Monday, October 25, 2010
Coffee - The Good, The Bad, The Delicious
I love a good cup of coffee. Love the smell, love the taste, love the feeling of the warm mug in my hands. If I were to make a list of my top go-to mood boosters, coffee would forever be near the top of the list. There have admittedly been times in my adult life when I was drinking it excessively, and times when I've stopped drinking it all together. These days I have a cup or two (organic, of course :)) on most mornings, and every now and then a cup in the afternoon as well.
Some people will advise that you should avoid coffee outright - and for certain individuals that is indeed the best course of action - but for most of us, coffee is a perfectly healthy addition to our diet when used in moderation, provided you don't load it up with sugar and/or artificial creamers (more on that later). Its benefits, beyond its taste, are numerous.
Moderate coffee consumption (from 2 to 4 6-oz cups, depending on your source) can:
1. increase alertness and elevate moods
2. improve short-term memory, as well as increase work capacity and the ability to perform intellectual tasks more easily
3. improve physical endurance
4. reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's Disease, Alzeimer's, type 2 diabetes, and dementia
5. deliver heart-healthy antioxidants
6. reduce your risk of certain cancers
7. dilate your bronchial tubes, making it useful for asthma
8. naturally relieve pain, particularly headaches
9. increase your metabolism
10. reduce your risk of gallstones
That's the good news. Unfortunately, some of the very attributes that make it *good* for you can also have the opposite effect. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means that in addition to boosting moods, alertness, and performance, it may also raise blood pressure and respiration rate, and can cause heart palpitations in some people when consumed in excess. It can cause a jittery and anxious feeling. It increases the release of certain hormones. It can contribute to insomnia. And even in moderation it can be habit-forming, causing withdrawal symptoms such as headaches when you stop your use.
Everyone's body is different. As with any food or drug, if your body is telling you it doesn't like it, don't use it!
Avoid it completely if you have hormone imbalances, problems with colitis or ulcers, symptoms of Candida, anxiety or insomnia, or if you are taking contraindicated medications (ask your doctor)
A couple of final caveats:
~ Conventionally grown coffee beans are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, so it is always worth the time and money to find a good organic brand, especially if you drink it frequently.
~ Always use pure, filtered water.
~ Loading it up with cream and sugar not only adds unnecessary calories, but also adds its own health concerns. Non-dairy "creamers" such as Coffee Mate are nothing more than hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, and chemicals. Avoid those completely. The same goes for artificial sweeteners (Aspartame, Splenda, etc) Please don't use them... in coffee, or anything else. If you really need it creamy, use real milk or half and half, and make it organic. And if you have to have it sweet, a small amount of real sugar - while not the healthiest choice - is always a better option than its artificial counterparts. You can also sweeten with stevia, and use non-dairy milks such as almond milk.
If you're conscientious about it, make good decisions and use moderation, then by all means: drink up and enjoy your morning cup (or two) of java... guilt-free.