Today’s Solutions: October 19, 2021

We featured psychedelic researcher and author Michael Pollan during our Marvelous Mushrooms week. Now he is back to explain why we have caffeine cravings and why being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean giving up coffee.

For his new audiobook, Caffeine, Pollan went cold turkey on caffeine for three months while he researched how the world’s most common drug affects our productivity and mental state. 

Pollan acknowledged that giving up coffee left him initially feeling tired, distracted, and without his usual confidence. However, he also notes that giving up caffeine improves sleep quality. This is because our neurotransmitter adenosine, which is responsible for telling us when we’re tired, is the component altered by caffeine to keep us awake.

Pollan also dives into the historical significance of coffee and tea including the role of tea in the Boston Tea Party and colonialism, the role of coffee in Brazilian slavery, and how coffee fueled the industrial revolution. Our morning beverages have had quite a political legacy.

But Pollan says you don’t have to give up caffeine altogether to stay healthy. Caffeine does play a role in both athletic and mental performance. For instance, having some caffeine after you read a long paper or learn something new boosts your chances of retaining it. 

So if you’re considering ditching caffeine from your diet and want more information or simply are curious to learn about how it has helped shape and motivate generations of humans, check out Pollan’s new audiobook.

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