Why Coffee After Dinner Is Popular Worldwide

woman at night with coffee

We have been thoroughly familiarized with morning coffee and the fact that most of our morning routines are incomplete without a good hot cuppa joe. But if you’ve watched a foreign film or simply visited other countries, you might have noticed that consuming coffee after dinner is quite common. Coffee after lunch and during the day makes sense, but why coffee after dinner?

Coffee after dinner is popular worldwide because most cultures have dinner long before bedtime, and coffee can help with digestion and calorie burning and keeps one awake and functional until bedtime. Above all, it is a great replacement for alcohol when it comes to social consumption.

If that blows your mind, wait until you read this article and figure out; why entire countries would be constipated without post-dinner coffee; how coffee can help you sleep; and to what extent coffee helps as a social replacement for alcohol.

Coffee Helps Space Dinner Time From Bedtime

If you’ve heard the term “food coma,” you know that heavy meals can make one drowsy. This isn’t supposed to be confused with a car crash, which comes after a “sugar rush,” even though both types of lethargic behaviors have to do with food consumption. 

A carb crash comes from expending energy during a sugar high, whereas a food coma, according to Discovery, comes from a meal’s consequent insulin spike resulting in more tryptophan entering one’s brain. This turns into the feel-good chemical serotonin and then melatonin (the goodnight chemical).

According to UPMC, sleeping right after you have food doesn’t give your body a chance to work off the calories you’ve consumed or even digest the meal properly. This can result in weight gain. If you have an early dinner, you can offset these side effects while simultaneously improving your health. The problem? Food comas!

Coffee after dinner can help you earn a few waking hours that can really benefit your metabolism. You cannot exercise right after a meal, as that can result in throwing up. However, the internal activity spike generated by caffeine can do the work for you while making sure that your early dinner doesn’t translate into an unintentional early bedtime.

Coffee Can Help With Digestion

Healthline reports that coffee has been shown to promote motility, which is just a fancy way of saying it helps your digestive tract go through the necessary contractions to help digest food quicker. 

Coffee is capable of doing this because of its caffeine content, and you should be able to reap the same benefits by consuming anything with a close enough quantity of caffeine. However, you cannot expect a decaf cup of joe to get your bowl going. 

In some instances, a placebo effect takes place where your association of coffee with bowel movement creates a similar effect even though caffeine is absent from the decaf cup you have. There isn’t any scientific literature to back up this position.

What is scientifically established is that your dose of caffeine will help you digest your dinner better. But it isn’t as simple as having coffee and calling it a night. Caffeine is also primarily known for keeping one awake. Here, we can look at France’s solution to the apparent conflict between coffee and shut-eye.

In France, black coffee is served after dinner (around 7 pm to 9 pm) alongside cognac or a different alcoholic beverage. This seems to cancel the effects of caffeine by mellowing the mood. It is also worth noting that the bedtime in the country is between 10 pm and 12 midnight. 

This means that caffeine has 2 to 3 hours to work its magic and become irrelevant by the time an average Frenchman goes to bed. Ultimately, coffee is a way to improve digestion, while strategically timed dinners are the way to minimizing coffee’s sleep deprivation tendencies.

Coffee Is a Better Alternative Social Drink Around Dinner Time

The American social drinking culture is married to alcohol, as is evident from its seemingly normal integration in mass media. Alcoholism is rarely addressed, whereas social drinking is normalized in TV shows and movies, some based around regular visits to the Bar. As a part of “responsible drinking,” you’re told to consume food, so half a can of beer doesn’t knock you out like a Muhammad Ali sleeper.

Since food before drinking minimizes intoxication, it is easy to forget how much alcohol one consumes socially after dinner. Many cultures offset this drawback by having coffee as the post-dinner socialization drink. 

Of course, there wasn’t a mastermind who read up on the dangers of socially sanctioned alcoholism and made a decision to switch an entire country to coffee; they just got lucky and stumbled upon a better drink to have during post-dinner talks.

