The smell of coffee and that wholesome taste is enough to drive us out of our warm beds on wintery mornings and charge into the day with positivity and focus. Coffee stimulates us, gives us that solid jolt that we so need to cope with our colossal list of daily tasks and challenges. Yet, the beverage’s value to our health has been downplayed and at times, it has even been downright rejected. For long, it has been assumed that coffee causes us harm. Although now, with the help of research we are able to bust some myths and realize the brew’s innate goodness, we are still taking coffee more as a guilty pleasure and less as a consciously healthy choice. So, here I am, a certified health coach and coffee drinker, telling you for a fact that coffee is good!
A few weeks ago, I asked the question – “If you were to have a cup of coffee, when would you take your first cup?”, to which I got an overwhelming response. The question perhaps stirred many of us to analyse our own routines and come back with either a suitable time or (like for some of us) a rather contemplative answer that revealed an utter and complete lack of trust towards drinking coffee. Having gone through your answers, I noted how we were all primarily split into these two groups – a pro-coffee group and otherwise. Even though there are no wrong answers, it is my sincere opinion that moderation and discipline (or lack thereof) make coffee a boon or a bane.
1. Coffee and Health
There is good news in this department. Research has found a correlation between coffee drinking and decreased overall mortality. The possible reasons for this are yet undiscovered and not properly understood. But the claims are that coffee has a high concentration of antioxidants that may be protecting the cells from oxidative inflammation and stress. Coffee has also been known to guard against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and liver diseases, including liver cancer. Coffee contains a wealth of compounds with tissue-protecting effects that help in keeping the liver healthier. It has been known to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s in a few cases. Coffee is considered a mental acuity enhancer. It improves memory and cognitive functions, decreases the risk of cognitive decline leading to dementia, and wards off depression.
Combined with known high-risk behaviours, such as smoking and physical inactivity, coffee drinking takes on another form altogether. High consumption of unfiltered coffee has been associated with elevated cholesterol levels. Caffeine also appears to decrease levels of GABA, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate anxiety, and it amplifies the effects of our two main stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine. Caffeine changes our taste perception, making sweet things seem less sweet and thereby triggering a compensatory behaviour to eat still sweeter stuff. Adding cream and sugar to your coffee may add up tons of unnecessary calories to your diet.
2. When should you drink coffee?
One cup of coffee a day is considered optimum. As a rule of thumb, avoid drinking coffee first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and after 2 PM. Coffee stimulates the secretion of gastric acid and may cause heart burn if had early in the morning. Regular intakes may also lead you to suffer from ailments such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. Coffee is a deceptively fastidious chemical. It takes 12 hours to eliminate and flush out all of the caffeine from your system. Hence, drinking coffee later in the day could lead to insomnia and sleeplessness. Drink decaf whenever possible (and ensure that your decaf is truly decaffeinated!)
3. Coffee and Body Type
The frequency and consistency of coffee intake may depend on your body type. For example, some studies have found that drinking coffee can increase (instead of decreasing) the risk of heart diseases in certain people. For these cases specifically, the genetic mutation is such that it slows the breakdown of caffeine in their bodies. This is why it is vital to understand the body type, and the body’s metabolism and processes, as a part of the health assessment.
For many of us drinking coffee is a highly enjoyable and satisfying practice. We sip on coffee while listening to our favourite music or in a more social setting, while catching up with friends. Coffee stirs conversations, uplifts our moods and nourishes us. In earlier days coffee houses used to be called ‘penny universities’ where in exchange for a penny one could grab a cuppa and engage in an intellectually stimulating dialogue. And today too, the same trend exists even if the terminology may have changed.