When I was going through school and studying holistic nutrition, in all of the pathologies, disorders and etiologies that we studied, there was a common thread amongst the suggested recommendations for recovery: stop drinking coffee.
Not just cut back, or reduce, but cut out coffee. It was in the same group as “cut out refined sugar, processed and packaged foods, drink more water and eat a whole foods based diet.” And while I could certainly get behind all of those recommendations, the coffee one I always felt bring up a little bit of hesitation or a slight resistance when I thought about it.
At first, in the early days of my studies, I fell into the “oh yeah, coffee is bad,” and “I’m going to cut that right out of my life” camp. Done, cold turkey, off the coffee. If I was supposed to be telling my clients to do this, shouldn’t I do this too? And it was easy for me. I love coffee for a quality product, it’s bold, complex flavor, the nuances of the beans and for trying different origins and roasts, but other than that, it’s not something I need – the energy boost and pick me up are just a nice bonus.
But with time, I started to notice how intricately woven coffee is as part of a culture and lifestyle. It’s the Sunday morning spent with loved ones lingering over a cup of coffee. It’s the afternoon spent at home visiting your parents, drinking coffee and tea and eating mom’s freshly baked cookies. It’s the post long run bit of bliss after slogging out way too many kilometers in weather that leaves most people thinking only of curling up in their bed for a little longer. It’s that, “okay, I can handle this, let’s get sh$t done,” hair in a bun kind of confidence boost.
And it’s also not without the science. The science of coffee is complex and well researched. You would be forgiven for being a little confused, given that the study today says that you should drink coffee and it’s good for you, and the study that came out last week says the opposite. Here’s why there’s support for both sides of the coffee debate:
- Studies show that regular coffee drinkers live longer, have a reduced risk of getting diabetes and cancer, and are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, as it has a positive impact on cognitive function
- As runners, it is a natural way to get things moving pre-run, and evidence abounds for its safety and effectiveness as a pre-race stimulant.
- It actually contains nutrients: B vitamins, Magnesium, Potassium and manganese. The common thread: these all play some role in influencing our energy levels.
- Reduces your risk of death from Liver cirrhosis
- As a natural stimulant, caffeine can cause anxiety, jitteriness, disrupt sleep, and in some individuals, even cause heart palpitations or panic attacks. As such, it is inadvisable when it comes to issues with stress and the adrenal gland to consume caffeine.
- Coffee is acidic. This can perpetuate issues with dysbiosis, acid reflux or unhealthy production of gut enzymes.
The take away? You do you. If it has negative effects on you, makes you feel off, you don’t like it, or just don’t want it, then just don’t drink it. If it’s part of your routine, something that gives you a little bit of pleasure and bliss, and that you look forward to every day, pour yourself a cup.
I don’t tell my clients they need to stop drinking coffee. There are certain situations (like adrenal fatigue, or dysbiosis), where it is strongly discouraged as it can have negative effects, or further perpetuate symptoms, but as a one size fits all to every issue that I see presented, it’s not the answer. We need to stop also painting this picture that coffee is bad and needs to be cut out of our diet. You shouldn’t have 4 cups of it, or load it with sugar, but it’s like anything: moderation is the only way.
I once read “That glass of wine, slice of cake, or dinner out that you are denying yourself because it’s not healthy, doesn’t fit your macros or is not on your weight loss schedule is your life. You are denying yourself the moments of pure happiness, love and joy that you might never get back again. All for the sake of a couple hundred calories.” I think the same could be said for coffee: that one mug of coffee is just a little bit of bliss. And I’m not about to tell you to take that away.
When you appreciate coffee for the quality, crafted product that it is, buying whole beans and valuing them as a farmed product, you can start to see it as an art, just like you see in the way people brew beer or make wine. And just like dark chocolate, if you are consuming a high quality version, in moderation, then please, drink on!