Ahhh, coffee...full of warmth and comfort a daily tradition for many adults, something to share with a friend or family member, the perfect companion to an afternoon snack or reading session and something that many are so dependent on you may catch them whispering sweet nothings to their coffee cup first thing in the morning.
It's been our experience that most have heard somewhere that coffee is a bad thing, nothing more than an addiction and that although socially acceptable is still something that should be cut back on or even omitted from a healthy lifestyle. We've got good news and bad news for those of you that love your morning brew...most of it is good!
Coffee's Health Benefits are Bountiful!
There is an abundance of research information and scientific study demonstrating coffee's many health benefits including reducing the risk of a multitude of diseases such as Alzheimer's (1), type 2 diabetes (2), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (3) and gout (4). Coffee has also been linked to lower incidences of cirrhosis by reducing liver enzymes (4.1).
Coffee has an impressive antioxidant profile, containing over 1000 antioxidants in non-roasted beans and even more are created throughout the roasting process...that's more than green tea! These antioxidants, some being exclusive to coffee fight inflammation, free radicals and are thought to aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The polyphenols in coffee have anti-carcinogenic properties and regular consumption of the beverage has been liked to lower rates of prostate, liver, colon, breast and rectal cancers (5).
If you're suffering from depression, coffee could be just what the Dr. ordered. Coffee activates neurotransmitters in the brain that help control your mood like serotonin and dopamine and studies have shown that heavy coffee drinkers typically experience a lower risk for depression (6) (7).
It makes you poop! This could be a good thing or a bad thing if you are suffering from conditions like IBS or are prone to diarrhea but, coffee is thought to stimulate the release of gastrin which increased your colon's motor activity. That cup of joe can be a great thing for those who suffer from constipation.
The caffeine in coffee is also beneficial in it's own right for improving short term memory, giving you a natural energy boost, pre and post exercise health, improving cognitive function and helps increase the effectiveness of pain relievers by 40% while increasing the body's reaction to them.
There's Some Bad News Too...
Unfiltered coffee (think french press) can significantly raise your LDL cholesterol levels however, using a paper coffee filter bonds the molecules responsible and completely eliminates them from your cup of liquid gold. Don't worry Keurig drinkers your single serving pods have filters built in.
Coffee (decaf and regular) are not the gentlest on the gastrointestinal system, therefore those will GERD, acid reflux, ulcers, colitis and other gastrointestinal disorders should definitely steer clear.
Pregnant women should still limit caffeine as it significantly increases the incidence of miscarriage. This occurs in caffeine consumption over 300mg per day (1-2 cups dependent on the brand and caffeine content). However, consumption over 150mg could be associated with risk of low birth weight so you may want to switch to decaf to be on the safe side.
If you suffer from anxiety, adrenal fatigue, nervousness, insomnia or are not able to handle stress efficiently you should definitely be avoiding caffeine all together. Caffeine is a strong stimulant that will worsen these conditions. Some people drink coffee not even realizing that it can be the sole contributor to panic attacks, nervousness and irritability. If you enjoy coffee for the experience making the switch to decaf provides the same comfort with most of the health benefits and none of the aggravation.
The In Between
Many people believe that coffee is a diuretic and will often try to match or increase their water consumption to try and counteract it's dehydrating effects which can be dangerous in maintaining your electrolyte balance. For those that regularly consume it, coffee has no more of a diuretic effect than a glass of water and coffee can be counted towards liquid consumption for the day.
Decaffeinated coffee used to be predominately processed using either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate which are chemical solvents. Due to health concerns many companies are switching to a completely natural swiss water filtration process however if you are a decaf drinker it would be wise to seek out the ones that do and avoid any using chemical processes. It will state on the label which process they use. For those of you who need to grab your decaf on the go, Tim Horton's is made using the swiss water process.
Make Your Coffee and Drink it Too!
To recap, coffee has both health benefits and drawbacks dependent on who's drinking it. Decaf when processed via the swiss water method offers similar health benefits and can be a better option for some who enjoy more than coffee's buzz factor. Coffee should not be touted as a health food nor should those of you who haven't acquired the taste for it run out to Tim Horton's for an extra large dose but, for those who love it coffee is probably doing you more good than harm.
To reap the benefits of coffee it should be enjoyed black, the darker the roast the better. "Coffee" drinks with added sugar, syrups, high fat dairy or artificial sweeteners are loaded with unnecessary fat and calories and really defeat the purpose of drinking it at all.