Is Coffee Bad for You?

Posted by Amina AlTai on

Whether we need a little energy jolt or the sense of comfort from a warm beverage, many of us are heavily reliant upon a morning cup of Joe.  According to the Huffington Post, the US is the largest consumer of coffee in the world and we weigh in at 400 million cups consumed every single day.  But is it good for us?  If you've perused the blog, you might have seen a post or two on coffee.  However, there's still quite a bit of confusion out there as to whether or not coffee is an antioxidant powerhouse perfect as a pre-workout bevie, or if it's the evil, adrenal-zapping drudge others are making it out to be.

Here we're analyzing and demystifying for you to make your own decisions whether to sip or swap this popular drink.  

THE GOOD: 

Lowers your risk of type two diabetes:  Thanks to it's blood sugar-lowering properties, coffee consistently shows a beneficial relationship with blood sugar control. 

Supports brain health: There are over 94 studies indicating that coffee has been linked to positive improvements in neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease.  Additionally, coffee has also been proven to support greater cognition, learning and memory found several studies, one most notably from 2013.  Additionally, it's been hypothesized that the antioxidant-rich nature of coffee could be beneficial in the reduction of risk for Alzheimer's disease.  

Supports exercise performance: Another limited study found that when coffee was combined with decaffeinated coffee it could improve performance of resistance exercises as well as rate or perceived exhaustion.  The group was limited in nature and it's unclear whether this holds true over time.  

Less delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS):  If you've been going hard at  the gym, coffee might just prevent you from post-leg day pain.  A recent study found that moderate coffee consumption one hour prior to exercise greatly reduced DOMS on 2-3 days post-exercise.  

Could improve test scores: A study of a group of young adults found that drinking caffeine in the morning did support better memory. However, that effect diminished throughout the day and afternoon consumption did not have the same result.  

THE BAD: 

Linked to cancer: Almost 400 studies have demonstrated links between coffee consumption and cancer in almost every tissue type throughout the body.  However, causation or correlation is unknown.  

Reduces length and quality of sleep:  One study found that consuming coffee just 6 hours before bed severely diminished the length and depth of sleep.  So you might want to rethink that 4pm cup of Joe.   

Can tax your adrenals: A study of women who drink coffee regularly found that they needed more caffeine over time in order to achieve the same adrenaline boost, which can lead to adrenal fatigue and even burnout. Our adrenals are super important to a balanced system, as they are the masters of all hormones. They regulate our body's stress response -- known as our fight or flight response -- and they work to secrete some of our most important hormones such as pregnenolone, adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol. When our bodies are in a constant state of stress (as simulated from constant coffee drinking), we tax our adrenals and it can cause a hormonal ricochet effect. 

Can be full of mold: There is very little control and insight into coffee bean processing and bean sourcing which can lead to contamination with mycotoxins.  Mycotoxins are hazardous compounds produced by the molds that grow on our beloved beans.  And it's said compounds that can be making you feel sick, foggy brained, flu-like etc.  The opposite of why you're drinking it, right? In fact, one study found that 91.7% of green coffee beans contained mold. 

SO, WHAT'S THE DEAL?

As you can see, there is research to both support and discourage you from drinking your morning coffee. If you're fully in the coffee camp, quantity and quality is important -- prioritize drinking organic coffee beans and limit your intake to one cup per day, ideally before noon.

With all that said, if you're looking to cut out your java habit, here are some tips: 

  • Start slow:  If you're used 3+ cups a day, start by tapering your intake. Initially, you might want to reduce to two cups, then one and eventually none.  While you're tapering back, swap coffee for another slightly stimulating beverage such as green tea to reduce your caffeine withdrawal headaches.
  • Get enough rest: A good nights sleep as well as daily meditation can contribute to greater energy.  Our bodies weren't designed for prolonged exertion—they were designed for a pattern of rest and work.  Ensuring you get enough rest is great way to avoid grogginess and the resultant need for caffeine as a stimulating boost.
  • Support your body with vitamins and herbs:  If getting enough rest still leaves you feeling short on energy, you might need an herbal boost.  Vitamin B and D deficiencies as well as adrenal fatigue could be a contributing factor.  At your next doctors appointment ask your doctor to do a full workup to see where you might need additional nutritional support.  Additionally, working in adaptogens like ashwagandha and cordyceps will support your adrenals and energy.  
  • Start your day with another warm beverage: Oftentimes we reach for coffee just because we want something warm and comforting in the morning.  I recommend swapping your daily coffee for warm water and lemon or golden milk.  
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