Coffee is one of those things - you either love it or hate it.
You know what I mean. You either like the taste or you don’t. Or maybe you like it, but only with lots of cream and sugar. But no matter how you like coffee (that is if you do), there is a very good chance that you know exactly how coffee makes you feel (such as in your gut, your mind, etc.).
But how healthy is coffee?
It can be confusing as one day the headlines say coffee is great, and the next day you should avoid it?
Did you know there is actually science behind why different people react differently to coffee?
It really comes down to a combination of your genetics and how much coffee you're used to drinking.
NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. A regular cup of coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, with an average of around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this caffeine stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot more than just the caffeine. A cup of coffee will also have water, antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And remember that decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.
To help understand how healthy coffee is for each of us, let’s start by looking at how caffeine is metabolized, the effects it has on the mind and body, as well as whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.
Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.
About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel "wired" for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is "fast" metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.
This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much - because we’re all different!
The Effects of Coffee (and Caffeine) on the Mind and Body
NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.
These are a few effects that people can experience, although they can usually decrease with long-term use):
● Stimulates the brain
● Boosts metabolism
● Boosts energy and exercise performance
● Increases your stress hormone cortisol
So, while some of these effects can be positive, we can see others aren’t. You have to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.
Coffee - Health Risks and Benefits
There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.
This is a quick summary of some of those finding:
● Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
● Increased sleep disruption
● Lower risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
● Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
● Lower risk of certain liver diseases
● Lower risk of death (“all cause mortality")
● Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease
It’s helpful to know that many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee as well, minus the caffeine addiction and sleep issues.
Caffeine is also metabolized and uses the same enzymes that many toxins are. So if there is an excess of caffeine, fewer toxins can be processed. But on a plus side, certain vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts can help make that same enzyme needed, which helps with detoxifying the body.
Also, for anyone who might be experiencing any adrenal fatigue, caffeine might not be recommended as it stimulates the adrenal gland and lead to the release of adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can add additional stress to the body.
NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet (especially those plants), staying hydrated with water, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.
Should You Drink Coffee or Not?
Now that we have covered a little more about coffee, there are a few things to consider when deciding whether you personally should drink coffee.
When might caffeinated coffee NOT be recommended:
● People with arrhythmia (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
● People who often feel anxious
● People who have trouble sleeping
● People who are pregnant
● Children and teens
If none of these apply, then you may want to monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:
● Give you the jitters?
● Increase anxious feelings?
● Affect your sleep?
● Give you heart palpitations?
● Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
● Do you have any adrenal fatigue?
● Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?
Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. Although, one recommendation I always give if you decide to have is to avoid added sweeteners as much as possible. This includes real and artificial sweeteners as neither are really good for us, especially in large amounts on a daily basis.
If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while and see the difference. If you decide that you want to try going without it for a little while, one of the best ways to do that (along with making other healthy habit changes at once) is to take advantage of the Shred10 program I offer.
The Shred10 is NOT a diet or a weight loss plan (although many people see that as a positive side effect). It’s 10 days focused on building up your health (think lots of whole foods, veggies, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, intact grains, water, activity, and sleep), while choosing to avoid other choices that might be effecting you more than you realize (such as caffeine, gluten, alcohol, dairy, processed foods, and late night eating).
I offer the Shred10 EVERY month. Plus, you don’t have to do it alone. We have a whole team of health and wellness professionals, as well as people just looking to be healthier joining our Shred10 community. Plus, if you join the Shred10, you will be flooding your body with whole food nutrition every day and have 1:1 support from me.
Learn more about the Shred10 Program here.
And if you enjoy coffee and want some healthier ways to enjoy it, here are a few recipes ideas to try out.
Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte
3 tbsp coconut milk 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon) ¼ tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp pumpkin puree
½ tsp maple syrup (optional) 1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can use tea instead if you prefer.
Recipe (Coffee): Homemade Healthy Flavored Coffee
Serving Size Varies
Ground coffee of your choice
Your Choice of flavoring:
● Ground Cinnamon
● Ground Cardamom
● Ground Nutmeg
● Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
● Ground Cocoa Nibs
● Ground Ginger
● Ground Clove
● Pure Vanilla Extract
● Peppermint Oil Extract
● Hazelnut Oil Extract
Sprinkle on top of the ground beans your choice of flavoring before brewing your choice of (amounts can vary based off of your preference and size of cup/pot being brewed). Brew coffee as you normally would. Enjoy as is or with a little of your favorite unsweetened creamer (such as half and half, coconut milk, almond milk, etc).