If you’re starting a healthy eating plan or diet, you’ll most likely be told to give up coffee. It’s always been thought to be bad for you.
The truth is that it’s good for some, and not so good for others.
As with a lot of nutrition topics, coffee is not just black or white (forgive the pun…!).
You can watch the video below or listen to the podcast (episode 105).
The good news about coffee
- Heart health – coffee beans actually have a protective effect on blood vessels. They act as antioxidants, reducing harmful cholesterol. Research suggests 2 cups a day are heart protective.
- Diabetes – many studies have linked coffee with improved glucose metabolism and insulin secretion.
- Weight loss – coffee contains chlorogenic acid, a plant compound that is an effective anti-oxidant thought to reduce glucose absorption. Caffeine increases our metabolism and helps to burn fat.
- Cancer – studies suggest moderate intake can be protective against several types of cancer.
- Brain health – we know that caffeine makes you more alert, but new research suggests it can actually protect against Dementia and Parkinsons Disease.
- Depression – coffee might also benefit our mental health. Caffeine stimulates dopamine and adrenalin, giving us a mental boost. 4 cups or more per day has been linked to a 20% reduced risk of depression versus those who drank 1 cup per week.
- Liver disease – while the liver has to break down caffeine, the antioxidant content can be protective against cirrhosis, non alcoholic fatty liver disease and Hepatitis C.
The bad news about coffee
- Caffeine stimulates cortisol, our stress hormone. And if you are stressed already, you may be relying on your cuppa for your energy hit – a vicious cycle which can be addictive.
- The beneficial chlorogenic acid may increase homocysteine levels, an indicator for increased risk of heart disease.
- Caffeine can interfere with your blood sugar balance, therefore increasing your risk of insulin resistance and Diabetes.
- Caffeine can increase loss of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. It may also inhibit absorption of Vitamin D and B vitamins.
- Caffeine can interfere with detoxification in the liver of medications and toxins. Certain medications are also poorly absorbed (eg Thyroxine and some antidepressants).
The milky bit in the middle
The reason some of these studies seem to contradict each other, is that coffee has different effects on different individuals, depending on other factors;
Your genes; fast or slow?
We are all genetically different, so we have varying degrees of efficiency at detoxifying caffeine. Some of us can handle caffeine with no problem (most Italians I know!), often referred to as fast detoxifiers.
Some people can’t handle any at all. In fact, 50% of us have a genetic variant in the gene needed to detoxify caffeine, making us slow detoxifiers. This can cause caffeine to hang around for too long, resulting in tremors, palpitations, anxiety or sleep problems.
The evidence shows that slow detoxifiers actually have increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
If you’re stressed out, exhausted, sleep-deprived, you’re over-exercising, or you’re dealing with a chronic health condition or your hormones are all over the place, coffee could be an absolutely terrible idea for you!
If you’re pretty healthy, your energy is good, you're sleeping well and you feel good, then drink as much as you can handle!
How you drink your coffee
Modern-day coffee is often loaded with milk or sugar and served with a muffin or other carb-loaded treat. This will cause a huge insulin surge and wipe out any benefits from the bean! Best to drink it neat, organic, alone (or with a small amount of organic milk) or with protein.
The benefits suggested are found from REAL coffee (organic even better). The less processing the coffee bean undergoes, the more nutrients are preserved.
Other health conditions
Coffee's effects can change if you have an existing health condition. For example, caffeine has been shown to be a gut irritant to some, and if you’re a Celiac or intolerant to gluten, you may also be intolerant to the protein in coffee.
So like anything we have to take the information and apply it to our own individual cases, and make our own minds up.
If you know you react badly, best to reduce or avoid altogether. If not, then drink the best coffee you can, and know that it’s doing its bit to improve your health.
If you’d like some personalised advice on your own diet, lifestyle or supplements – contact us for more information on how we can help.