Well I thought the debate on coconut oil was bad but coffee moves into a serious love hate discussions. After my last post on my coffee ritual ‘The daily cup of mindfulness‘, I’ve had some coffee haters come out of the wood works telling me about the dark side of coffee. But why is coffee bad for you?
My life with coffee
Since an early age, coffee has been a part of life. My grandparents used to let taste their morning brew and regularly make me ‘Late Café’ (Italian for milk and coffee) since I can remember.
I’ve worked as a Barista in my teens, always enjoyed making a special home brew and caught up with friends over cuppa at many coffee shops.
Throughout my own health journey, I also gave up coffee for about 2 years. This was proof that I didn’t have to live with coffee if I didn’t want to. It was decided after those 2 years that coffee is part of me, my family history and our human culture.
I don’t make coffee to wake up. I wake up to make coffee.
The brief history of coffee
There are many versions of the history and the discovery off the sacred beans, but most go all the way back to the 5th or 6th century. The legend of Kaldi the Ethiopian Goat herder noticed his goats would be restless when they ate the leave and berries of an unknown plant.
Monks from a nearby monastery heard about this phenomenon and started to experiment with plant. They tried different techniques of ingesting the plant so they could stay awake longer to pray.
After many trials and errors, they realised when they roasted, grinded and infused water with the seed of the plant, they would create this unique drink.
In the centuries to come, many would hide the existence of this sacred plant and it would have to be smuggled out of Arabia to be grown all over the world. Once exposed to world, the trade of this gift from nature grew like wild fire and became one of the most traded plants around the globe.
Today, coffee is readily available to just about anyone and is a $20 Billion industry! The top three producers of coffee are Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia. Worldwide, we drink over 500 billion cups of coffee every year. Not bad for a plant once eaten by a goat.
Different types of Coffee
There are over 100 species of the Coffea plant but when it comes to beans that we roast and drink there are really only 2 types, Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica is the more flavoursome and sweeter tasting of the two and by far the most popular. Robusta is a firmer and earthier taste. Due to Robusta being more of a harsher taste, its less adopted and mostly found in instant coffee mixes.
Robusta is more caffeinated than Arabica beans which is likely to give it its bitter taste. Robusta is also the cheaper when sold as a green bean.
Over the years, cultures have created different ways to percolate the brew and drink it as light brew (long black), tight press (short black espresso), addition of milk (cappuccino, latte, macchiato) and with many more flavours.
So what’s so bad about coffee and what’s so great about coffee.
Here are the arguments with coffee and I hope I can shed some light on the good and the bad for you in an honest way. At the end of the day, you really must make your own mind up and what suits your biology.
Coffee is full of Caffeine
Not everyone reacts well with caffeine, it can cause anxiety, restless sleep and jitters. At my peak on an anxiety disorder, I had all these effects from coffee (Check out this article on how overcame my anxiety disorder).
So, the bad in this is that it can increase stress hormones like cortisol especially if your body is not gauged for coffee drinking.
For some people, they have a tolerance of so many coffees a day before they get these effects. Mine is currently max of 3.
Caffeine is drug and is very addictive.
This is true and you will battle the withdrawal affects if you quit coffee from your daily regimen. When I quit coffee many years ago, I had 3 days of headaches and complete loss of concentration.
Like everything, moderation is good thing. You should know your caffeine tolerance and not push past it.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can boost metabolism enhance brain function. As most you may know, I fast at least a couple of times a week, and I use coffee as a bridge to reduce hunger pangs and boost energy on days without food.
Caffeine is one of the world’s favourite way to increase focus and concentration (if you’re looking for alternative ways to improve focus, check out this post). When you drink it, it blocks a brain hormone called Adenosine. When this is blocked, it boosts other neurotransmitters in the brain to increase norepinephrine and dopamine. This makes us feel alert and focused.
Coffee – A liquid hug for your brain
Why is coffee unhealthy to drink?
Coffee by itself (and pending your biology mix with caffeine), is perfectly healthy to drink. When people add milk, sugar and artificial flavourings, it becomes an unhealthy drink.
For example, coffee is full of anti-oxidants in presence of polyphenols. Once you add milk to your black coffee, the polyphenols no longer act as anti-oxidants and you lose all the health benefits.
Also, a lot of coffee taste bitter or burnt, hence why many people need to add sugar to it. Once you find a great tasting Arabica grind and make it correctly, it’s almost naturally sweet. If you still have a sweet tooth like me, add some stevia or other natural low glycaemic sweetener.
Another argument I was faced with is that coffee will make you dehydrated. I agree with this to a degree, but factors like how hydrated your body is will directly affect this. I drink a glass of water with every coffee I drink and try to drink about 2 litres of water a day. I’ve had no problems with dehydration.
Lastly, always use good quality coffee and try to find brands that don’t have impurities or are processed with chemicals. Organic certified and fair-trade coffees seem to have a high standard.
Coffee Drinks live longer
Some studies have been linked to longevity for coffee drinkers. A study published the New England Journal of Medicine 2012 showed that coffee drinkers lived longer over the 12-year study with 4402, 250 participants.
Not confident on studies and need some more ground-breaking evidence. Life extension organisations have made the connection that the length of Telomeres (the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes) is directly related to aging. Those with shorter telomeres in blood DNA had poorer survival, attributable in part to a 3 times higher mortality rate from heart disease and an 8 times higher mortality rate from infectious disease.
So, guess what influences long telomere length and protects them from shortening. Magical Coffee! It actually protects you from DNA damage when your telomere don’t lose length.
Another interesting fact is that coffee drinkers appear to have significant reduction in developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
If you drink coffee, keep it black and sweeten with only natural low glycaemic sweeteners for maximum health benefits. Any other additives and it just works in the opposite direction.
Like all things, know your coffee limits and drink in moderation. My rule is no coffee after 1pm to get the best sleep. If it doesn’t agree with you, don’t drink it.
What’s your opinion on coffee? How to you take it? How many a day do you drink?