The highest consumed legal stimulant in the world, coffee, second only to petroleum, is the world’s second most valuable legally traded commodity. It has been estimated that the world consumes on average 2.25 billion cups of it per day! 1
With its discovery in Ethiopia dating back to 10th / 11th century, depending upon what source you believe, the benefits of coffee have been enjoyed by those that roam the earth for hundreds of years. In 2013, New Zealand ranked 47th on the world’s top 50 coffee consuming countries in the world (1.3kg per capita), with Finland topping the charts with 9.6kg per capita2.
Although the health benefits of this fruit – yes the coffee bean starts out as a red hanging fruit, are widely researched and acknowledged now, with known health benefits in conditions such as;
- Type II diabetes, and
there has been many a time in history when this wonder bean has rubbed people the wrong way. In the 16th century, when introduced into Europe, clergymen labelled it ‘satanic’, and pushed for it to be banned, only for the Pope himself to get involved and stand up for his cup of morning coffee4.
But of course, there can be too much of a good thing. Coffee at the ‘wrong time’ can work against us, doing more harm than good. Not only does it speed up the cells of the body (raising your metabolism), but it also speeds up the production of metabolic waste. If the detoxification pathways in your body i.e. the liver, colon, kidneys, are already running on overdrive, as is so commonly seen in many people today in their current lifestyles, the body will down regulate the thyroid in order to slow things back down so the body can keep up. This, ultimately leading to symptoms such as; lethargy, altered moods, and weight gain – not the coffee buzz you were after I bet!
Coffee: The Do’s and Don’ts
My goal of writing this is not to regurgitate the research which exists, but rather to highlight the DO’s and DON’Ts for your morning cup of Joe.
- Who needs to be careful – Females are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, therefore more care is needed when choosing what to have, and when to have it.
- What it’s doing – Caffeine speeds up the HPA axis in the body, causing excess cortisol to be released from your adrenal glands.
- When to have it – Avoid drinking coffee during natural peak times of cortisol release. As Lazette Borelli states “healthy people experience a 50% increase in levels during the first 20-30 minutes after waking in the morning”, thus avoid drinking coffee as soon as the feet hit the floor in the morning. Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout your day relative to your circadian rhythms – the rise and fall of the sun and moon. Although other factors may cause artificial fluctuations i.e. stressful environments, most people follow a similar pattern, with a natural peak between the hours of 8-9am and again between 12 and 1pm. This means avoiding consumption during these times also. Fail to do so will only build a tolerance to the effects of the caffeine, thus requiring more to give you the same desired outcome.5
- The benefits of coffee are best experienced when coffee is consumed between the hours of 9:30 and 11:30am5
- When not to have it – 50% of the effects of caffeine still exist after 6 hours in the body. Unless you want to affect the optimal function your body’s natural repair cycle during sleep, avoid drinking coffee after 2pm at the very latest!6
- If you are overly stressed, and find your sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ system overly stimulated, caffeine will only heighten this state and push you further into a sympathetic state. You’re throwing wood on a fire you don’t want to burn!
- How much is too much?
- Up to 400mg per day (equivalent to 4 cups of coffee) is said to be safe. However if you are eating right, sleeping well, moving correctly, and breathing optimally, 1 -2 cups is plenty to get the health benefits of coffee.
- Research has shown that women who consume over 500 milligrams of caffeine daily (equivalent to 4-5 cups) increased their estrogen levels by up to 70%. Due to the consumption of high levels of sprays – herbicides and pesticides through commercially farmed foods, estrogen dominance is something that is rampant in today’s culture.
- With, or without milk? – Obviously those that have an intolerance to dairy, will always choose without, however if you want the FULL health benefits that coffee provides, so too should you! Studies have found that milk inhibits the absorption of the powerful antioxidants available from caffeiene, in particular – chlorogenic acids (CGAs).9
- Aim for organic – as Peter Osbourne, in his book ‘No Grain, No Pain’ points out “Coffee is one of several foods that cause what’s called gluten cross-reactivity. Basically, your body perceives them as mimicking gluten. Organic, whole-bean coffees do not produce this problem.” 10
“Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.” – Thomas Jefferson
- No Grain, No Pain by Peter Osbourne