Health Benefits (And Drawbacks) Of Coffee
For anyone interested in health, the question of whether coffee is good for you or bad for you is one that often comes up.
Around the world, starting the day with a cup of coffee is a routine most people have grown accustomed to, but for many it goes further than that.
For caffeine addicts, the idea of giving up that morning cup of java may bring feelings of panic.
At the Edison Institute, a school of registered holistic nutrition, we take our coffee very seriously.
The good news is that coffee has several health benefits that will allow you to tout your habit to your friends.
But we can’t pretend that coffee is without its downside, as the caffeine is not of much benefit to your body and can have harmful effects in larger doses.
Read on, if you dare, to learn more about this controversial beverage.
What Is Coffee?
While money may not grow on trees, coffee certainly does!
Did you know that a coffee plant can live for up to 100 years, although the prime growing years are between the ages of 7 and 20?
The average coffee plant produces ten pounds of coffee “cherries” per year.
A coffee bean is the seed of this red or purple cherry, referred to as a ‘bean’ because of the way it is shaped.
Coffee cherries begin as a flower, taking almost a year to mature through green fruit to ripe cherry, at which point their seeds are harvested.
All commercially grown coffee originates in a part of the world known as the coffee belt, which passes through 70 countries that have tropical climates perfect for growing this magical fruit, including South America, North America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
Once harvested, beans are dried and milled in a variety of different ways, exported, and then roasted to produce the coffee beans we find in stores.
Health Benefits Of Coffee
Let’s begin with the good news.
Coffee has many health benefits, which we will examine in more detail.
1. It’s Good For Your Liver
Your liver is extremely sensitive to the intake of fructose or alcohol.
Regular intake of coffee shows clinical evidence of improvement in liver function for those at risk for liver disease.
Those with preexisting liver disease, such as cystic fibrosis or cirrhosis, show a reduction of the enzymes present in liver disease by drinking two or more cups of coffee per day,and lower cases of mortality.
Coffee drinkers also experience drastically reduced cases of liver cancer.
However, the same improvements were not observed in those drinking other forms of caffeinated beverages.
2. It Can Lower Your Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
Cases of type 2 diabetes have increased steadily over the past two decades, now affecting over 300 million people worldwide.
Diabetes develops when the body becomes insulin resistant, manifesting in high blood sugar levels that can be life threatening.
Studies have associated regular consumption of coffee or tea with a reduced risk of developing diabetes.
It’s still unclear how exactly coffee affects diabetes but could be from the presence of magnesium and potassium in the popular beverage, or the way in which caffeine affects glucose tolerance.
3. It’s High In Antioxidants
Here’s another piece of good news for those looking to justify their morning cup of java.
Not only is coffee nutrient rich, but it has also been shown to have higher levels of antioxidants than other caffeinated beverages, outweighing even green tea.
Antioxidants are important aides to your body for fighting the presence of free radicals, which lead to numerous diseases and premature aging.
While drinking coffee will not make you live forever, decades of studies have concluded that coffee is among the most antioxidant rich beverages, which also include red wine and tea.
4. It Helps With Depression
If the idea of giving up your morning cup of coffee sounds depressing, the experts agree with you on that one.
Coffee is the world’s most used nervous system stimulant, but there is also actual evidence of a decrease in symptoms of depression in those whose caffeine intake increases.
However, your depressive symptoms may also be caused by a nutritional deficiency
5. It Has Cognitive Benefits
At this point you are probably convinced that coffee is the elixir of life.
Well, there’s more good news.
Studies suggest that coffee drinkers have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s, a reduced risk of Parkinson’s, and that coffee provides general cognitive performance benefitsby increasing blood flow to the brain, supporting cognitive function, and protecting against memory loss as you age.
So what’s not to like?
Health Drawbacks Of Coffee
So far, it’s pretty clear coffee has a lot of benefits.
But the expression “too much of a good thing” also applies here.
The answer to a healthy relationship with coffee is moderation.
Let’s look now at some of the drawbacks of drinking too much of this delicious and refreshing beverage.
1. It’s Addictive
The high caffeine content in coffee has addictive properties, meaning withdrawal symptoms occur in those who drink it regularly if they don’t get their daily fix.
Regular consumption of coffee allows the body to develop a tolerance for the caffeine, meaning some serious side effects if a dose is missed.
Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headaches, brain fog, tiredness, and irritability.
The presence of these withdrawal symptoms mean that coffee has become a physical addiction.
2. It Can Make You Anxious
Caffeine produces a release of adrenaline, which can worsen symptoms of anxiety, leave you feeling jittery, increasing your heart rate, and even causing panic attacks.
3. It Can Cause Insomnia
Another serious side effect of too much caffeine is the disruption of sleep.
Coffee is a diuretic, which raises blood pressure, often causing insomnia.
Sleep is one of the body’s most essential processes to ensure its overall health and well being.
If you find you have difficulty sleeping, try reducing your coffee intake, even first thing in the morning.
4. It Can Cause Thyroid Issues
The thyroid creates hormones in your body that stimulate metabolism and regulate your body’s production of energy.
If your thyroid stops producing the correct amount of hormones, one of two things can happen.
You might use up your energy stores too quickly, resulting in feelings of tiredness, elevated heart rate, and weight loss.
On the other hand, you might not use enough energy, which results in weight gain, hair loss, and the inability to tolerate cold temperatures.
Coffee has been shown to raise cortisol levels, which throws off the thyroid’s natural hormone production.
As a result, coffee drinkers may experience an initial boost from the caffeine, but then experience extreme tiredness, and the feeling of a need for more coffee.
5. It Can Make Digestive Disorders Worse
Another of your body’s processes that can be disrupted by caffeine is your digestive system.
Coffee is a diuretic, causing more frequent urination.
This leads to the elimination of essential vitamins and minerals and the water your body needs.
It also speeds up your digestion which reduces absorption of nutrients.
As a result, you should never take your morning vitamins with a cup of coffee.
The high acidity in coffee can also aggravate digestive disorders such as ulcers, IBS, or Crohn’s disease.
How To Recognize The Signs Of A Caffeine Overdose
It is possible to overdose on caffeine, and it’s important to learn to recognize the symptoms:
- increased heart rate or palpitations
- sudden mood changes
- decreased physical performance and mental cognition
Know when you’ve had too much of a good thing.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms from drinking too much caffeine it may be time to gradually reduce your intake.
Contact The Edison Institute Of Nutrition Today
If you’re interested in learning more about caffeine and nutrition, or in helping others to do so, then consider a career as a registered holistic nutritionist.
At the Edison Institute of Nutrition, we offer online courses worldwide to those looking for a career in holistic nutrition, whether in a private practice, a clinical setting, or a corporate environment.
Contact us today with your questions, to register for a webinar, or to learn more about the opportunities available to you as a registered holistic nutritionist.