Coffee – Is It Good For Us Or Not?
Coffee is one of those things- you either love it or hate it. You know if you like the taste or not. Or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and milk. You know how it makes you feel – in your gut and in your mind. So the million dollar question – Is coffee good for us or not?
I laugh at the crazy headlines that say coffee is great, and the next day you should avoid it! (Not quite up there with Jen’s pregnancy rumours, yet close!)
There is actual science behind why different people react differently to coffee. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.
Coffee does not equal caffeine. A cup of coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. But…a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill or drinking an energy drink. Decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine, but it still contains some.
Let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is good for you or not.
Not all people metabolise caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolise 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” metabolisers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half are “fast” metabolisers of caffeine. These people get instant energy and increased alertness and are then 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.
Here’s a list of these effects (that 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 are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.
Coffee and Health Risks and Benefits
There area tonne of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.
Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:
- Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
- Increased sleep disruption
- Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of certain liver diseases
- Reduced risk of death (“all cause mortality”)
- Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease
Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee, except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues.
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 (or red wine or what ever else is flavour of the moment) intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks.
I know that you’re health conscious and already know that eating a nutrient rich whole foods diet, 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….sorry.
Is Coffee Good For Us or Not?
There area few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.
Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:
- People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
- Those who often feel anxious and or stressed
- People who have trouble sleeping
- Pregnant women
- Children and teens.
If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee.
- Give you the jitters?
- Increase anxious feelings?
- Affect your sleep?
- Give you heart palpitations?
- Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
- Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and milk?
Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you.
If you’re not sure, I would recommend eliminating coffee to see whether it makes a difference to you.
An ideal elimination period to reset your body is 4 weeks…but if the thought of that is too much, start with one day. If you survive the first day (and you will!) that’s your hardest. Then keep going day by day for seven days to see the difference. If you’ve gone one week…then what’s another three right?!?
So…what do I drink?
I proudly do love my coffee – a piccolo latte to be precise. Sometimes a double shot latte, depending on the day. Never more than two. Except on the days I have three…never more than three! To be honest I rarely have three as I do feel the jittery effects of the third coffee immediately.
My lattes are full caffeine and full cream milk…from a real cow.
Over time I have tried all the milks, the Chai’s, the Turmeric’s and the Mermaid. After suffering through watery or dirt tasting drinks, I figure if I’m going to have a coffee I may as well enjoy the real thing.
I’ll save my turmeric for my curry thanks!
For those amongst us who aren’t coffee purists and like to mix it up a bit, here’s a delicious recipe to get you going.
Coconut Cinnamon Spiced Latte
¼ cup coconut milk
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp vanilla extract
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 of coffee if you prefer.