There has been a lot of debate over the years whether the humble cup of coffee is a saint or sinner. With the weather beginning to turn cooler, we often reach for comforting warm drinks and coffee is usually at the top of the list.
Traditionally, naturopaths have warned their patients off coffee, and instead promoted the drinking of copious amounts of herbal teas but this has not been my way of doing things – mostly because I enjoy a good cup of (quality) coffee as much as the next person!
And because I am a nutrition nerd, I like to keep up with the latest news and research. Coffee, it turns out, has been under the microscope (figuratively speaking) more than you may realise.
Interestingly, it turns out that coffee is not necessarily the villain it has been made out to be in the past. Coffee (being a seed/fruit) contains compounds known as polyphenols, which are a type of phytonutrient (a beneficial nutrient from a plant). Research has shown that regular coffee intake may have a protective effect against the development of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and most recently, a beneficial effect on gut flora1. It is also thought that drinking coffee may play a role in the prevention of diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease2.
It is also important to consider coffee for the social aspect as well – if you enjoy a cup as part of a social event such as catching up with friends and family then this is also an important (and often overlooked) aspect of taking care as your health and wellbeing.
Now, here’s the downside…
Coffee has been shown to play a detrimental role when it comes to fertility. Even a low caffeine intake is associated with a reduced rate of natural conception, and an increased rate of miscarriage3. As well as reducing your chances of conceiving a healthy baby, caffeine crosses the placenta, and can enter breastmilk.
Also, coffee should not be used as a tactic to get through your day. If your energy levels are flagging, it can be a sign that you have been overstretching yourself, and/or your adrenal glands (glands that sit on top of your kidneys and are involved in your response to stress) are worn out. Coffee gives you an artificial energy boost at the expense of your vital energy reserves. The energy boost will be temporary, and you will find you need more and more caffeine to ‘kick-start’ yourself, and you’ll actually end up making the situation worse.
In addition, if you have high blood pressure that is not under control, it is important to keep in mind that coffee can increase blood pressure. Coffee can impact your body’s blood sugar control mechanisms, making you more prone to fluctuations, so care needs to be taken if you have diabetes and your blood sugar is not well controlled.
So, in a nutshell, like with any aspects of nutrition, it is important to factor in your own unique situation and individuality as to whether drinking coffee suits you. If you do enjoy coffee on a regular basis, it is best to drink certified organic brand so that you are not consuming any extra nasties like herbicides/pesticides with your daily cup. In addition, freshly brewed coffee from real beans is a healthier choice than reaching for the instant coffee (and more enjoyable as well!)