Coffee, whether it's the whole ritual of it, the rich flavor, the caffeine boost, or likely, a combination of all of those things, we love our morning joe. I am asked all of the time whether or not coffee is good or bad, so I thought I would put together a blog post to explain.
Let me start by saying that I do not believe in victimizing one particular food, as long as it is a real, whole, food. I also don't believe in making generalized claims. For instance, everyone must strictly avoid coffee, nobody should be consuming dairy or we all need to be on a lower carb diet... In my experience, it isn't that black and white.
Coffee is touted for it's antioxidants. Different studies have shown its ability to reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as dementia. There's also studies that show it has a thermogenic effect on the body, ultimately boosting the metabolism. It's also a zero calorie beverage. Coffee on it's own could be considered a "clean" food. That being said, there are some things to consider if you're a regular coffee drinker. Let me explain...
WHAT'S HIDDEN IN YOUR MORNING JOE?
Just like anything, there are different levels of quality when it comes to coffee. If you are going to consume coffee, it is important to opt for an organic, fair trade, quality roast. There are several reasons for this. Of course, pesticides and chemicals are a given. Coffee is one of the most pesticide sprayed crops and you absolutely do not want to be taking that in with your morning cup of joe. But there's more than just pesticides in most of the coffee on the market. Mold is also a huge issue that people are often unaware of. However, most coffee is actually contaminated with mold. This happens when the coffee beans are harvested and placed out to dry. Most companies do not perform tests for mold, that said, it is important that you select a brand that does. Or, know your roaster and know their process. Consumption of mold is an instant toxin going into your body, up regulating your immune system, which can eventually contribute to all sorts of issues, including autoimmunity. The bottom line here is that you do not want chemicals, toxins, etc. in the beverage that most are consuming on a regular basis.
When sourcing my coffee, I love Bulletproof brand. At this point, they are the only company testing for mold in their coffee. I also will go for organic, locally made roasters that I trust. I can typically tell when a coffee is contaminated with mold. Believe it or not, sweating + jitters after drinking a cup of coffee is not likely the result of the caffeine, rather, the mold. You'll notice a difference when you switch from a mainstream coffee chain, to a company like Bulletproof.
ALKALINE VS. ACIDIC
Coffee is an acidic beverage. Our bodies require a proper pH balance to maintain good health. Being too acidic is an issue, as is being too alkaline. However, you will find that most individuals are too acidic, and are hardly ever at a healthy pH. It's not to say that you cannot drink coffee and maintain a good pH level, it merely means you must ensure your diet is nutrient dense, and heavy on the green leafy vegetables and mineral rich foods.
Because coffee is acidic, it depletes your mineral stores. Minerals are responsible for alkalizing the body. Unfortunately, the average American is already extremely depleted in minerals, so adding coffee on top of that is where problems can occur. Specifically, coffee strips the body of magnesium, your "relaxation mineral." 70-90% of Americans have a magnesium deficiency. Coffee only adds to this issue, with a tendency to make people feel tense, jittery, anxious and fidgety.
Some signs of magnesium deficiency include: jaw clenching, teeth grinding, insomnia or trouble falling asleep, leg twitching, tight muscles, constipation, and anxiety. Again, make sure to replenish your body with plenty of mineral rich foods (i.e. lots of organic vegetables) to balance out the consumption of coffee.
CAFFEINE + HORMONES
Caffeine can be an endocrine disruptor. Whether you feel a buzz from cofffee or not, coffee is a stimulant. Stimulants like coffee actually signal a stress response in the body. What most describe as an "energy boost," is actually the release of cortisol, your stress hormone, causing you to feel awake and wired. This creates a fight or flight response in the body. That's right, the fight or flight response intended to kick in when you're in serious danger is actually being stimulated by your cup of coffee. Your adrenal glands, which regulate this stress hormone (cortisol), start having to work really hard. There comes a point when the adrenals have been over worked so much that they burn out. What was once high levels of cortisol, becomes low levels of cortisol, otherwise known as adrenal fatigue. Neither high or low cortisol levels are a good thing. Living in our high paced + toxic society, most individuals already have cortisol imbalances, adding coffee to the mix can make matters worse.
Hormones work synergistically to achieve balance. This means that when cortisol is either high or low, the rest of your hormones will adjust accordingly. For example, high cortisol will compete with estrogen, ultimately lowering estrogen levels. Take care of your adrenals by limiting the stressors in your life - this includes dietary stressors, such as caffeine. Listen to your body. If you begin to notice anxiety, sleep issues, jaw clenching or hormonal imbalances, don't ignore! You may want to consider taking a break from the coffee.
