I can’t believe I’ve taken so long to write this post.
If this is your first time on Content With Coffee, you can probably tell by the giant header above: this is not a blog about coffee.
It’s a blog about health and wellness with a little tribute to coffee because it’s part of my everyday self-care routine. Health and wellness means appreciating the little things in life that make us happy. Coffee does that for me, as well as millions of other people all around the world every day.
Please note: this post may contain affiliate links. For details please see my Disclosure page. Thank you!
The Benefits of Coffee
I’m writing this post just after finishing my morning cup. It’s left me feeling awake, focused, comforted, and happy.
These four things are consistently agreed upon benefits of coffee: improved alertness, cognition, comfort, and mood.
These are the benefits most of us feel every day. It’s why I go for my Keurig first thing in the morning. And why coffee shops will never go out of business.
The Long-Term Benefits of Coffee
Remember when researchers said coffee could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)? Well that’s been disproved! Turns out, those researchers didn’t take into account that many of their study subjects had some other major risk factors, i.e. smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.
As a former cardiac rehab nurse, I can confidently say that smoking and being sedentary are hands down two of the greatest ways to jump on the fast-track to a heart attack.
But I digress. More recent studies have revealed the opposite to be true about our beloved coffee. Apparently it can help reduce the risk of CVD, as well as protect against a load of other diseases and cancers. Studies have found coffee linked to a decreased risk of:
- Diabetes type II
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Liver disease
- Liver, breast, skin, colorectal, and prostate cancers
Some other fun benefits include bettering insulin sensitivity and decreasing chronic inflammation. Along with improving mood, coffee has also been linked to decreasing depression and risk of suicide.
That’s a pretty impressive list for such a common beverage.
Whether due to its amount of antioxidants or the happiness it creates from the inside-out, both regular and decaf coffee drinkers alike have been shown to live longer.
And to top it all off, it just tastes so darn good.
The Disadvantages of Coffee
“Okay, Cedar, back up a little. This is all sounding a little too good to be true. I know I’ve heard there are some cons to coffee. Give ’em to me straight.”
Nothing, not even my dear sweet coffee, is perfect. There definitely are a few important disadvantages to know about:
For one, coffee can cause insomnia. This of course is especially true if consumed late in the day.
Slow caffeine metabolism
If you have insomnia with even just a little bit of coffee, along with jitters and palpitations, you may have a surprisingly common genetic predisposition for slow caffeine metabolism. I can easily think of a few people I’ve known for whom this must have been the case.
Gah, out of the strange food things to inherit, I’m not sure what’s worse. Slow caffeine metabolism or being allergic to chocolate…?
It’s the slow caffeine metabolism. Hands down that one. #coffeeislife
People can also have those symptoms by overdoing the coffee consumption. Too much of anything is bad.
Included in fluid intake
For a while many thought that coffee was dehydrating, but that theory has been dispelled. You don’t lose any more fluid from coffee than you take in from it. So although it is a diuretic, it doesn’t dehydrate you. No disadvantage there unless you have heart failure, in which case you must absolutely include coffee in your daily fluid intake.
Blood pressure and heart rate
In other heart related things, coffee can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. If you’ve any heart diagnoses, even in the past, it’s advised to limit your caffeine intake to no more than 2 cups per day to decrease these negative effects.
I was also really surprised to recently learn that having unfiltered coffee can raise cholesterol levels, particularly your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Unfiltered coffee includes espresso drinks and coffee made from a French Press.
Unfortunately, coffee’s tannins can be to blame for inhibiting the absorption of zinc and and iron. Coffee can also increase the excretion of calcium.
Some people are very sensitive to caffeine and it’s effects. This may lead to GI upset, preventing some from becoming regular coffee drinkers.
Most of the benefits above are addressing black coffee with nothing in it. But many of us put at least some cream or sugar in our coffee to make it taste better. And oftentimes it’s A LOT of cream and sugar, especially if you buy a flavored latte, macchiato, or frappuccino from a coffee shop on the reg. This habit provides you with tons more sugar and fat than you need.
Anyone who’s ever had to quit drinking coffee cold turkey knows the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. About a year ago I stopped drinking coffee for a month to see if it was the cause of my GI problems. Alas, it was not.
But quitting it did make me feel like I was coming down with the flu for several days. And prior to that I had only drunk one cup of coffee a day.
Caffeine withdrawal is no joke: awful headaches, brain fog, exhaustion…and it takes just one cup of coffee a day to experience it.
The Parameters and Fixes
At first glance, it may look like there are more disadvantages to drinking coffee than perks. Fortunately, a lot of the disadvantages have solutions!
First of all, here are some guidelines for healthy coffee intake:
- Limit coffee to 2-3 cups per day (a cup here means 8oz/250mL)
- Consume less than 400mg caffeine per day (brewed regular coffee has about 100-150mg)
- For those with heart conditions (both past or present): no more than 2 cups per day
And here are some solutions to the listed disadvantages:
- Avoid coffee in evening or close to bedtime
- For those with heart failure, include in daily liquid intake
- Avoid coffee or decrease intake if you have signs of slow coffee metabolism
- Do not ingest coffee and zinc/iron supplements within the same hour
- Make sure you’re getting enough calcium through foods/supplements
- Taper off slowly if you need to stop drinking coffee
- Use low fat milk instead of cream
- Avoid adding sugar
- Use correct serving sizes of flavored creamers/use sugarless
- Have sugary coffee drinks only on special occasions, not as a daily drink
- Choose filtered coffee, especially if you have high cholesterol, such as using an Aeropress instead of a French press
The Takeaway: Is coffee good for you?
I just threw a lot of information at you. The takeaway – is coffee good for you?
The health benefits (with both regular and decaf coffee) seem to outweigh the disadvantages. So most people can enjoy their couple of cups per day without worry! Scale back if you need to based on the information above, but otherwise enjoy coffee and all its perks!
Here’s a healthy frappe recipe by the American Heart Association if you’re looking for a sweet coffee treat!
Are you a big coffee drinker like me? How do you take your coffee? Let me know below!