• Hana Kovac

Is Coffee Healthy?

It is a never-ending fight. Coffee drinkers and tea drinkers argue which drink is healthier, nutrition experts inform one week about the caffeine's addictive properties only to announce a new study the week after on its detoxifying powers. To drink or not to drink (coffee), that is the question...

As a matter of fact, caffeine, found in coffee, energy drinks, black tea or chocolate is a stimulant and the most widely consumed drug in the world (when we don't count sugar). It stimulates the body’s nervous system, and affects other systems in the body as well. Caffeine increases alertness and wakefulness. It also creates a short-term elevation of blood pressure. It also increases dopamine, a neurochemical that activates the pleasure centres of parts of the brain. This is what makes caffeine so habit-forming. Caffeine also suppresses melatonin and has an even stronger influence on melatonin suppression than bright light. The effects of caffeine last in the body for several hours. It can take from 6-8 hours for the stimulant effects of caffeine to be reduced by one half.

The benefits of coffee

However, caffeine, if consumed in moderation, may deliver a number of benefits to mental and physical health. Studies indicate caffeine may reduce the risk for several different types of cancer, as well as lowering risks for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Caffeine may reduce risk for depression. There’s also evidence indicating caffeine may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine also helps with mental performance. It’s been shown to improve memory and reaction time, and increase cognitive flexibility.{1}

Based on the newest research, coffee is unique in that it does upregulate some key detoxification enzymes and may actually increase glutathione levels. But how much caffeine is right for you, depends on your individual genetics and if you are able to detox the caffeine easily {2}. For example, I can drink a cup of espresso around 7pm and easily fall asleep at 10pm. However, if you know you are sensitive to caffeine, don't drink coffee after 2pm. Also, it is difficult to say how much coffee is too much. As a general guideline, healthy adult should not exceed 400 mg of caffeine a day (four cups of brewed coffee).

Note that I'm talking here about caffeine in brewed coffee, no matter the preparation (drip coffee, French press, espresso). I do not consider instant coffee, energy drinks, sugary lattes and such to be worth mentioning as these drinks are highly inflammatory due to their sugary content or processing.

Sugar and milk in your daily cup?

It goes without saying that you should not put sugar in your coffee. Sugar is a harmful substance anyway and the less you eat, the better. I am not a big fan of cow's milk, but there is no evidence that milk and coffee don't match (as every barista will agree). The only problem with milk in your coffee is that it lowers the absorption of an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid available in coffee by 23%. However, much of this antioxidant is already lost after roasting coffee beans. I personally drink my daily cup either black or with almond milk but if you tolerate dairy, there is no reason not to enjoy cappuccino!


{2} Joseph Pizzorno: The Toxin Solution

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