I just love a strong-tasting, good-quality, black coffee. Sadly, however, it does not love me! There are pros and cons to every kind of food and drink and coffee’s benefits and downfalls are quite polarized in that is can be so good for your or so detrimental, depending on the individual.
Benefits of Coffee
Antioxidants – Good-quality coffee is very high in antioxidants. In fact, coffee accounts for the majority of an average person’s antioxidant intake! That is likely a reflection of a mediocre to poor diet that is low in fresh vegetables and fruits, but that is another blog for another time. FYI, antioxidants scavenge electrons which helps to prevent wear and tear around your entire body.
Digestion – Coffee helps digestion of protein. Coffee does indeed raise the acidity in the gut, which can be beneficial for digestion in the upper gastro-intestinal tract. This acidity is also a downfall of coffee (see below). The stimulating effects of coffee can also promote a bowel movement, which is fine as long as it is a healthy, formed movement and not ‘loose’ or diarrhea (another downfall of too much coffee).
Pep – No surprises here, coffee improves energy, mood, and focus. This is probably the #1 reason we love the black stuff.
Coffee as Kryptonite – Who should avoid coffee?
Individuals with Anxiety – The caffeine in coffee is going to contribute to anxiety since caffeine directs your body to release sugar and stress hormones in to your blood stream. In fact, caffeine could be a large part of what is causing an individual’s anxiety in the first place. Try half (high-quality) decaf to wean yourself off to a lower dose of caffeine.
More suggestions on coffee alternatives are listed below.
People with Gut Inflammation or Leaky Gut – If you suffer from acid reflux, diarrhea, ulcers, gut pain, or you feel like your gut is hot or inflamed, aversion of coffee may be helpful as it is acidic and therefore caustic to the digestive tract. Cold-brew coffee is naturally less acidic and can be a helpful alternative for those how find that coffee affects their gut.
Females at Specific Life Stages – Pre-menopausal and menopausal women who are at risk of osteoporosis should minimize coffee as it can deplete calcification of the bones. Similarly, woman who are pregnant or trying to enhance their fertility should minimize coffee as it is linked to miscarriage and depletes the absorption of certain nutrients.
Those with High Blood Pressure – caffeine can raise blood pressure temporarily, especially if combined with exercise.
Coffee Substitutes to Enjoy
Dandelion Coffee – Dandelion coffee is surprisingly like coffee! One brand that I love called “Dandy Blend (DB)” has all the gluten removed and so is fine for those with a gluten intolerance. Celiacs should check with their General Practitioner before they enjoy this drink. As a bonus, DB contains chicory root, which provides food for your gut microbiome. Dandelion root tea is another nice option.
Mushroom Cacao & Elixirs – If you want a real treat that comes with a profound health boost, grab a mushroom elixir drink. The cacao-blended ones are a decadent treat for those who crave a small hit of caffeine and a chocolate fix in one. Cacao is known to elevate mood and also contains antioxidants, iron, magnesium, and copper. Medicinal mushrooms and their benefits warrant a blog of their own as their impact on your health can be profound. My current favorite is Harmonic Arts 5 Mushroom Chocolate Elixir Blend.
Herbal Teas – the options are endless and so are the health benefits! My current favorite is mineralizing nettle and digestion-enhancing cinnamon & cardamom tea. Green tea is an obvious choice if you would like a little caffeine and antioxidant boost while rooibos tea is enhanced by the addition of milk (or milk alternative) which can give that ‘comfort’ of a creamy drink.
To coffee or not to coffee?
Following the general guidelines above are a good starting point to establishing whether or not coffee should be part of your daily routine. For personalized information on how coffee can impact your health, contact me at Wellness on Whyte for a customized nutrition consultation.
Anna Cott, ROHP. is a nutrition consultant whose lifelong passion for health and wellness evolved into a BSc. (hons.) Nutritional Science and a Naturopathic Nutrition Diploma. Anna loves to find creative ways to feed her family healthily, despite the business of life.