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What You Didn't Know About Decaf Might Convince You To Switch

Photograph by Twenty20

Decaf coffee contains caffeine. Phew. There, it's finally out in the open.

Actually, researchers have long known this, but people are still shocked to hear that decaffeinated coffee actually does contain caffeine. In fact, there is enough caffeine to get someone, like me, who does not have an IV of soda and coffee hooked up to her arm a little boost each morning.

Decaf does not mean caffeine-free, which is the mistake many people make. According to a WebMD article, "If someone drinks five to 10 cups of decaffeinated coffee, the dose of caffeine could easily reach the level present in a cup or two of caffeinated coffee," researcher Bruce A. Goldberger, PhD, of the University of Florida said.

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A Mayo Clinic chart shows patients how much caffeine was in their coffee and tea. Although the decaf numbers are much lower than caffeinated coffee, you still get some in there.

  • Brewed, 8oz cup: 95-200mg of caffeine
  • Brewed, decaffeinated, 8oz cup: 2-12 mg of caffeine

So, why don't more people drink decaf coffee? For one thing, it usually tastes pretty bad. Stripping coffee of caffeine requires a special process, which alters the flavor of the coffee. Your normal coffee turns from beautifully rich, dark beans into something that looks like a darker version of Honey Smacks (remember that old cereal?). However, if you can find a really good roaster, like Zoka Coffee or Green Mountain Coffee, even a coffee snob can enjoy a freshly brewed cup of decaf.

If I drank regular coffee and caffeinated sodas all the time this trick would not work.

Another question many people ask: Why both drinking decaf? Well, for some of us, caffeine can have a negative effect on our bodies. I am very sensitive to caffeine in beverages (thankfully, chocolate leaves me alone). One cup of coffee on a normal day gets my heart racing, as if I've just run a marathon. I'm jittery, start talking faster than most people can handle, and I don't like how I feel. I love my morning coffee, but I just can't handle a regular cup. So I drink decaf. The trace amounts of caffeine in my decaf give me just the pick-me-up I need to get my kids to school and go on my morning run. A second cup gets me through my morning of work while the kids are at school.

That said, the biggest reason I hold back on my caffeine intake has nothing to do with the jitters. It's because I get migraines. By keeping my caffeine levels low, I can use caffeine as part of my treatment plan when a migraine does strike. Caffeine opens up your blood vessels, which is what I need when I have a migraine. More open blood vessels means my medicine shoots through my body faster. A can of soda or a cup of regular coffee gives me the boost I need to continue to function, which is why medicines like Excedrin Migraine have caffeine built into their formula. Instead of being a zombie after I take my prescription medicine for my migraine, I can get back to normal a little faster with the caffeine in my system.

If I drank regular coffee and caffeinated sodas all the time this trick would not work.

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Decaf coffee may not give you the mega boost you are hoping for, especially if you are a regular coffee drinker, but if you slowly wean yourself off the caffeine, and switch to decaf, you may find that your body thanks you a little more each day. The jitters and the post-coffee crash headaches that can show up in the afternoon will slowly fade.

I'm no doctor, but the benefits I see as a decaf drinker far outweigh the benefits of a nice regular cup of coffee any day. I get my kids to school and can still function, which is really all I need.

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