Coffee is one of the most ubiquitous beverages around the world, third to the consumption of water and tea! It’s certainly one of the most beloved, with a certain ritualistic comfort that separates it from other stimulants, but the health benefits of coffee are often a little controversial due to it having that stimulant chemical profile. The science shows us that coffee and its main active ingredient caffeine can have far-reaching benefits to our health, but it’s important to appreciate that our individual biological make-up does play a huge role in whether these benefits will be attained or if we are better off limiting our intake.
Give us the Good News
Not only is there good news, there’s plenty of it and it outweighs the bad in most cases.
- Coffee is high in essential nutrients, containing vitamins B2, B3, B5, Manganese, Potassium and Magnesium
- It contains plenty of anti-inflammatory compounds including the antioxidant group of polyphenols which help lower inflammation in the body
- It’s actually one of the biggest dietary sources of antioxidants in the Western diet, which may come as a surprise. Coffee contains high levels of antioxidants that we know can protect against harmful oxidative cell damage, and studies show many people get more antioxidants from coffee than fruits and vegetables combined. The roasting process actually amplifies these antioxidant levels making a dark roast the best choice
- It may boost metabolism and fat burning due to its caffeine content, where research has found it can significantly increase fat burning by between 10-29% depending on body composition
- Caffeinated drinks may enhance aspects of cognitive and psychomotor performance throughout the day according to some studies, where caffeine increases the production of certain focus-friendly neurotransmitters by inhibiting adenosine receptors in the brain
- Coffee can significantly improve physical performance as well by increasing adrenaline levels in the blood, and by signaling fat cells to breakdown stored body fat to be used as energy. One study also found a positive correlation between increased endurance exercise performance and caffeine intake
- You’re not imagining it when you suddenly feel better after a cup of coffee, studies have repeatedly demonstrated it can help improve mood and feelings of negativity
The downers really depend on your own constitution, how you metabolize stimulants, and on your health.
- Coffee consumption can impede blood pressure regulation due to its vasoconstrictive/dilation properties, so it’s best to check with your doctor and work out whether coffee has a negative effect on your blood pressure if you suffer from hypertension.
- If you’re chronically stressed or fatigued, the temptation to rely on coffee to get you through the day can make you not only reliant on it, but result in a rollercoaster of fluctuating adrenaline levels – all of which can lead to terrible adrenal fatigue, or classic burn out. There are ways to use coffee in a much healthier and useful way which we will discuss.
- Some people simply do not metabolize caffeine efficiently in their livers, this can also be influenced by a person’s stress or anxiety levels. If you’re the type of person envying those who can have a coffee after dinner because you know one would keep you awake half the night, you may be one of these people, in which case its best to reduce your caffeine consumption. Once again there are ways to incorporate it to your advantage, but liver and adrenal support is most important.
- The importance of choosing organic coffee is actually very high! Unfortunately, coffee can be one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world and is highly susceptible to mould growth due to the way it is stored. Why undo all the good of the beautiful coffee bean by choosing any old one? Try to source an organic brand where and when you can to reap its benefits in its purest form, spend the extra and maybe have a little less.
The Best Way to Drink Coffee
There is some debate about how the advantages of coffee can be negated by such things as milk and sugar, where the proteins in milk can bind to some of the antioxidants in coffee - effectively inhibiting their absorption, whilst sugar can add an inflammatory component to the much-loved beverage.
Ultimately the best way to have coffee is black, but there are ways to enhance it both culinarily and nutritionally by a method I’d like to call the adaptable Bulletproof – a type of coffee often used in Ketogenic diets to induce ketosis and enhance mental clarity, usually incorporating Ghee/Butter/Coconut oil or Brain Octain Oil to do so.
Adding fats to your coffee is a wonderful way to buffer that immediate nervous system spike as it allows the compounds to be released more slowly and evenly, providing sustained energy throughout the day. You can also add in:
- Natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup or monkfruit which are unrefined and will not induce a blood sugar spike due to the combination of fats in the bulletproof coffee.
- Superfoods which can enhance the nutritional and protein content of your morning beverage, think collagen powder, gelatin, cacao, ashwaghanda, maca etc. Use your imagination
- Blending these ingredients along with anything from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of your chosen fat source in the blender will produce a creamy nutrient-dense coffee you will come to love for both taste and incredible effects of increased mental clarity and physical performance.
Here is my personal Bulletproof, super easy and simple with minimal ingredients. It is best to have a blender, but any old one will do... worst case scenario, put it all in a jar and shake shake shake.
1 cup of freshly brewed organic coffee
1 teaspoon butter (I like to use salted)
1 tablespoon collagen powder
1 teaspoon maple syrup
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 10-15 seconds, the coffee should take on a creamy golden hue, adding collagen or gelatin will also result in a beautiful frothy coffee!
A Svilaas et al. Intakes of Antioxidants in Coffee, Wine, and Vegetables are Correllated with Plasma Carotenoids in Humans. J Nutr 2004 Mar; 134(3): 562-7
M Lucas et al. Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women. Arch Intern Med 2011 Sep 26; 171(17): 1571-8
Doherty M, Smith PM. Effects of Caffeine Ingestion on Exercise Testing: A Meta-Analysis. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Dec; 14(6): 626-46
AG Dulloo et al. Normal Caffeine Consumption: Influence on Thermogenesis and Daily Energy Expenditure in Lean and Post-Obese Human Volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr 1989 Jan; 49(1): 44-50
I Hindmarch et al. A Naturalistic Investigation of the effects of dau-long consumption of tea, coffee and water on alertness, sleep onset and sleep quality. Psychopharmacology 2000: 149; 203-216