Coffee, the magical elixir of life and energy. There are very few people I know who do not drink coffee. Usually those are die-hard tea drinkers (way too common in Ireland), or people who take no tea or coffee at all because they don’t like the taste (it’s all the tannins responsible for the bitter taste). A very-very small percentage of people avoid all caffeine for health reasons.
I, personally, love coffee. And teas. But while teas are something to enjoy and treasure on their own, coffee is a different story to me. I went through many cycles of Love-Coffee/Hate-Coffee. First, I drank it with sugar. Then I weaned myself from sugar and found myself in the process of learning to love coffee on its own. Then I tried spiced lattes (Pumpkin and Gingerbread), and fell in love with them. Since then drinking coffee on its own has been a challenge. Even drinking a plain soy latte is a challenged – I kind of taught myself to have coffee as a treat, and without spiced syrups it’s not that good as a treat. Other syrups, like Caramel, are too sweet, and I don’t like simply sweet coffee anymore. Talk about pickiness!
So, Coffee: Good or Bad?
Like any other food or drink out there, coffee has been touted a lot for its health benefits and also has got a lot of bad rap because of its side effects. Most of its side effects can be avoided when taken in reasonable amounts, provided that you do not suffer from any illnesses that could be severely aggravated by caffeine – in this case coffee should be avoided.
- Coffee might be addictive
Thanks to caffeine in it, coffee is known to cause addiction, especially when consumed in very large amounts, over 3-4 cups/day. But the point at which coffee becomes addictive is different for everyone. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than the others.
If you find yourself addicted to coffee, it might make sense to re-start your coffee drinking habits. You can do this by gradually reducing your coffee intake by removing one cup every 5-7 days. Some people do better when quitting cold turkey and once the detox is over, they start drinking just 1 or 2 cups of coffee a day. The latter method is not ideal, however, as the detox symptoms can be too hard on the body.
- It can raise blood pressure and aggravate heart disease
But if you don’t have heart problems and your blood pressure is fine, then you don’t need to worry. Coffee might just as well do the opposite to your body and protect your heart as well as lower your normal blood pressure by training the heart muscle.
- Coffee might aggravate anxiety and cause insomnia
To those suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, too much caffeine can increase the number of attacks or their severity. So if you are one of those unlucky people, it might make sense to stay away from coffee. It also make sense to limit or eliminate caffeine completely if you are prone to having insomnia.
I, personally, have found that I can manage them both by not drinking too much caffeine. My limit is 2 cups of caffeinated drinks a day, only 1 of them may be coffee, and I do not drink coffee on a daily basis. I also do not drink caffeinated drinks in the afternoon.
- Coffee is rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit oxidation in our body. Oxidation is a normal process of anything that can live and breathe, but it can have drastic side effects. Oxidation of bodily cells leads to formation of free radicals – cells that have lost one electron (electrons come in pairs) and cannot continue their functions. They search to replace the missing electrons by robbing other healthy cells of their perfectly paired electrons, thus damaging other cells, too. Luckily, antioxidants donate their electrons to the damaged cells and repair them. Antioxidants are crucial to our health and prevention of diseases, especially cancer. They are also important in slowing the ageing process.
- It aids fat loss
Coffee is known to increase metabolism and speed up fat burn, but, unfortunately, this can decline as you get used to drinking coffee on a regular basis. But if you are trying to lose weight, it won’t hurt to try adding it to your daily routine. One of the sources also suggests cycling it, i.e. drink coffee for 2 weeks and then have a break for 2 weeks; this way your body doesn’t get used to it.
- May lower risk of depression in women
It also causes our brain to release Dopamine – a happiness hormone. Who doesn’t like being happy?
- It boosts energy
It’s no news that coffee is a powerful energy drink, thanks to its caffeine content. It stimulates brain activity in various areas, including those responsible for memory and mood. It also increases adrenaline, which proves beneficial for physical performance. No wonder that most of the top athletes regularly drink coffee pre-workout.
- Coffee may prevent skin cancer
There are quite a few studies showing that regular consumption of coffee can decrease your chances of getting skin cancer. Isn’t it a lovely benefit?
- Coffee may reduce risks of numerous diseases
Among those are Type 2 Diabetes, Liver cancer and liver disease, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. It may also protect your heart and increase longevity.
It is ultimately up to you whether the benefits outweigh the side effects. There may be other things to consider, too: like your health, whether you have any illnesses or conditions made worse by caffeine consumption. Coffee is also not a suitable drink for children of any age. It should be limited for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Current recommendation is to not consume more than 300 mg caffeine a day, which may equal 1 to 2 cups of coffee, depending on the strength.
When I was pregnant, I preferred to drink decaffeinated coffee. I did drink teas, green and (rarely) black, but limited them to 1 cup a day (about 60-80 mg caffeine); and I regularly ate chocolate, but I was still well within the limit. Now, 5 months into breastfeeding, I do drink teas and coffee. The limit still stands. No more than 2 cups of green/black tea a day OR 1 cup coffee.
Below are some links to back up the claims on benefits. Hope you enjoy your Saturday morning fix, be it coffee, tea, or a glass of water! I, personally, will head out for some coffee.