Coffee: friend or foe?

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world with more than 400 billion cups consumed each year. On average, Australians drink 9.5 cups of coffee every week.

Whether you love an extra hot double-shot soy latte or an instant brew, the chances are coffee is part of your daily routine. More than a quarter of Australians say they can’t survive the day without coffee, and our love affair is starting younger and younger.

But is the humble cup of joe a friend or a foe when it comes to your health?

Friend:

The most obvious benefit and the reason most people drink coffee — increased energy levels! This can improve concentration and learning. Beyond this, many studies have shown that coffee may have many health benefits, including reduced risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease including heart attack, heart failure and stroke

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • type 2 diabetes

  • liver disease

  • uterine and liver cancer

  • depression

  • cirrhosis

  • gout

Coffee also contains antioxidants and has been shown to be beneficial for weight loss, as it can decrease your appetite and boost your metabolic rate by 3 to 11%.

Foe:

Equally, some studies have found risks related to high consumption of coffee. Drawbacks include:

  • Coffee is highly acidic and too much can lead to acid stress

  • Caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and can lead to adrenal fatigue over time if overused

  • Coffee can also aggravate reflux, hot flushes and migraines

  • Coffee can lead to sleep disturbance

  • Coffee increases blood pressure

  • Coffee can irritate the gall bladder

  • Many coffee beans are heavily contaminated with pesticides

The verdict:

In my opinion, coffee is fine for your health so long as you keep your habit in check.

I recommend no more than 1 to 2 cups of coffee per day. It’s also important to:

  • enjoy organic freshly ground coffee — beans that are pre-ground are already rancid

  • drink your coffee before midday so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep

  • keep it black — adding milk can interfere with your body’s absorption of beneficial chlorogenic acids, while adding sugar can increase your risk of insulin resistance.

  • avoid dairy — if you want to add a dash of milk, I recommend dairy-free alternatives like almond milk or fermented soy milk.

Who shouldn’t drink coffee?

Importantly, I don’t recommend coffee if you are pregnant, trying to fall pregnant or breastfeeding.

How young is too young?

New research shows that about 15% of Australian teenagers are regularly drinking coffee.

While coffee isn’t the only caffeinated drink on the market (energy drinks anyone?), it’s important to understand the effects of coffee on kids.

Caffeine is a stimulant which increases alertness by binding to the adenosine receptors in your brain, preventing the chemical from making you feel tired. Sleep is incredibly important for a child’s development — kids aged 5 to 12 need at least 11 hours of sleep per day, and teenagers need 9 to 10. Coffee can adversely impact their ability to get enough rest which can, in turn, slow down the maturing process of their brains.

Caffeine also has more than twice the impact on children than it does on adults, which means that teenagers are more likely to experience symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and nervousness.

Drinking too much coffee can also impact a teenager’s nutrition, as it can inhibit hunger.

While there are no Australian guidelines for caffeine consumption in children, the United States National Institute of Health states caffeine should be completely restricted in a child’s diet as there is no nutritional requirement for it.

In my opinion, caffeine should be avoided in teenage years to ensure your child gets enough sleep and nutrition for proper development.

To summarise…

You can enjoy your cup of joe guilt-free, so long as you keep your habit in check. Remember:

  • No more than 1 to 2 cups of coffee per day

  • Keep it fresh

  • Drink it early

  • Stick to black

Would you like free advice?

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Disclaimer – This website is designed to inform clients about ways to possibly improve their health. The opinions of the Mullen Natural Health Centre are our opinion only. Please consult your own healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for you.