Is coffee really unhealthy for us ? As a Registered Nutritional Therapist, I’m asked questions like this all the time. And seeing what goes on in the health and wellness digital space can sometimes be confusing and rather comical.
I often see trends and dogmas being repeated, thrown around and then taken as fact. Let’s strip back this myth once and for all. Is coffee unhealthy or not?
Coffee: An Acidity Indicator?
In the UK, we drink approximately 70 million cups of coffee per day and coffee is the primary source of caffeine in our diet. Although numerous studies show drinking coffee can improve health like lowering risk of certain types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease; caffeine in coffee might not be great for everyone.
Other than the “pH acidic theory”, when did coffee get such a bad reputation?
Advocates and guru’s who have shied away from coffee consumption purely based on the fact that it’s “acidic” leave me wondering if they know what our bodies actually do to control pH balance in the body.
- Yes, coffee is acidic and foods do contribute to an overall alkaline or acidic ash in our bodies, but we have to give our bodies more credit here, homeostasis keeps us in balance and regulates our pH levels.
- Food can also affect this and 1 cup of coffee may show up “acidic” in a urinary analysis (or using urine strips to test), but this doesn’t support this theory and urine strips aren’t a great measure for our overall body pH (more on the acid vs. alkaline diet theory later).
Whereas, abstaining from coffee because of individual preference or your sensitivity to it- well, that’s another story to dive into with some credibility.
Potential Problems From Coffee Consumption
The Quality And How It Was Grown
I’ve spoken before about my recommendation to only use fair trade and organic sources of coffee (and chocolate) to make sure you’re supporting healthful working practices, but organic also ensures high quality coffee beans.
Coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops with pesticides so I’d highly recommend going organic.
I never knew how much I relied on the caffeine in coffee to “wake me up” for the day until I was laying in bed one Sunday morning– I just wanted to sleep in. Yet, what interrupted my plans for sleeping in was this pull to the kitchen to get coffee; it was at that point I realized how caffeine can have dependency and addictive qualities.
I cut out coffee cold turkey that day and only started integrating it into my diet a couple years ago. I’m sharing my experience with you to test you, to encourage you to ask yourself “what would happen if I cut out coffee?”
Do you know what you feel like without caffeine/coffee? For this reason, I recommend cycling caffeine and coffee use to keep your body in check.
Caffeine: Stress Booster Or Buster?
Caffeine from coffee is a stimulant and is great for post-workout for some individuals but on the other hand, if you are suffering from anxiety or are living with high stress, coffee isn’t for you. On the other hand, caffeine has also been shown to help decrease depression and symptoms of anxiety, those studied were probably “fast metabolizers”.
The Hormonal Connection
I’m fascinated with the role our hormones play in our bodies like Cortisol. Cortisol is an interesting hormone (and most people that know me hear me talk about it often – apologies to you guys).
- When your body is under physical/mental/emotional stress, your cortisol levels increase. It’s a normal stress response – what’s not normal is chronically high levels of cortisol.
- Caffeine in coffee can exacerbate stress and increases cortisol levels.
Again, if you’re a sensitive individual be mindful of this. Cortisol in particular has this tricky way of throwing our delicate hormonal balance, off. Dr. Sara Gottfried speaks to this as the “progesterone steal” and how it may not be the best to consume for those with thyroid issues.
Caffeine: A Sleep Disruptor?
Are you burning the candle from both ends? Emotional, physical, mental stress, chronic illness, not sleeping well, or not following your self-care routine? You could be more sensitive to caffeine under these times of stress on the body.
- Be mindful and listen into what your body is telling you.
- If you feel worn down, coffee might be too much and exaggerate your symptoms especially when consumed closer to the late afternoon/evening times.
Some say the caffeine didn’t affect sleep at all whereas others couldn’t sleep. This just goes to show we’re all unique and we have to find what works for us.
Our liver does many things and metabolizing caffeine is one of them. Some of us are “slow metabolizers” of caffeine (due to a gene called CYP1A2) which basically means you process caffeine slowly which can increase your chances for impaired fasting glucose, heart disease, and hypertension.
Reduction In Nutrient Absorption
Caffeine could slow down the absorption of minerals such as iron and zinc, which may lead to iron deficiency (Anemia).
Benefits Derived From Coffee Consumption
- Cancer: May reduce risk for certain types of cancers including prostate, liver, breast, gastric and colo-rectal cancers.
- Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Coffee may help improve blood sugar and weight reduction with the consumption of 1 1-1/2 cups of coffee a day.
- Inflammation: Coffee could reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and HDL cholesterol.
- Mental and athletic performance: Caffeine increases blood flow and circulation to the muscles; since it’s a stimulant you can guess this would give you a jolt in the gym. S
- Calorie Burn: Some studies have shown that you can burn 15% more calories with a pre-workout cup of coffee.
- Depression: On the mental/emotional front, some studies have shown that depression decreases with increases in caffeine (these could be the “fast metabolizers” we discussed earlier).
Coffee isn’t “bad” for you or unhealthy, but sensitive individuals should be mindful of caffeine and listen to their body, especially during stressful periods in life. I personally love coffee, but there’s a fine line between enjoying it in moderation and triggering my migraines.
Take Action! Want To Test Getting “Off Coffee”? Try This:
Day 1: consume your normal amount, for example 1 cup
Day 2: cut down 1/4 cup, for example drinking 3/4 cup
Day 3: cut down 1/4 cup
Day 4: cut down 1/2 cup, for example drinking 1/2 cup
Day 5: cut down 1/2 cup
Day 6: consume only 1/4 cup, for example drinking just a small amount
Day 7: You are done; replace with the following recipes!
Replace Your Coffee With These:
- Turmeric Milk
- Matcha Green Tea Latte
- Warm water with lemon
It is now your turn to decide if Coffee is good for you or not!