The word “Coffee” comes from the Arabic phrase “Wine for the brain”. It’s the most widely traded commodity in the world with over 12 billion pounds of coffee produced annually. So who’s drinking all that coffee?
Well, Americans are up there with their consumption around 400 million cups of coffee per day, equivalent to 146 billion cups of coffee per year, but Finland consumes more coffee per capita than any other country.
We know that coffee consumption is definitely happening all over the world, but what, if any, effect does it have on our health and wellbeing? It’s an interesting question with a lot to consider, so I present to you the good, the bad and the ugly of coffee.
In my opinion, there are 3 things that can put your cup of coffee on the “good” list:
1) Good coffee must first be guilt-free.
- It should either be organic, fair trade or directly traded from the farmer. You’ll see this on todays coffee labels. Most independent coffee shops will carry these, and some of the more conscientious coffee chains (check out Bridgehead – one of my faves)
- The farmers who grow those coffee beans are treated fairly and are paid good wages. In doing so, these often rural and poorer communities are able to thrive by improving their standard of living and continuing to provide you and I great tasting coffee.
2) Good, guilt-free, quality coffee has the capacity to boost your energy, focus and fat burning capacity.
Caffeine, the active compound in coffee, can:
- Increase your metabolism
- Break down body fat and utilize it as energy
- Cause the release of brain awakening and mood enhancing compounds
3) Good, guilt-free, quality coffee has many minerals, cancer fighting anti-oxidants and brain boosting B Vitamins, including:
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B2
- Niacin (B3)
- Thiamine (B1).
- Potassium and Manganese, which plays a role in carbs and fat metabolism
As a very general rule, coffee tends to contain optimal levels of these compounds around 7 – 10 days after roasting. So find a roaster near you and start paying attention to when it’s been packaged.
Coffee isn’t for everyone. It can be a powerful stimulant especially for those who are caffeine sensitive. Don’t know if you are caffeine sensitive? Some signs to pay attention to after consuming caffeine include: feelings of anxiety or irritability, increased heart rate, headaches, upset stomach and even skin breakouts.
Also pay attention to whether or not you NEED caffeine to get yourself going. While it is great to feel the effects of increased energy, you really should be able to feel that energy naturally with a balanced diet and lifestyle, rather than relying on a stimulant.
If you are sensitive to caffeine but still looking for a little energy boost, try drinking good quality black, white, green or yerba mate tea. These teas are packed with antioxidants but often have less side effects than your typical coffee drink.
In my opinion, there are 3 things that can put your cup of coffee on the “ugly” list:
1) It’s mass produced and conventionally grown
Conventionally grown and mass produced coffee is heavily sprayed with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. Not only do these toxins impact your personal health they impact the farmers and the surrounding farming communities. Populations living close to these heavily sprayed farms have higher rates of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma, as well as cancers of the skin, lip, stomach, brain, and prostate.
2) You add sugar, syrup, flavors, whipped cream, etc., to it
Sugar laden and artificially flavored lattes may have the health benefits of the expresso beans, but these benefits are ruined by the amount of toxic sugar, preservatives and junk that you are drinking with them. Many lattes from your favorite coffee shops can have anywhere between 300 – 700 calories coming predominantly from sugar and unnecessary fat. Lattes in America are more like hot ice cream and should be treated as treat.
3.) It’s paired with a cookie, donut, cake … or cigarette
I’ve written extensively on habits as they are hard to break. And sometimes its all about creating new behaviors. So if there is something that you want to change, think about what your are willing to let go of. Don’t use that afternoon “coffee break” as an excuse to pick up a cookie, or to step outside and have a smoke. If you are going to reap the health benefits of the coffee, then consume it intentionally and cleanly.
So what’s my bottom line? I believe that it’s good to enjoy that cup of Joe. Just make sure it meets the guilt-free standards, makes you feel good, and that it’s paired with a good friend (and sugar-free).