‚ÄúI don‚Äôt have a problem with caffeine ‚ÄĒ I have a problem without it!‚ÄĚ
Though this particular quote‚Äôs author is unknown, similar quotes have undeniably been uttered (or rather, nervously/excitedly screamed) by coffee fanatics worldwide. Caffeine is without a doubt the most used stimulant in the world, and overdependence on it in the form of coffee is often joked about between desperate college students, starving artists, exhausted parents, and countless employees of companies worldwide.
Whether coffee has positive or negative health effects is a commonly debated topic with substantial support on both ends. Some researchers have demonstrated that coffee drinkers live shorter lives, while some negate with strong evidence that coffee drinkers (when separated from accompanying variables such as smoking and drinking) actually live longer lives than non-coffee drinkers.[i] Which side to believe may be affected by ones‚Äô personal relationship with the delightfully warming beverage, but here are some pros and cons to consider:
Pros of Drinking Coffee:
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Stimulating ‚Äď Coffee increases alertness and decreases fatigue
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† High long-term consumption coffee is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease¬†and diabetes[ii]
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Evidence of reduced risks of Parkinson‚Äôs disease and type 2 diabetes [iii]
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Coffee contains beneficial antioxidants and unique compounds
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Evidence of reduced risk of depression, dementia¬†and Alzheimer’s Disease¬†[iv]
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Useful external remedy! Wet coffee grounds speed the healing of bruises and insect stings[v]
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Dangerous chemicals are often used in traditional production
- Poisonous herbicide and pesticide sprays used in cultivation
- Petroleum-based solvents used in decaffeination [vi]
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Oils go rancid once coffee is ground [vii]
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Coffee contains chemicals that raise blood levels of artery-damaging LDL cholesterol
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Acid in coffee deteriorates the villi of the small intestine, which reduces villi‚Äôs ability to make nutrients such as calcium available for the body
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Coffee is a diuretic (increases one’s rate of urination)
Quick Fixes/ Alternatives:
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Claim: Rancid Oils resulting from ground coffee
- Buy whole beans, and grind when you’re ready to brew the coffee
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Claim: Coffee contains LDL cholesterol
- This depends on how it is brewed. The chemicals responsible for this, cafestol and kahweol, are eliminated when coffee is filtered, such as through a conventional filter, Keurig coffee, or single-serving pods. However, they remain in coffee produced from French press, boiled coffee, and espresso. [viii]
-¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Claim: Coffee is inherently acidic
- You can now purchase acid-free coffee at supermarkets
- Cold brew coffee methods remove harmful acids (see instructions below)
- Use DIY acid-free recipes! (We’ve included one example below)
Acid-free Coffee Extract from Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
‚Äú‚ÄĘ Add one pound of freshly ground, organic coffee to eight cups water in a glass bowl.
‚ÄĘ Place the mixture in a cool dark corner and allow to soak approximately sixteen hours.
‚ÄĘ Filter off the liquid extract through a coffee or fabric filter into a glass jar that can be tightly closed.
‚ÄĘ The extract is concentrated, and 1‚Äď2 tablespoons added to eight ounces of hot water yields one cup of de-acidified coffee.
‚ÄĘ Store the extract in the sealed jar at refrigerator temperatures; it will keep for
two weeks. If de-acidified coffee is taken in daily one-cup doses, there will
usually be no problems in the robust and healthy individual‚ÄĚ[ix]
Cold Brew Technology
Equal Exchange [x] recommends the ‚ÄúToddy Cold Brew.‚ÄĚ While a con may be that you have to wait 12-24 hours for your coffee to brew, the positive effects of smoothness and less perceived acidity in the coffee make it an interesting option worth giving a shot. Equal Exchange offers their fair trade Organic Cold Brew along with the Toddy on their website.
Coff-Tea ‚Äď A Coffee alternative with similar effects!
‚ÄúThis is a tea mix that has the stimulating effect of coffee
but gives you a gentle, energizing lift and no downer.
2 cups (500 mL) hot water
1 tablespoon green tea leaves
1 tablespoon yerba mat√© tea leaves
1 tablespoon coca tea leaves
1 tablespoon goji berries
Blend all the above ingredients and then sieve the brew.
1 tablespoon cacao powder
1 inch (2 cm) chunk cacao butter
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
Add honey to taste
Add the above ingredients to the tea base and blend again.‚ÄĚ [xi]
The Coffee Debate ‚Äď Affects More than Just Yourself
A final consideration in the coffee debate is the social, economic, and moral effect of the coffee trade. This involves coffee‚Äôs production on large plantations in Latin America and other locations worldwide, where profits are often not distributed fairly and equally among the workers, but remain in the hands of a few land owners and corporation leaders. Therefore, looking into fair trade options is a decision that can positively affect these workers. However, fair trade is not always a black and white solution ‚Äď we will explore details of fair trade in the next coffee series blog.
[ii] Smith, A. (2002). “Effects of caffeine on human behavior”. Food and Chemical Toxicology 40: 1243‚Äď1255. DOI:10.1016/S0278-6915(02)00096-0. PMID¬†12204388. http://intraspec.ca/Effects-of-caffeine-on-human-health.pdf.
[iii] Smith, A. (2002). “Effects of caffeine on human behavior”. Food and Chemical Toxicology 40: 1243‚Äď1255. DOI:10.1016/S0278-6915(02)00096-0. PMID¬†12204388. http://intraspec.ca/Effects-of-caffeine-on-human-health.pdf.
[v] Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2002. Print.
[vi] Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2002. Print.
[vii] Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2002. Print.
[ix] Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Pp.208. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2002. Print.
[xi] Daniel, Peter, Beryn. Rawlicious: Delicious Raw Recipes for Radiant Health, Pp. 206. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2011. Print.
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Featured image by MarkSweep (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons