The Coffee Debate: Is It Actually Good for You? Goodness Investigates

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nathan dumlao coffee
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The next time you’re sipping on your Starbucks iced latte or craving a hot, comforting mocha, consider this: coffee is delicious and boasts some serious benefits, but not all is as it seems beneath the surface. Goodness tapped Nutritionist and Body Management Consultant Jenna Lincoln to find out what coffee is really doing to us. Digging up the good, the bad, and the sometimes scary truth, she reveals everything you need to know about your favorite caffeine kick.

Some people swear they can’t start the day without one. Many svelte models seem to live purely off them, as do stressed-out, overworked executives with large bellies. So what’s going on? Is coffee good for us? Does it help with fat loss? Or is it making us fat?!

Coffee is a subject that I find myself discussing with my clients a lot because it’s very confusing when it comes to health and weight. It’s also one that is of great interest to me as I’m a coffee lover who also sees great benefits in avoiding it! It could take me days to talk about, but to keep it simple, I want to lay down some of the facts from various studies to help you coffee drinkers make a more informed choice.

Coffee health benefits
Photo: Courtesy of @BrewCafeUAE

The Good

Health hit: There are several studies that link consuming coffee regularly with life longevity and a lowered risk of heart attack, heart disease, and a variety of cancers due to its high antioxidant content.

Weight-loss boost: One of the best things we hear and hold on to dearly as we sip at our creamy cappuccinos is that coffee can boost fat burning! It does this by lowering triglyceride levels, which improves glucose tolerance and increases the metabolic rate so you burn more calories. It also helps the body burn fat rather than glucose for energy as it controls blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity.

Fitness fuel: And, to top it all off, caffeine increases power and strength performance, so a pre-workout coffee can certainly help your performance in the gym and improve your results. As well as speeding up recovery and reducing muscle soreness (according to researchers who suggest that caffeine may improve muscle glycogen resynthesis post-workout), it also mobilizes fatty acids so they can be burned for fuel during exercise.

The Bad

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, before you go ahead and order your next mug of choco-mocha-whatever, it’s time to cross over to the darker side, which reveals some slightly more frightening information regarding inflammation, hormonal imbalance, and compromised nutrition that leads to overworked, stressed-out, fatigued, depressed, and even toxic bodies.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, Director of the UltraWellness Center in the USA, the caffeine in coffee increases catecholamine, a.k.a. your stress hormones. This stress response elicits cortisol and increases insulin. In turn, insulin increases inflammation, which makes you feel lousy. And it’s been linked to fat storage around the midriff – conflicting information, I know!

“Unfiltered coffee has the highest amount of beneficial antioxidants, yet also leaks the most diterpenes into your system. These have been linked to higher levels of triglycerides, LDL, and VLDL levels. The helpful chlorogenic acids that may delay glucose absorption in the intestine have also been shown to increase homocysteine levels – an indicator for increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which tends to be elevated in diabesity,” says Hyman.

He also goes on to explain, “The acidity of coffee is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion, heartburn, GERD, and dysbiosis (imbalances in your gut flora). Addiction is often an issue with coffee drinkers and makes it really difficult to rely on the body’s natural source of energy.” You can read his full article here.

coffee cup stomping grounds dubai cafe
Photo: Courtesy of @StompingGroundsDXB

The Ugly Truth

Even the experts cannot agree, but let’s look at what we do know for sure. Coffee is loved by billions and, after crude oil, it’s the most sought-after commodity across the globe. It’s worth over $100 billion worldwide!

Now, as we all know, to make things cheap in the consumer world, more needs to be produced in shorter time periods. Additionally, farmers cannot risk a bad crop in order to meet demands. For this reason, coffee is one of the most chemically treated crops in the world. According to The CS Monitor, up to 250 pounds of chemical fertilizers are sprayed per acre. When you sip your conventional coffee, you are ingesting the pesticide residues that can contribute to many health problems, including cancer and miscarriage.

How many of us actually drink our coffee black, organic, freshly pressed, and without the addition of milk and sugar? The sugar and milk alone cause enough health problems and could be an explanation for a lot of the bad press related to coffee. Unless your coffee is organic, you’re definitely ingesting a lot of rubbish for your body to deal with.

The Verdict

I love coffee, especially with almond milk, but the reality is that when I cut it out (even black organic coffee) I personally look and feel a lot better. I have more natural energy and my skin glows. To me, this shows that my insides are happier without it.

If you drink coffee and are full of energy, sleep well, have good skin, and feel great, chances are your body is dealing with it just fine. However, if you are “running off” coffee and can’t start your day without it, feel burnt out, or lack luster in your appearance, try cutting it out and seeing how you feel after the initial detox phase.

You will feel awful when making the transition, but as I tell my clients, “The worse the withdrawal symptoms, the more you need to get off coffee!” You can help the detox phase by drinking more water, drinking some organic green tea, exercising every day, and using a sauna to help speed the process along by sweating out the toxins.

If you choose to keep coffee in your life, I recommend buying only organic beans and ideally grinding them yourself for the best flavor. Do not add conventional dairy or sugar, but try almond milk or coconut cream if you don’t like it black. Think quality over quantity. After all, one man’s poison is another man’s cure.

Alternatively, swap your morning coffee for one of these healthy herbal teas.