Is coffee good for me?

Is it bad to have two coffees a day? Is it bad to start the day with coffee? Is it bad that I can’t function without coffee?

I thought it was time that I wrote a blog post to press this matter, and hopefully produce a crema of answers to your morning, midday and possibly night capping coffee dilemmas.

A brief coffee summary…

  • Coffee is the second leading worldwide beverage after water

  • Over 2.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day

  • An average cup of espresso coffee contains = 80 – 200mg of caffeine

  • For most people, more than 300mg caffeine per day can cause undesirable symptoms

A drink that people love, socialise around, and maybe depend on?…

Coffees controversies regarding its benefits and risks continue to be debated and the science continues to be updated.

The positives of coffee…

  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices, including smoking, drugs, alcohol, poor diet, physical inactivity, as well as excess body fat, infection and inflammation, => increase our free radical load.

  • Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which increases our risk of disease and poor health.

  • Coffee is rich in beneficial phytochemicals, including caffeine, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid.

  • Phytochemicals help to reduce oxidative stress and therefore play a positive role in balancing our health.

  • A number of studies have revealed that coffee consumption is correlated with a reduced risk of diabetes mellitus, obesity, various cancers, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Caffeine and its broken down pieces help improve cognitive function and increase mental alertness. It directs focus and can keep us more attentive.

  • On a living note, coffee drinking is a pleasurable social experience. Having a coffee and happy chat with a friend will also bring emotional benefits.

The negatives of coffee…

While coffee may be beneficial for some, it may be harmful for others…

  • People react differently to coffee, based on their individual sensitivity level to caffeine, and it is often the direct effects of a high sensitivity level that result in some of coffees undesirable effects. E.g. poor sleep, nervousness, restlessness, anxiety, and palpitations. The good news is that these are easily reduced or avoided by decreasing the amount you drink, or plain and simple, just not drinking any at all!

  • For those who are prone to skin conditions, headaches and/or digestive issues, particular food or chemical sensitivities may exist and coffee could be one of the culprits.

  • For those who experience reflux, coffee may trigger or worsen your symptoms.

  • For those with IBS, coffee may exacerbate your digestive symptoms.

  • Withdrawal symptoms, including headaches and irritability, may occur for those regular coffee drinkers going without it on a normal day...dependence?

Of greater concern…

  • There may be an increased risk of negative health effects on pregnant women consuming large amounts of coffee. If you are pregnant, it is recommended that you consume no more than one cup of espresso style coffee per day.

My judgment…

Like everything, nutrition advise is not a one size fits all. The evidence clearly shows benefits, however the evidence is based on a population level and not an individual level. You need to be the best judge of how (much) you tolerate coffee and how it affects you.

If you experience anxiety, coffee may also exacerbate this.

If you drink more than two cups of strong coffee a day and depend on it to function, trial weaning back to two or less, ensure you get enough sleep, and have a look at your food choices.

If you add excess sugar, sweetener, honey, agave etc, you’re coffee probably isn’t that good for you.

If you are over-tired, hung over, or burning your candle at both ends, limit your coffee intake, and work on your sleep, stress, exercise and healthy eating.

I follow a simple "two before 2" rule. No more than two cups of strong coffee before 2pm. This gives you a good 8 hours for the caffeine to be metabolized in the body before going to bed (if 10pm is your bed time). I also try to have a day here and there off the coffee.

Coffee is delicious, social and can be healthy for us, if we tolerate it well. Make an individual decision, and like anything don’t over do it.