Coffee: the good, the bad, and the basic


What's the deal with coffee? Is it good for me, is it bad for me, why do I drink it? People are sometimes shocked seeing a holistic nutritionist with a cup of coffee. I get it, coffee has had it's ups and downs (literally), but here are some things to consider when drinking coffee. First being, it depends on YOU!

Let's begin with why you should drink coffee. Coffee has some amazing health benefits. It is a mild stimulant which helps reduce fatigue and drowsiness. It is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help combat free radicals from forming in the body and these antioxidants can help reduce the risk of cancer. Growing research suggests people who drink coffee are less likely to develop Parkinson's and dementia as well as suffer from stroke. There is still research being conducted, but so far, coffee seems not all that bad!

Like all good things, moderation is key.

To start, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. What do I add to my coffee?

2. How much do I drink a day?

3. When do I drink coffee?

What do I add to my coffee?

If you answered cream, milk, and/or a few scoops of sugar this can be a red flag, ESPECIALLY, if you drink your coffee right when you get up. Sugar rocks the immune system, spikes our blood sugar, and leaves us on an up, only to come crashing down very very quickly. It does not have any nutritional value, and hinders the immune system by causing inflammation in the body.

While some of our bodies have adapted to digesting milk protein better than others, many people have a mild intolerance to dairy. Adding cream or milk can be a concern if you have an intolerance, asthma, or any kind of respiratory complication. This is because dairy products are mucous forming, meaning, they create mucous inside the body. This can increase symptoms of asthma and other respiratory complications. Dairy products also create an acidic environment internally. Paired with coffee, we can create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow in our digestive tract that we don't want there.

What can you do instead? If you like a little sweetness, try having your coffee with honey or maple syrup. Maple syrup supplies important vitamins and minerals, something that refined sugar cannot do. Honey and maple syrup both help alleviate digestive problems that can be caused by sugar. Both natural sweetners also have a better score on the glycemic index, meaning they won't spike your blood sugar in the same way as refined sugar.

Try substituting with a dairy free milk, not just a lactose free milk if you find you have trouble with it. I find organic soy milk, unsweetened almond milk, and coconut milk work well. There is also cashew milk and rice milk out there! There are so many options, so experiment and find your preference!

Add a pinch of sea salt to your coffee. Before you think "ew gross!" think of why? Sea salt won't make coffee taste sweeter, but it helps to mellow the bitterness of the flavour. If you need a lot of sugar to handle the taste of coffee, try adding a pinch of sea salt with a natural sweetener. It enhances the sweet flavour of the maple syrup or honey (not the coffee) and you may find you need less!

Add 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil to your coffee. Again, before you think ew ask why?! Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, which means the body breaks it down and uses it differently. Coconut oil actually can provide you with more energy in the morning! It also helps protect the lining of the intestinal tract and has added minerals that are important for overall diegstive health!

How much do you drink a day?

If you answered more than 3 cups of coffee a day consider reducing your consumption. Drinking too many cups of coffee a day can fatigue your adrenal glands which regulate your hormones. When your adrenals are fatigued you will also feel tired, groggy, and getting up in the morning can be difficult. When we drink too much coffee, we begin to feel this way. We feel as though we need more and more!

We can also expect changes in our gut health. Coffee is a diuretic. It helps us go to the bathroom because it boosts our metabloism and flushes things out! When we consume too much, our stomachs begin releasing foods more quickly, and food enters our digestive tract undigested. This can create tummy upsets and problems going to the bathroom. Your body won't be able to absorb nutrients as effectively from foods if you are drinking too much coffee. Your body becomes dehydrated and the solution is not "more coffee."

What can you do? Aim to drink two cups of coffee a day or less. This is equivalent to 2 x 8oz, or 500ml of coffee or 4 shots of espresso (yes, in most cases espresso has less caffeine than a cup of coffee)! It may be tricky to ween off in the beginning, so find a healthy replacement. I found hot water with lemon would work in the mornings when I craved my first coffee, and then waited until later on to have my first cup. The idea of something nice and warm really helped. You may also want to consider diluting your coffee with some hot water. You still get the taste of coffee, but instead drink half a cup so you can enjoy more through out the day! Lately, a non-caffeinated herbal tea can be a great substitute for one of your cups of coffee through out the day.

Add that coconut oil for an added boost of energy! Stay in tune with how you feel. Does adding the oil get you through the day without that second cup a little longer? If so, use this trick to get you to your second coffee which won't be needed as soon as before!

Try matcha green tea. Have you ever heard of the expression afternoon tea? If you find you need that boost again in the afternoon try switching to a matcha green tea. Matcha green tea increases our energy levels and boosts concentration. It pairs with an amino acid called L-Theanine to balance out the effects of caffeine. It leaves you feeling more calm, reduces drowsiness, but doesn't give you those after coffee shakes. Matcha also helps with adrenal fatigue. Not only will it give you a boost, but it won't wear down your adrenal glands like coffee can.

When should you drink coffee?

