If you have ever tried giving up coffee cold-turkey, you may have experienced withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, the inability to concentrate, and moodiness. This is because caffeine, the ingredient responsible, can affect the central nervous system through your mood, memory, and other different stress responses. This is good news for all of you coffee lovers out there. Coffee, actually has stress relieving benefits beyond simply its wonderful aroma and taste each morning.

Caffeine improves memory and mental capacity

In this day and age, the minute you wake up, you are answering emails, taking conference calls, or meeting deadlines with colleagues and collaborators around the world. Many people will not even attempt a task requiring significant mental capacity without having a cup of coffee.

This is because the caffeine in coffee can improve memory and cognitive function. Many studies, including a study published in PNAS, have determined that caffeine may improve both long and short-term memory.

This is because caffeine blocks receptors for a chemical called adenosine, which prevents the release of signals that excite and stimulate the brain. By blocking adenosine, these excitatory signals can flow more freely giving you a surge of energy, improving mental performance, and slowing mental decline associated with age. Being mentally sharper will certainly help you reduce work related stress. So which type of coffee should you consume to maximize the stress relief benefits?

Not all coffee is created equal

If you have visited your local coffee shop, you know that the choices are overwhelming. But most people simply choose their favorite roast and brew a cup of coffee at home or at work. If you are looking to maximize the caffeine content of the roast, choose a lighter roast.

When drinking light roast coffee, the flavors are extracted from the bean as opposed to the roasting process. But with darker roasts, the flavor comes more from the process than from the bean. As a bean is roasted more, there is less caffeine held within it, so the resultant cup of coffee will have lower levels of caffeine. But don’t overdo it.

Coffee may help improve mental performance, but too much of it can leave you feeling jittery, cause gastrointestinal issues, and insomnia.  Although there are many ways to manage stress, regulating your intake of caffeine with coffee and food is a great place to start.

Use coffee and food to help manage stress and regulate sleep

Coffee needs to be consumed in moderation with a healthy and balanced diet. If you have ever consumed too much coffee, you may have had trouble sleeping or just felt restless and unwell. There are foods that contain significant amounts of caffeine such as chocolate, soda, and energy bars.

You’ll want to keep this in mind when you are drinking several cups of coffee. Choose to couple your coffee intake with foods that help you relax and sleep such as milk, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Eating a balanced diet will certainly give you a boost of energy and leave you feeling mentally sharp while helping you manage and reduce stress.

So remember coffee can certainly improve memory and mental capacity but it must be consumed responsibly with a healthy balance of diet and lifestyle to maximize coffee’s stress relieving benefits. So next time you are about to enjoy a cup of joe, make sure to take in all of these considerations in order to maximize your productivity and reduce work-related stress.

Bio: Sarah is the author of We Dream of Coffee. Her goal is to educate more people about its benefits, uses, and of course, its wonderful taste.