Stealth Health Food: Coffee?

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Weird right? Coffee healthy? Doesn’t seem possible or probable. Many people tell me when they begin changing their diet that they stop drinking coffee. I always ask why and they never really have an answer. It appears to be one of those foods that has gotten an undeserving bad rap. Granted, caffeine is a drug and can be addictive, people put all kinds of crap into their coffees, not all coffee is created equal (is anything?) and coffee is not for everybody, but for most people, it is their greatest source of dietary antioxidants! Seem impossible? Keep reading.

Unfortunately there is a ton of conflicting research on coffee. Studies can be absolutely positive with praise;

  • drinking more than 5 cups per day may decrease likelihood of diabetes
  • coffee consumption can increase exercise tolerance even in patients with heart failure
  • increases alertness and can increase short term mental and physical performance
  • may lower incidence of Parkinson’s and gallstones
  • may decrease risk of liver cirrhosis

These benefits are no joke. I would love to decrease my risk of diabetes and Parkinson’s while at the same time making me temporarily more awesome. Unfortunately these results are not unequivocal. Some negatives:

  • could possibly increase risk of miscarriage
  • interfere with normal sleeping patterns
  • can increase PMS symptoms
  • can raise blood pressure in people with hypertension

In my opinion the reason the results are so mixed is because of something called nutrigenomics. If you have never heard of nutrigenomics, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. It is a new science showing the interaction between the foods we consume and our genetics. This interaction is not the same for everyone, and can actually vary widely. To read more here is a good article on the topic. It is a fascinating new science that unfortunately goes well beyond the scope of this blog post.

Onto more good stuff about coffee. Much to the surprise of my clients, I don’t tell them that they have to stop drinking coffee (though I do encourage them to make it black!). Here is why: coffee increases antioxidant activity in the blood for hours, has more antioxidants than dark chocolate, green or black tea and is the single greatest contributor of antioxidants in the average American diet! Coffee may be the source for as much as 70% of the antioxidant intake of many Americans.

As with all things, as long as consumption is kept moderate, I don’t encourage more than 2-3 cups per day, most people should not only be fine, they should see some nice benefits in the process. For those of you who may feel negative effects from coffee, then don’t drink it, switch to something just as healthy with less kick, like a fine cup of green tea. For more info like this check out Dr. Jonny Bowden’s spectacular book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.

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Posted on June 29th, 2009 by Brian St. Pierre

24 Comments

  1. Kujo Says:

    I’ve read you should only drink organic coffee due to the way non-organic coffee is processed.

    Do you agree?

  2. Eric Lagoy Says:

    Nice post BSP very informative. I try and drink tea most of the time, but every now and then I just want to have a cup of joe.

  3. Rick Says:

    Question: I LOVE coffee so thank you very much for this article!! Does the instant coffee have as much antioxidants as the regular coffee? Today at work I was in need of a coffee fix and I drank some instant coffee. However I am not addicted to coffee and I can stop tomorrow after my first cup of the day.

  4. Bob Parr Says:

    Nice post! I’ve long thought that the anti-coffee crowd was confused about actual coffee versus all the coffee+crap that’s commonly ingested. (Like 400 calorie double mocha latte frappacinos or whatever.) I just drink it black and unsweetened.

    I second Kujo’s question. I’ve read the same thing: that coffee is a very heavily sprayed crop so it’s worth it to pay extra for organic. Is that your belief, too, Brian? Thanks!

  5. Ian Says:

    Does decaffeinated coffee still have the health benefits?

  6. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Kujo,

    It probably isn’t a bad idea. It is a highly sprayed crop.

  7. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Rick,

    I don’t know of any studies comparing instant to regular in terms of antioxidant activity, but I would highly doubt instant is as high. It is more processed, and tends to sit for a lot longer. The fresher the beans the better off you will be.

  8. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Ian,

    Decaffeinated is not quite as healthy no. The chemical process to remove the caffeine damages the some of the antioxidants (the same thing happens in decaffeinated tea). It doesn’t make it worthless, just less beneficial.

  9. Beau Armstrong Says:

    Ian, thank you so much for this my friend! I am fairly new to the coffee world as of the last six months and this is really good info for me. If it’s OK, I would like to link to this article from my blog at http://RichSmoothCoffee.com. Christmas blessings to you and yours, Beau Armstrong

  10. Ezequiel Isla Says:

    Good day I appreciated your post. I feel that it’s crucial when talking about diabetes to at least refer to natural therapies that have been shown to be efficient in managing high blood glucose. Numerous natural herbs can be including in a diabetics routine that will help preserve a healthy sugar level.

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