This is the big qustion. When is the best time to drink coffee? Drinking coffee right when we wake up feels right, but it can be problematic. If you are feeling very tired and groggy through out the day, try avoiding having coffee first thing in the morning. Coffee slows down our adrenals which are working at full force for the first 3-4 hours upon waking. We don't want to stop our bodies' natural responses to waking up. This is why drinking coffee depends on when we wake up. A general guideline would be, give your adrenals 3-4 hours to do their job upon waking. The longer you can wait the better!

What about eating coffee with lunch? Eating coffee with food can cause the stomach to empty its contents earlier than it should. This allows undigested food to make its way through the digestive tract and can cause diarrhea and dehydration. Try and consume your coffee 1-2 hours before or after you have eaten. This allows the stomach to break down your food and move it into the intestines before coffee comes in and causes it to release food. Remember that all our bodies are different. Pay attention to how you feel when consuming coffee after a meal. If you are experiencing digestive troubles, I highly recommend consuming coffee at least 2 hours after eating and not before.

Drinking coffee in the evening can keep you up at night. Our bodies have this amazing internal clock that works all day. When it is almost time for bed our internal processes change, and the body prepares for sleep well before you are in bed. Avoid drinking coffee after 5pm to avoid staying up late or having trouble sleeping.

Other Q&A!

Thanks for all of your amazing questions that came through social media! I picked the top questions and answered them here:

1. Why does coffee make us poop?

Some research suggests that coffee helps loosen stools because of an increase in metabolic processes. Peristalsis, which is a process that helps move particles through the digestive tract, is stimulated when we drink coffee. To break it down, coffee is a stimulant, a diuretic, and boosts metabolism. A stimulant quickens vital processes, like peristalsis, so our body is working more quickly than normal. Our metabolism gets a boost which helps increase our energy. A diuretic causes water to be flushed out of the system and increases our production of urine. Water also helps with the flow of "number 2". All of this combined would definitely increase the likelihood of you having to poop!

2. Does Kiureg coffee (or Tassimo coffee) have the same health benefits as regular coffee?

This is an excellent question. Part of this answer is completely opinion based. To start, I consider Kiureg and Tassimo coffee instant coffee. It is made literally when you need it. For me, I find that anything that comes to us at the snap of our fingers is usually processed more than I would want it to be. The more processed things becomes, the more nutritional value lost from the product. I would reach our to Kiureg or Tassimo to see what their processing methods are like to better understand if the coffee has actually been striped of its benefits.

Second, I find that these coffees can sometimes have added ingredients, like sugar, flavouring, syrups, and chemicals. I would recommend checking the label and reading the ingredients! If they do have additives, I would say they are doing more harm than good for your health.

Third, Kiureg and Tassimo both come coated with aluminum foil. Aluminum is linked to many conditions, but most concerning are anxiety, depression, and Alzheimers. Small traces of aluminum won't kill you, but if you are health consicous of what is going into your body, remember that this coffee is sitting in a plastic cup with an aluminum lid for quite some time.

Overall, I personally will have a Tassimo from time to time. Do I think it has the same health benefits as a fresh pot? No, I think that brewing a fresh pot of coffee has many more benefits to it than a Kiureg or Tassimo product, especially if you have a coffee grinder to grind the beans fresh. I believe that moderation is key. Everything these days is quick and easy. Take the time to brew a fresh pot of coffee and enjoy it :)!

3. Arabica VS Robusta; which is better and what is the difference?

Arabica is a coffee bean that is used in most coffee. It comes from a tree called Coffea Arabica that grows in warmer regions of the world (like South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia). It makes ost of our coffee around the world!

Robusta coffee is made from the Coffea Canephora plant that originates from Africa, and is also grown in Vietnam, India, and Brazil. What I know about Coffea Canephora is that it is a more sturdy plant, meaning it can withstand harsher climates, and is less suseptible to diseases and bugs in comparison to Arabica. It is said to have more caffeine than Arabica and be higher in antioxidants. It demonstrates the same properties (acts as a stimulant, a diuretic, and boosts metabolism).

Which is better? This is also an opinion based answer, but from what I know I want to lean more to Robusta, one main reason is because of how sturdy the plant is. This means less chemicals like pesticides and herbicides need to be used to keep the plants alive. However, it depends on how much you consume. If you are drinking Robusta consider drinking significantly less. You don't want to consume too much caffeine and it is much stronger than Arabica. They both have great benefits so I think health wise both are great! I would only be concerned about the amount of Robusta due to its increase in caffeine levels.

4. Does coffee before exercising actually improve your performance?

Yes, it can improve your performance, but benefits endurance sports more so than short-term, high-intensity workouts. The reason being is because caffeine helps metabolize fat stores. Our body can use fat as energy this way, and this creates a longer lasting amount of energy! You won't utilize these stores in high-intensity workouts because your body needs to be depleted of glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the liver and is used during exercise because it can be converted to glucose, the body's main source of energy. Our liver glycogen stores are depleted after 60 minutes of exercise. If you are training long distance running, cyclying, swimming, or during day tournaments coffee will be extremely beneficial this way! It has also been shown to help reduce muscle soreness from exercising in half!

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