Coffee has become somewhat of a controversial topic these days, as it has long been a subject of debate which might have you still wondering if coffee is a health drink or not. Well today, your query is being answered!
More than just a drink, it's a ritual for millions of people around the world, and has been for centuries.
Coffee boasts a comforting aroma and taste. It is also a commonly used energy booster and can help to increase physical energy but also mental focus, no wonder many of us are hooked.
So is coffee good or bad ? Should you drink it or not ? Let’s get into the details.
The benefits of coffee
Coffee has many properties that have many people describing it as a superfood. When thinking of coffee what will likely first come to mind is its caffeine however did you know that this bean contains more than 1,000 different compounds?
Its concentration of phytochemicals makes it a highly rated antioxidant food, and its actually the primary source of antioxidants in the American Diet.
This of course relates to high quality varieties that have not been highly processed and that are also less likely to contain traces of mold.
Improve quality of life and longevity
The coffee bean rates as one of the highest antioxidant containing foods, which protects against free radicals, and have defensive actions against many conditions such as cardiovascular disease (1)(2), dementia and Alzheimer’s (3), cancer (4)(5)(6), Parkinson's disease (7), and diabetes (8) .
It has even been shown that coffee consumption may actually increase longevity and reduce all cause mortality (9).
Coffee also has been promoted for its capacity to improve athletic performance and endurance (9)(10), as it increases adrenaline and spares muscle glycogen.
Caffeine is especially effective when used strategically before or during workouts and away from food. For targeted sports performance you can take caffeine as a supplement before your event.
Cognitive function and mental health
Coffee can also support cognitive function, as it temporarily increases alertness, concentration, and mood.
Research shows that coffee consumption may actually slow cognitive decline, reducing the risk of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease (11).
Its antioxidant properties are largely responsible for its beneficial effects on brain health as these anti-inflammatory compounds work by quenching free radicals and reducing oxidative damage.
When coffee might not be such a good thing
Though coffee does have its benefits it can become a problem in certain cases.
When the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis is dysfunctional, coffee can make this worse by increasing stress hormones such as cortisol, which can then promote insomnia, anxiety, energy crashes, and further hormonal imbalances.
So if you are already super stressed and experiencing hormonal imbalances, coffee may not be such a good idea.
What's more, the effect that coffee has on an individual will largely be impacted by their ability to metabolize it. Caffeine is broken down by the liver using a specific enzyme called CYP1A2. Whether you produce a little or a lot of this enzyme will depend on your CYP1A2 gene which will determine how well you break down caffeine and eliminate it from your system.
If you are a fast metabolizer, you will be able to clear caffeine within 8 to 12 hours however slow metabolizers of caffeine can take up to 24 hours to clear it. If slow metabolizers consume caffeine repeatedly within those 24 hours, they will accumulate higher and higher levels over time, which can result in more negative side effects such as anxiety and insomnia. Excess coffee consumption by slow metabolizers may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, and other health risks (12)(13)(14).
So determining whether you are a fast or slow metabolizer is one way that can help you decide if coffee is beneficial to you or not.
Coffee's effects can also largely differ depending on your lifestyle and current phase of life. If you are going through an especially stressful time in life or are particularly prone to anxiety for instance, coffee may make things worse (15).
Of course, many of us have experienced the more addictive effects of coffee, and it can be a a difficult habit or even addiction to break. Many people become dependent on coffee in order to "get through the day" and this is where trouble can arise. If you are finding yourself depending on coffee, it might be a good time to take a step back. Fortunately there are many alternatives to your morning or afternoon cup of coffee that you might find just as delightful.
The key takeaway here is that coffee is shown to be beneficial for general health but you will have to determine for yourself if it works for you as its effects will be influenced by various factors (16).
How to choose a quality coffee
A good quality coffee bean is not comparable to the highly processed varieties that are sold in most coffee shops and supermarkets today. Your typical daily North American coffee contains excess sugars, inflammatory dairy products, mold, and toxins. This isn't going to be giving you the positive health effects we spoke about earlier.
So what should you look for?
- Fair trade
- Single origin
- Freshly roasted beans
- Central or South American origin
- Whole beans
Try to consume your coffee black or with a splash of your favourite milk, dairy or non dairy. Avoid consuming excess and refined sugars as sugar is a big contributor to the health crisis we have today and will just make you feel more tired and less able to focus. If you really struggle with letting go of your sugar opt for an alternative natural sweetener instead such as stevia or monk fruit.
You can also jump on the bulletproof trend by adding a spoonful of grass-fed butter, coconut oil, or MCT oil which may help to stabilize your blood sugar, increase energy, improve cognitive function, and keep you fuller for longer.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.