Is coffee really that bad for you?


Are you confused about the health effects of coffee, too? There have been so many articles lately both discussing the benefits and the hazards of coffee.  Much of the information is highly prejudiced, too, which makes it difficult for us to figure out what’s right.

As a holistic nutrition consultant, I was taught to condemn coffee and caffeine in general.  It is, after all, a drug, no different than cocaine or sugar.  However, I love coffee.

Whether you can’t live without out it or you’re not a fan, coffee is a controversial food these days.  So, what’s the story?

First, let’s discuss what’s wrong with coffee.  Coffee can interfere with your health in a few ways.  Coffee reduces how much iron is absorbed into the body and it can push important minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc out in the urine.  Coffee, when drank on an empty stomach, can promote excess acid production, which leads to exhausted gastric glands and ultimately low stomach acid; this, in turn, can cause major digestive problems like heartburn, leaky gut, gas, constipation and bloating.

There is some evidence that high consumption of coffee can increase cholesterol, and increase your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.  Coffee has been shown to worsen acne; however, acne could also be related to a food sensitivity or allergy associated with the drink or its contents (i.e. dairy).

Coffee is an acid-forming food, which can lead to inflammation and a higher risk of disease.

Coffee is not good for people under stress because caffeine promotes the release of cortisol from the adrenals.  More cortisol leads to more stress responses, which lead to unbalanced hormones, liver toxicity, nervous system problems, and an increased risk in a bunch of diseases.  And, if you drink coffee while eating, this spike in cortisol essentially shuts down digestion.

The worst thing about coffee is that non-organic coffee crops are one of the most pesticide heavy ones out there; that and potentially carcinogenic substances resulting from the roasting process makes certain coffee very harmful to your health.

But, coffee isn’t all bad.  Coffee may help reduce your risk of developing some diseases like Parkinson’s, gallstones, kidney stones and liver disease if consumed in moderation.  Regular consumption may also reduce your risk of developing Type II diabetes down the road too.

Caffeine can help protect you from Alzheimer’s as it helps improve brain function, including memory, cognition and mood.  Coffee helps you focus and concentrate, too, so you can get your work done. High-quality coffee is full of a lot of antioxidants, which we all know are important to help prevent cancer.

Caffeine is a great way to get a bit more energy before a workout so that you can give it your all and burn more calories!

If you’re a coffee lover like me, there are some things you can do to counteract the bad and enjoy the good.

  • Stick to lighter roasts because they are not processed as much and have fewer carcinogens
  • Choose organic to avoid nasty chemicals
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables to alkalinize your body
  • Eat calcium-containing foods away from coffee or other caffeine-heavy foods
  • Minimize or eliminate any unhealthy additions to your coffee, like cream, milk, sugar, or artificial sweeteners – black is best for antioxidants
    • If you find coffee bitter, try adding a tsp of cinnamon to your grounds before brewing, or stick a cinnamon stick into your cup
  • Avoid coffee on an empty stomach and with meals – eat your breakfast first, wait an hour or so, and then enjoy your morning cup of joe
    • Have something nutrient-dense for breakfast to help you wake up – I like a good green smoothie, or oatmeal with flaxseed and berries

What about decaf?  Well, because decaf coffee is so highly processed, it is the worst coffee to drink.  Even if it’s organic, the processing involves a lot of chemicals that you do not want to be ingesting.  Instead of decaf, pour a bit of regular light roast into your cup and top it up with water. Or, try coffee alternatives like barley or dandelion coffee (found in local health food stores).



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