 3-21This is all new to me. I didn’t enjoy my first cup of coffee until I was promoted to senior associate at my former public accounting firm and had to be on point one Monday morning after a late flight back from Vegas the night before. I was exhausted. I watched my co-workers pump out cup after cup from the Starbucks brewing machine outside of our conference room. As I began to realize that we would be working a late night, I decided to make my move. Black and bold.

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I first started drinking coffee because of the caffeine rush, but over time I have truly begun to enjoy the taste. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I was informed of the harsh reality that I would have to kick my coffee habit (at least the caffeinated kind). Like any self diagnosing Type A individual, I did a lot of research on substitutes for caffeinated coffee (since I actually enjoyed the taste). The obvious would be decaffeinated coffee right? Wait, not so fast.

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When I actually took the time to read how decaf coffee is made, I was alarmed at the amount of chemicals used in some of the caffeine extraction methods.

  • One method uses methylene chloride, which is used in various industrial processes including paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, metal cleaning and degreasing. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) even considers this chemical to be a potential occupational carcinogen.
  • Another uses Ethyl acetate, which is used in nail polish remover and to kill insects.

Finding out that certain chemicals might be involved in making the decaf coffee that I was substituting for my caffeinated coffee, prompted me to research the extraction methods for the coffees that I drink. We have a Keurig one cup brewer at our house, so we drink a lot of Green Mountain Coffee brands. Green Mountain will proudly display the methods of decaffeination including the processes using the chemicals listed above. If I didn’t know what to look for, I probably would have never thought twice about the extraction methods listed. However, knowing what the chemicals above are used in was eye opening (especially while I was pregnant!).

Thankfully, there are safe methods of decaffeination, but I just don’t have time to do the research to figure out what brands use them.  So what is the easiest way to try to decrease the amount of caffeine that you have in a day? Simple. Gradually limit caffeinated coffee intake, remove decaffeinated coffee from your diet, and drink more water (at least until the information is easily out there about what chemicals are in your decaf coffee).

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