Why We Love Coffee + Healthy Ways to Enjoy It

By Jaime Askew, Nutrition Consultant Instructor

Did you know that coffee has its own special day? While we love our tea and kombucha here at Bauman College, we’re excited to celebrate National Coffee Day on September 29!

We love coffee for the aroma, the taste, and the health-promoting properties it has to offer. You read that right! Your cup of joe may actually improve your health in more ways than one.

Cups of coffee

Coffee is Packed with Powerful Antioxidants

Free radicals are a natural byproduct of energy production as well as many other essential chemical reactions that occur naturally within the body.

They are also derived from many external sources, such as air pollution, pesticides, heavy metals, and highly processed foods, to name a few.

Needless to say, free radicals are a constant threat. Especially because they have the potential to damage cells and tissues and lead to oxidative stress, which has been associated with many serious health conditions [1].

For this reason, it’s important to consume an antioxidant-rich diet and neutralize those free radicals before they can cause harm.

The good news is coffee is packed with antioxidants, mostly in the form of polyphenols [2]. Numerous studies have shown polyphenols are preventive against cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease and can have an anti-aging effect [3].

Coffee beans

Caffeine: Harmful or Helpful?

Now you may be wondering about the caffeine in coffee. Some studies have shown that it can improve physical performance, mood, energy, and cognitive function. While others express concern with sleep, anxiety, headaches, and dehydration.

A review of 41 double-blind, placebo-controlled human studies found a sweet spot for daily caffeine consumption that maximized its benefits and reduced the risks mentioned above, which equates to approximately 0.3 to 4 cups of coffee per day [4].

But it’s important to note that four cups means four cups. Not four “talls” at Starbucks. Because four talls is actually six cups. And four “grandes” equals eight cups.

Also, please keep in mind that everyone is different. While four cups of coffee may work for some, it may be way too much for others.

Therefore, it’s important to consider your personal health and listen to your body when it comes to coffee.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Coffee

While coffee is a great source of antioxidants, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods is important to maintain optimal health. Therefore, skip the morning pastry with your coffee and consider the following:

  1. If you have trouble sleeping, cutting back on your caffeine consumption is always a good idea. Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening is also recommended. However, tapering back slowly is important to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
  2. If you’re under a great deal of stress, coffee may not be your best bet. Caffeine can increase your cortisol levels in the same way that acute stress does, which can potentially do more harm than good [5].
  3. Conventional coffee beans are heavily sprayed with chemical fertilizers. So, unless your coffee is certified organic, you may be consuming an unhealthy dose of pesticides with each cup. Remember, pesticides are a source of free radicals, which can lead to oxidative stress and disease.
  4. To avoid consuming additional free radicals and other potentially harmful toxins, brew your coffee with filtered water.
  5. In addition to buying organic, look for fair trade coffee beans. This ensures the field workers are paid a fair wage. It also prevents other unethical practices, such as child labor.
  6. Most coffee creamers are loaded with artificial ingredients and sugar. Same with flavored lattes and other specialty coffee drinks, which can lead to weight gain as well as hinder weight loss. Instead, stick to plain coffee. If you need cream, use the real thing or consider using coconut oil to add richness and a dose of healthy fat. If you need a little sweetness, a small amount of raw local honey goes a long way.
  7. To save time and money, we recommend brewing your own coffee at home. You can use the extra time in the morning to prepare a healthy breakfast and lunch! Depending on how much coffee you drink, you could save up to $70 per month.
Women holding basket of coffee beans

Healthy Alternatives to Coffee

Coffee isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. As we mentioned before, there are many other sources of antioxidants as well as nutrient-rich foods that can boost your energy, mood, and performance.

So, if you need to cut back or avoid coffee completely, give green or herbal tea a try. Our favorite brands are Mountain Rose Herbs and Tao of Tea.

There are also organic herbal coffee substitutes, like Dandy Blend, which is made with a combination of extracts from roasted barley, rye, chicory, and dandelion root.

To Sum it Up

Coffee is packed with potent antioxidants that have the capacity to prevent disease and slow the aging process.

So enjoy your cup of joe! But keep it clean. Stick to 4 cups (32 ounces) or less per day. Make it part of a nutrient-rich diet, pay attention to the signals your body is sending, and adjust as needed.