Drinking coffee is a long withstanding ritual for many, with its origins tracing back to Ethiopia and Arabia. The harmful and beneficial health effects of coffee have been subject to a history of debate, with evidence existing on both sides of the argument.
First, let’s dive into coffee’s well known benefits.
Coffee contains a natural blend of antioxidants, bioflavonoids, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. These can all help to combat the negative effects that caffeine has on the body. Studies have found that consuming coffee can lower the rate of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, headaches/migraines, and depression.
With that being said, these benefits are dependent on the quality, and the amount of coffee you are drinking. The ways in which coffee is consumed, along with an individual’s overall health, diet, and lifestyle affect the impact that it has on the body. Therefore, the benefits vary from person to person.
Now, let’s explore the harmful effects.
Depending on an individual’s unique physiology, coffee may cause or worsen digestive issues, increase anxiety, create hormonal imbalances, heartburn, and contribute to sleep problems. Since caffeine spikes cortisol levels, it shifts the body into parasympathetic mode, or “fight or flight” which may heighten an individual's stress levels. Depending on how coffee is taken (i.e. sugar, artificial sweeteners, etc.), these harmful effects may be amplified.
An individual’s body size and liver function affects how well caffeine can be metabolized. Some bodies cannot effectively detox caffeine, which may cause a strain on the adrenals, liver, or digestive system. Considering caffeine can take many people hours to metabolize, it can lead to sleep disturbances such as restlenesses or insomnia.
If you’re an avid coffee drinker, choose organic beans that are third party tested for mycotoxin and aflatoxin to reduce your exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and mold.
Finally, let’s explore alternatives to coffee. Fortunately, there are many nutritionally rich alternatives to experiment with if you are wanting to take a break.
Caffeine Free Options
Chicory coffee is a close substitute to coffee in terms of taste and smoothness. It contains inulin which is beneficial for gut health and can aid digestion. Dandy Blend is a popular brand and contains root extracts from chicory, dandelion, barley, and rye. Other caffeine free choices include herbal teas such as rooibos or chai.
If your body is able to tolerate some level of caffeine, then matcha, green tea, and chaga tea are excellent options.
Matcha has an earthy taste and it is very grounding. It is the entire green tea leaf in powder form and it contains 10x more antioxidants than green tea. Rather than providing an instant spike in energy, the L-theanine content creates a slow and steady stream of energy throughout the day, without the jitters. L-theanine boosts brain function and alertness, while decreasing stress and anxiety. Matcha contains chlorophyll and ECGC, which is recognized for its anti-cancer properties.
Chaga mushrooms are an earthy alternative that contain a host of health benefits, including a rich dose of immune supporting nutrients.
We believe coffee should be enjoyed rather than using it as a crutch for low energy. If you’re a daily coffee drinker, try to create a meaningful ritual around it, treating it as an opportunity to slow down. If you do not need to rely on coffee to perform, then there is probably no reason to discontinue consumption. However, if you do experience any of the negative side effects discussed, we recommend swapping out coffee for an alternative.
Cultivate a lifestyle that does not need caffeine to feel vibrant. Choose highly nutritious foods, stay hydrated, move your body, sleep well, and practice de-stressing activities.