Coffee: Healthy or Harmful?

Coffee:  Healthy or Harmful?

Love coffee, hate the guilt? Many of us have become attached to our coffee ritual, so hearing that we should cut it out of our diet, is a hard pill to swallow. We begrudgingly stash this unfavorable information in the back of our minds while we continue to justify every sip… even though the joy is somewhat tainted. So how bad is it? Is the guilt justified?

Caffeine is just one of the herbal constituents found in coffee beans. Coffee beans in and of themselves are not inherently bad, in fact there are many benefits associated with the beans. Coffee is a central nervous system stimulant which helps to improve energy, focus the mind, enhance physical performance, and possibly even inhibit inflammatory pathways when brewed properly. Like most things though, we can over do it.

Caffeine is not a long term solution. It pushes the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, and stimulates the release of sugars into the blood stream. Both of these things spike our energy levels in the short term, but inevitably this leads to a crash. When our energy levels crash we crave quick energy sources….straight sugar, simple carbohydrates, or more stimulants. This cycle of highs and lows can lead to issues with insulin sensitivity, adrenal function, and mood disturbances. We are pushing our bodies to function, but further depleting them while doing it.

Some negative effects we may notice:

• Anxiousness, jitters, and irregular heart rhythms
• Sleep issues
• Dehydration, headaches, dizziness
• Adrenal exhaustion
• Heartburn, indigestion, and upset stomach

Aside from the caffeine, coffee tends to be very acidic in the body, and often contains many toxic chemicals. Coffee is a crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides, therefore brewing the beans, condenses and extracts those pesticides (along with the flavor, and nutrients). So our daily routines can become really hard on our liver, as it constantly tries to eliminate these toxins. Coffee is also a diuretic. Diuretics cause you to lose more water, but with that water you also lose many water soluble vitamins and nutrients.
Some simple coffee rules to live by:

Choose organic coffee beans whenever possible.
Replenish fluids to balance out diuretic effects, and help eliminate toxins and wastes.
Eat a balanced diet to maintain blood sugar and nutrient levels.
Avoid adding sweeteners which have an additive effect on blood sugar spikes and crashes
Drink your coffee with milk or a milk alternative which slows the release of caffeine into the bloodstream. The proteins and healthy fats in almond/coconut/hemp milk bind caffeine molecules and therefore diminish spikes and crashes.
Avoid coffee in the 7-8 hours before you go to bed to allow for a deeper sleep (and eventually diminish the need for as much coffee the next day!)
• Give your body a break sometimes and consider other options instead of that 2nd, 3rd, or 4th cup of coffee. Choose an activity that supports your body so that you have more energy naturally, instead of just continuing to push it into a further depleted state. Go outside and take some deep breaths of fresh air, get your circulation going on a quick walk or jog, or have a snack with protein, healthy fats or complex carbohydrates that will give you more sustained energy.
With all these things in mind, when you do have your delicious hot cup of coffee, ENJOY IT. Coffee doesn’t have to be another source of worry or guilt in our daily lives. We just need to be aware of how it is affecting us and make changes when we need to, to feel more balanced energy and mood.

*This post was written by Dr. Brett Simpson, ND. She prioritizes meeting patients where they are, and finding a healthy balance. For more guidance on healthy diet and lifestyle changes, book in for a naturopathic consultation with Dr. Brett!