Are You Coffee Conflicted?

 Procaffinator-someone who has a tendency not start anything without a cup of coffee.

Devil or Angel-coffee is one of the most controversial beverages for health-minded people. Hard core purists scoff that coffee could have any benefits, citing the fact it dehydrates the body and is loaded with caffeine. But there is a tendency for a few to contend any food that is pleasurable cannot be good for you.

As a Nutritionist/Naturopath who comes from the “Real food is yummy food and the more organic butter the better” school of food science (note the strong French influence!) I like to look at the facts. All foods from natural sources have to be evaluated on an individual basis.

Coffee can be considered a herb. It is hot water extracted from the berries of the Cofea plant. All plants that are not poisonous to humans have medicinal benefits because that is just how Nature rolls. Coffee contains small amounts of potassium, Riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid (B5) and manganese. Manganese is vital for pituitary health, for example. And potassium helps to hydrate the body, so Nature may have provided a degree of balance to the dehydration issue.

How much caffeine is in coffee? The average for an 8 oz. cup is 95 mg, unless you got your cup at Starbucks, which logs in at twice the average amount. Green tea contains about 44 mg caffeine, and espresso has about 60 mg.

On average most people can benefit from a couple of cups of coffee a day. Pregnant women should keep caffeine levels below 200 mg. What are the benefits?

Coffee contains powerful antioxidants, which help the body to combat oxidative stress. Think of oxidative stress as too much of a good thing. While we need oxygen for cellular activity, too much is damaging to cells. Anti-oxidants balance out the damage of the potentially corrosive actions of high amounts of oxygen, otherwise known as free-radical damage. Some free-radical damage is normal, and merely stimulates repair by the immune system. But too much overwhelms the body, and may be a pre-condition that allows cancer and other metabolic diseases to develop.

Coffee is associated with lower mortality from all heart-related issues, such as stroke or heart-failure. It is also associated with lowered risk for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and dementia, and mice studies show that coffee is helpful against memory impairment. Research indicates that it is the caffeine in coffee that has the brain benefits, so decaf does not help.

Coffee seems to improve athletic performance, test performance and alertness. However, coffee is not as effective for test performance and alertness as certain wave-lengths of light from the blue band spectrum.

Coffee appears to be protective against fatty liver disease and promote healthy liver function. A study showed that coffee plus exercise helped prevent skin cancer in mice. (Now you will know what to think if you see a couple of mice with their little laptops at Starbucks.)

And coffee can help with a weight loss program by boosting your metabolism.

Who shouldn’t drink coffee? If you are caffeine sensitive, suffer from stomach issues, have insomnia, heart palpitations or anxiety coffee and black or green teas may not be good choices for you. Insomnia, digestive discomfort, anxiety and palpitations can be addressed with natural and nutritional medicine, so you don’t have to suffer or worry about these conditions. Call us for help.

Don’t medicate with coffee. If you are burning your candle at both ends, get some sleep and exercise and increase your nutrition. Too much coffee will only put more stress on your adrenals and immune system.

Why do some people get a headache when they are deprived of coffee? As expected, the more coffee consumed daily the more likely you are to experience a headache during coffee withdrawal. Scientists have measured the changes in blood flow to the brain, and deprivation of coffee seems to increase cerebral blood flow, triggering the classic withdrawal headache.

The remedy may be to cut back a bit at a time if you are consuming so much coffee that it makes you jittery or interferes with sleep. Try using a herbal coffee like Teecino to mix with your coffee, to cut back, but still enjoy a rich coffee drink.

Bottom line is that coffee in moderation appears to have health benefits for most people. Note that this article is about natural coffee, not caffeine. I will blog about synthetic caffeine in another article.

So, if you tolerate coffee well, don’t feel guilty about the indulgence. Try using Stevia to sweeten and flavored Stevia can help you skip those Frappuccino’s, which are loaded with chemicals and artificial flavors. I carry Peppermint and Toffee Stevia in my purse. Try bullet-proof coffee, made with organic butter or raw coconut oil, instead of milk, if you are avoiding dairy and trying to increase healthy fats.

A little coffee humor: Latte is French for “You just paid too much for your coffee”.

“Mothers are those wonderful people who can get up in the morning before the smell of coffee.”  “Deja Brew-the feeling you’ve had this coffee before.”
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Lastly, “May your cup runneth over with Joy, love and really fabulous coffee!”