Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world – it is also mega business. Coffee plants are cultivated in more than 70 countries. It is an important export commodity for Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Half the population in America drinks coffee on a daily basis. Starbucks, founded in 1971, is now the world’s biggest coffeehouse chain with over 20,000 stores in more than 60 countries. In the last five years (2009-2013) alone, Starbucks’ share price has risen more than seven-fold.
Given this widespread popularity, it is no surprise that many people have wondered if drinking coffee is an unhealthy habit. Caffeine, after all, is a stimulant drug and is addictive. For decades, medical advice from organizations like the American Heart Association has indicated that coffee may lead to high blood pressure and is bad for your heart. You may even have been told that coffee will give you an ulcer. However, in recent years, there has been an enormous amount of new research that has just pretty much exonerated coffee.
Is coffee good or bad for you? The following summarizes the latest findings on coffee and how it may actually benefits your health. Further, if you are a regular coffee drinker, there are certain things about coffee that you should also be aware of. Lastly, know that coffee may not be appropriate for everyone, if you have certain conditions, you should not be drinking coffee at all.
Latest Research On The Health Perks Of Coffee
Although not every single study shows coffee to have health-promoting properties, the majority is rather positive.
Apart from caffeine, coffee contains a natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants, bioflavonoids, B vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and chromium. Research shows that not only are the non-caffeine components of coffee anti-inflammatory, they work together synergistically to help neutralize the harsher effects of the caffeine. In addition, coffee may actually activate beneficial pathways in our bodies at the DNA level.
These studies show that moderate coffee consumption on a regular basis reverses cognitive impairment, cuts cancer risk, stabilizes blood sugar, and benefits the heart. In other words, coffee helps reduce the risk of many diseases:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cancer (including breast, colon, endometrial, kidney, liver, and oral)
- Diabetes (type 2)
- Heart disease (including heart rhythm problems and stroke)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Prostate cancer
Important Facts For Coffee Drinkers
Even though coffee may have all the amazing health benefits, not all coffee is the same. Besides, how and when you drink it makes a difference too.
Always choose organic. Coffee is a crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides, therefore, you should select only coffee beans that are certified organic. Whenever possible, purchase sustainable “shade-grown” coffee to help prevent the continued destruction of the tropical rain forests and the birds that inhabit them.
Always buy whole bean. Only purchase whole beans that smell and taste fresh, not stale.
You do not want to buy pre-ground coffee because you never know whether it is already rancid by the time you get it.
Darker roast is superior to light roast. The darker roasts, such as French, Italian, or those used to make expresso and Turkish coffee, are higher in neuroprotective agents than the lighter roasts. Dark roast coffee restores blood levels of the antioxidants vitamin E and glutathione more effectively than light roast coffee. Dark roast coffee is also easier on your stomach as it contains a chemical that prevents your stomach from producing excess acid.
Best time to drink coffee is in the morning. According to some research, coffee may increase your metabolism by up to 20 percent. Therefore, having a cup of organic coffee or one shot of espresso in the morning is ideal. If you exercise in the morning, have your coffee before workout as studies show that coffee boosts athletic performance, not after as the caffeine may interfere with your body’s muscle-building mechanism. However, do not go overboard, one or two cups in the morning should be the maximum for the day.
Drink your coffee without sugar, artificial sweetener, or commercial creamers. Otherwise, you are undoing all the health benefits of coffee. Excess sugar intake increases the risk of insulin resistance, suppresses the immune system, and perpetuates addictive food behavior. If you like dairy and can tolerate it, you may add organic or preferably grass-fed whole milk or cream to your coffee. Skim or non-fat milk often has more sugar than whole milk, while commercial creamers tend to have unsavory ingredients.
Avoid flavored and novelty coffees. These products usually contain a myriad of chemical additives.
Use non-bleached filters. If you use a drip coffee maker, avoid using the bright white chlorine-bleached filters. Some of the chlorine may leach into the coffee during the brewing process. The bleached filters may also contain dangerous disinfection byproducts such as dioxin.
Avoid plastic cups. Be careful about the container you drink your coffee from. Plastic cups may leach BPA and Styrofoam cups may leach polystyrene molecules. Your best bets are glass, ceramic, or stainless steel coffee mugs.
When Coffee Is Not Right For you?
If you are pregnant, you should completely avoid using caffeine.
If you have an issue with decreased adrenal function or adrenal fatigue, caffeine can actually create more stress on your adrenal glands. In this day and age, many people are constantly stressed and fatigued, and rely on caffeine for sustained energy to get through the day. If this is the case, it is a tell-tale sign that your body is not functioning properly and you need to address the underlying problems.
Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc on your health. The adrenal glands affect every organ and system in the body – from metabolism of carbohydrate, protein, and fat, to fluid and electrolyte balance, cardiovascular system, immune system, hormonal system, and even your sex drive. Therefore, if you have adrenal fatigue, pumping your system with caffeine is merely going to aggravate your problem in the long run.
Coffee has a diuretic effect. If you have problems with electrolyte balance, you may want to avoid it too.
If you drink coffee and have problems falling asleep or tend to wake up in the night, you may be caffeine sensitive. Caffeine levels vary depending on the type of roast, grind, and brewing method. Darker roasts contain less caffeine than lighter roasts. The finer the grind, the higher the caffeine in the coffee. Drip coffee has more caffeine than espresso because the brew time is much longer. If you experience sleep issues from the caffeine, you may want to vary your type of roast, grind, or brewing method or cut down on the amount you drink every day and make sure you only have coffee early in the morning.
If you experience stomach cramping, heart palpitations, or other symptoms after drinking coffee, you may actually have a food intolerance. There is also the possibility of mold (coffee is a dried food and may contain mold) or other contaminants in the coffee that trigger a physical reaction.
What About Decaffeinated Coffee?
To date, there is yet conclusive evidence showing whether decaf coffee holds up to the benefits of caffeinated coffee. Limited studies were conducted using decaf coffee but the ones that do seem to be promising. However, since caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and can result in dependence and withdrawal symptoms, decaf coffee is probably the way to go if you like the taste of coffee.
When you buy decaf coffee, always choose organic and Swiss Water Process, which is a chemical-free method to extract caffeine. Beware that almost all decaf coffee found in coffeehouses and grocery stores is processed with the chemical solvent ethyl acetate. You want to avoid this type of decaf coffee as traces of chemical solvent still remain in the coffee.
Decaf coffee by law has to have at least 97 percent of the caffeine removed. For reference, a shot of espresso at Starbucks has 75 mg of caffeine, a short (8-oz) brewed coffee has 175 mg, a tall (12 oz) 260 mg, and a grande (16 oz) 330 mg. As you can see, if you have several cups a day, the caffeine can add up rather quickly.
In conclusion, coffee is loaded with antioxidants and beneficial nutrients that benefit your health. However, be cautious with the stimulant effect of caffeine as it can become extremely addictive. Caffeine is also a source of stress for your adrenal glands. Therefore, drinker be aware! If you like the taste of coffee, mixing regular with decaf may be a good way to gradually cut down on your dependence of caffeine.