Who doesn’t like a good cup of coffee? For many of us coffee is the saviour, the liquid Prozac, the energy dispenser. The delicious smell of coffee alone will coax us out of bed in the morning. If you are a coffee lover, you are not alone. Global consumption of coffee has been estimated to be 120,000 tonnes per year. I have been a tea drinker all my life and only started to appreciate coffee in my late 30’s, mostly due to the fact that when going out I could never find a place that would make a cup of tea the way I like it. That’s how I discovered coffee! And it turns out coffee can be good for you !
According to a Harvard study:
- coffee does not increase high blood pressure in the long term (as previously thought).
- it may have some anti cancer properties (researchers have found that coffee drinkers were 50% less likely to get liver cancer than non drinkers).
- coffee seems to protect men ( but not women ) from Parkinson’s disease ( it may be that estrogen and caffeine need the same enzymes to be metabolised, and estrogen captures those enzymes).
However, coffee also is the world’s most popular psycho-active drug. It’s highly addictive and can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine (white, bitter crystalline xanthine alkaloid) is a stimulant compound found in coffee, tea, cocoa and kola nuts where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralizes and sometimes kills certain insects feeding on the plant. It can act on our nervous system as it acts on the insects’. In our case it won’t kills us but can cause anxiety and nervousness. It stimulates the adrenal glands to release two stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. Our adrenal glands are the powerhouse of hormone production. They release adrenalin, noradrenalin, dopamine, steroid hormones, cortisol, cortisone, and some estrogen and progesterone. Under normal circumstances adrenalin and cortisol are released due to physical or emotional stress. Or due to caffeine action! That keeps the body of a heavy coffee drinker in a constant state of emergency and with time reduces the adrenals’ ability to react to stressful situations. Therefore, it lowers your abilty to handle stress and leads to adrenal exhaustion. For women going through menopause it is even more important to avoid caffeine as they are at higher risk for bone density loss. As the bodys’ hormones fluctuate during that time, the adrenal glands release DHEA which converts into oestrogen and progesterone. If a woman’s adrenal glands are exhausted she is more likely to experience the unpleasant symptoms of menopause including mood swings, hot flushes and night sweats.
Caffeine also interferes with absorbtion of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. It has also diuretic properties, which means it will flush water out of the body together with lots of minerals. In addition, high acidity of coffee increases the need for calcium to buffer the acid. Drinking lots of coffee not only blocks the absorption of calcium, it also drains calcium from your body. In times of emergency, when there is not enough calcium delivered through your diet your body will leak it from the bones increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Some research also shows that coffee may reduce fertility by damaging sperm.
Unfortunately pregnant ladies should abstain from coffee altogether. Caffeine goes through placenta and reaches the foetus. The foetus metabolises the caffeine very slowly and is highly sensitive to it. Additionally coffee seems to affect the time the baby spends resting. Ironically coffee can be administered to pre-term babies to help them breathe.
If you value good night sleep then drinking coffee in the late afternoon or later is not a good idea. Caffeine significantly lengthens the time it takes to fall asleep. It also seems to disturb the natural body clock.
As with all things, moderation is the go! It is perfectly fine to enjoy a cup of coffee a day. However it is important to say NO to added flavours (syrups), sugar or artificial sweeteners! Just stick to milk (preferably organic) or your favourite non dairy milk like rice or almond milk ( I am not a huge fan of soy… Why? That’s a subject for a whole future post. )
( Photo via Fooducate.com)