Americans, as well as people all over the world, can enjoy the benefits of this discovery and opt for coffee instead of alcohol as a social drink. The problem, however, is the same as you would have going to a different social network than the ones owned and pushed by big media: you can’t do it alone. You cannot have coffee socially after dinner if your friends think it is lamer than a sleepover in a garage.

Discussing with them, coffee as a post-dinner drink as opposed to a replacement for post-dinner alcoholic beverages is going to be an easier argument to make. And having at least one friend or family member who will have coffee or take tea with you after dinner is a great way to start your own tradition.

Coffee Helps You Lose Weight

While replacing your Coca-Cola gallon with a coffee in your Big Mac meal won’t turn you into Robert Pattinson, having coffee will help you counter high calories to an extent. Still, you have to make sure that your coffee isn’t pumped full of sugar and that you’re not using coffee as your sole calorie-burning crutch.

That said, caffeine can speed up the heart rate and get your metabolism to work. It also dehydrates you, which leads to water consumption: another calorie-burning, metabolism improving activity. Even if caffeine doesn’t negate the need for exercise or cancel out the effects of overeating, it does make for a great replacement for any sugary or alcoholic post-dinner beverage.

Coffee Drinks Can Help You Sleep

I know this sounds out there, but if you’ve ever had coffee after coffee on a busy workday, you might have noticed that subsequent cups end up making you sleepy. 

That’s mainly because of dehydration, as the more coffee you consume, the more you get rid of fluids, in the absence of which your body gets tired. This isn’t the healthiest use of coffee but seems to be how the Italian culture seems to use the beverage.

Consuming espresso after dinner is a staple in Italy, a country proud of its coffee culture. Since espresso is an extreme diuretic, one can easily see how coffee helps Italians sleep after dinner instead of giving them a midday coffee boost. 

Once again, Italy’s dinner time is earlier than American bedtime, with many Pizzerias starting to shut at 8 pm. Therefore, Italians have plenty of time to get rid of the caffeine’s focus-boosting effects, so by the time they are ready for bed, only the diuretic sleep-inducing effects remain.

The Dutch take a different route to consuming coffee to assist sleep. Instead of using coffee’s diuretic traits to induce sleepiness, they use its ability to cause a sugar crash to create a melatonin spike. By consuming “koffie verkeerd,” (literally: reverse coffee), they set themselves up for a temporary spike in alertness followed by a bedtime crash.

So, what exactly is reverse coffee? It is a glass of milk (high in carbs) with a little bit of actual coffee in it. The tiny amount of caffeine latches onto the sugar and gives you a mini energy-drink effect. This, alongside the insulin spike from dinner, causes a sugar crash just in time for bed. No wonder the Dutch sleep more than anyone else in the world.

Coffee Can Cancel Constipation

This is scraping the bottom of the barrel but is technically true despite not being widely applicable. For individuals who feel constipated after having a huge meal, coffee can activate bowel movement. 

However, to assume that a whole country uses coffee just for this purpose would imply that an entire country is constipated. But that’s not quite far from the truth; if you look at the diets of cultures where coffee is a staple post-dinner, you can see lack of fiber as a common denominator.

Italian food’s reliance on processed grain products like white flour and pasta correlates with using coffee as a replacement for the ill effects of a lack of fiber. Pasta, if consumed regularly in the absence of fiber, will cause constipation. 

Bread is also one of the most consumed food items in France. Again, there’s a lack of fiber, which would explain coffee’s role in bowel movement. But this isn’t restricted to France or Italy. If you don’t consume your fibers as you should, you’ll probably need coffee to help your gut move things along.

Final Thoughts

Coffee helps improve digestion, can be used in drinks that help one sleep (sugary milk drinks, or be taken to aid bowel movement or burn calories. But the reason most countries have coffee after dinner is that it is a social tradition that aligns with the global norm of having dinner well before bedtime.

Sources

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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