ASSIMILATION OF NUTRIENTS
Let's talk about poop and assimilation of nutrients, shall we? We all know that coffee makes you go. I've actually worked with several individuals who are using coffee as a laxative, because they are otherwise constipated. However, though it is important to be regular, coffee isn't the way to achieve that. Coffee often stimulates a bowel movement before your body has had adequate time to absorb the nutrients from your food, ultimately flushing out waste before the body is ready. In addition, coffee strips the gut of good friendly bacteria. Good bacteria in the gut is absolutely required for optimal health, as 70-90% of your immunity abides in the gut.
Coffee and caffeine spike blood sugar. You may notice that coffee serves as an initial boost of energy, but later in the day, you experience a crash. Especially if you're already prone to high cortisol, adding coffee to the mix leads to a blood sugar disaster. Blood sugar regulation is responsible for regulating hormones, appetite, mood, energy and so much more. Never consume coffee on an empty stomach. I also recommend adding some sort of fat to your coffee to slow down the absorption of the caffeine and lessen the blood sugar spike.
IT'S NOT ALL BAD...
Now, before I ruin your precious coffee, let me discuss the benefits of coffee. As I mentioned above, these benefits reside in quality, organic coffee. Sorry...no gas station coffee...or even Starbucks for that matter. Studies show that your brain in particular loves coffee. Research has revealed a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia in coffee drinkers. In addition, coffee has been touted for it's antioxidants. Keep in mind, however, that the roasting process often kills many of these valuable antioxidants. Coffee has also been said to be useful in regenerating injured muscles. Lastly, coffee opens up the cells. Why is this valuable? I love drinking coffee with MCT oil and herbs blended in. Coffee helps to open the cells, fat (from the MCT oil) carries nutrients (from the herbs) into the cells, ultimately serving as the perfect vessel to bring nutrients into the cells.
Here's the thing, most of the benefits associated with coffee we can also receive from good food (without the potential side effects). That said, a person with a healthy nervous system who takes care of their body, eats a balanced diet and uses coffee mindfully can absolutely enjoy it is moderation.
TIPS FOR ENJOYING COFFEE, HEALTHFULLY
- Always drink coffee with a balanced meal (specifically a meal containing protein and fat). Coffee elevates blood sugar levels, eating a balanced meal with the coffee will slow down the absorption of caffeine, resulting in less of a spike in blood sugar.
- Opt for quality, organic, fair-trade coffee to ensure you really are receiving the benefits from your cup of joe.
- Stick to 8-12 oz. of coffee per day, before lunch time.
- Never use coffee as a means of energy - as I mentioned, coffee is essentially "artificial energy," meaning that in reality it isn't energy, but rather a stimulation of cortisol that is getting you going. If you're tired, sluggish, or fatigued throughout the day, I'm sorry to say, but coffee is NOT your friend. Instead, opt for an energizing snack - something rich in healthy fats and protein.
- Add some fat. Similarly to drinking coffee with a meal, adding some fat to your coffee is a great way to make the coffee less stimulating by slowing down the absorption. Adding 1 tbsp. of coconut oil, MCT oil or ghee is an excellent way to enjoy coffee. Not only does it taste great, but those energizing fats will give you REAL energy, and keep you going for hours. Try blending 8 oz. of coffee with 1 tbsp. coconut oil, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. maca powder for an energizing, blood sugar balancing, metabolism boosting beverage. Blending these things together in an actual blender will create a frothy, latte-like beverage!
- Hold the sweetener! Please, if you are still using splenda, stop immediately. Splenda is a major toxin to the body. Similarly, hold the sugar + the artificial coffee creamers; coffee already elevates blood glucose levels, adding sugar only exasperates that. If you like your coffee sweet, try adding pure liquid stevia extract.
- Add some cardamom. Add a pinch of cardamom to your coffee, which helps to reduce the negative effects of caffeine.
Be free to enjoy the things you love! But also learn to tune into you body and stop ignoring. It may be a matter of just reducing your consumption or checking in before you habitually go straight to the coffee machine.
SHROOMY COFFEE ELIXIR
6 oz. organic cold brew coffee
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tsp. Brain Octane MCT oil (optional)
1/2 tsp. chaga mushroom powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of cardamom
Pinch of pink himalayan salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Option to sweeten with pure liquid stevia or 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend for 15 seconds until herbs are immersed