Is coffee harmful to your health?
Enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee after dinner or grabbing a coffee on the go is for many people part of the daily routine.
For me, I like to start my day with a fresh coffee mixed with a teaspoon of cocoa powder. And I always have a strong coffee before my workouts to boots my energy levels.
Here are some facts about coffee that the National Coffee Association promotes:
- coffee has a naturally complex botanical profile (1.000 natural compounds plus 300 more after the roasting process)
- rich source of disease-fighting antioxidants (reduce inflammation, which is the root of most diseases)
- moderate consumption (3-4 cups daily) may have positive health effects
- liver disease prevention
- improved cognitive function
- increased athletic endurance
- reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
The antioxidants in coffee beans become more effective after roasting. According to webmd.com this kind of antioxidant along with the magnesium found naturally in coffee, affect blood sugar levels. And therefore it is thought to be responsible for the link to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Besides the health benefits, there is still no final agreement if coffee is good or harmful for your health.
Coffee seems to have both, positive and negative effects. While it can give us a nice energy boost it can also make us jittery at the same time.
What are the nutrients found in coffee?
People are drinking coffee for quite some time now. The records of drinking coffee go way back to about 500 years ago.
Originally it all started in Yemen and has now widely spread to over 70 countries worldwide.
You might have already recognized that the most popular coffee bean types are arabica (dominant cultivar) and robusta (has more bitterness than arabica).
One regular cup of black coffee contains:
- 5 kcal
- 0 Fat
- 0 Sugar
- 0.6 gr Protein
- 0.4 mg Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- 1.2 mg Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
- 230 mg Potassium
- 14 mg Magnesium
You are probably more interest in how much caffeine is in your coffee!
Well, that depends on different factors:
- type of coffee bean
- the process to make coffee
- different coffee brewing methods (see a coffee brewing guide here)
According to the National Coffee Association a cup of coffee has this much caffeine:
How much caffeine is safe for you?
For a healthy adult 400 mg per day seems to be the dose that is safe. That´s about 4 cups of coffee.
Drip brewed coffee tends to have the highest level of caffeine in all brewing methods. The longer the brewing process takes the more caffeine you will get.
Although caffeine is safe for adults, children should not consume the drink. Teenagers should limit the intake to a minimum or even better avoid it at all.
People react differently to caffeine intake and for some people, 400 mg can already be above their limit.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, small amounts can result in unwanted side effects. You end up jittery, restless or sleepless. You have to find out your own personal limit that feels good for you.
Occasional coffee drinkers tend to be more sensitive to the negative effects. Additional factors to sensitivity are:
- body mass
- medication use
- health conditions
An average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Caffeine, especially in the afternoon, can interfere with a good and relaxing sleep.
Sleep deprivation has a cumulative effect. Even small recurring decreases can add up and will mess up your performance during the day.
If you are fighting your fatigue by increasing your coffee intake you will end up in a vicious circle. You have trouble staying awake during the day and can´t stay focused. Therefore you keep adding the hot energetic beverage to your intake. And the following night you are not able to sleep again.
Negative effects of coffee
It is known to be one of the most contaminated crops worldwide. You will find a lot of pesticides, chemicals in conventionally grown coffee. It helps to buy organic products or purchase shade-grown (traditional way of growing coffee, requires fewer pesticides) products.
Fairtrade coffee is also a safer option to consume. That means it is certified as being produced under fair trade standards. The organizations have partnerships that base on dialog and most important on transparency.
Caffeine interferes with the absorption of several nutrients.
It reduces the iron absorption from your food and people with iron deficiency are often advised to reduce their coffee consumption. A study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found out that one cup of coffee reduced the iron absorption from a hamburger meal by 39% in comparison to a 64% decrease with tea.
Drinking coffee has no impact on the iron absorption when you consume it 1 hour before having a meal.
2 types of iron
There are 2 types of iron:
- found in animal-based food, especially meat
- good resorption rate (15 – 35%)
- found in plant-based food
- resorption rate not higher than 5%
- it has to be transformed into a soluble form before it can be used
The effect caffeine has on the iron absorption is mostly seen with non-heme (plant-based) iron and less seen in the heme (animal based) form. Good news is, the negative effects can be reduced by adding vitamin C to your diet. It helps to enhance iron absorption!
Iron is a trace mineral and it is especially important to build hemoglobin which is essential for transporting carbon dioxide and oxygen in our blood. (See my blog post about minerals here).
Cut coffee out of my diet?
Even if your iron levels are low you don´t have to avoid your favorite beverage for a quick energy boost. Eating foods rich in iron in combination with some vitamin C (e.g. oranges, peppers, …) definitely helps. A deficiency can also be avoided when you wait some time after you have eaten before you take a sip of your coffee.
If you are like most adults the daily dose of coffee is part of your life. And in most cases, it doesn´t cause any health problems. But be attentive to the situations in which you need to limit your intake.
FAQs for drinking coffee:
1. Are coffee capsules safe? Should I use a coffee pod machine?
No, and I tell you why!
First of all, there are serious health concerns.
All the usual problems associated with consuming foods wrapped and stored in plastic apply. But in an intensified version. The hot liquid causes a higher plastic chemical transfer into your coffee.
The plastic chemicals are known to contribute to hormone imbalance, weight gain or estrogenic activity.
The aluminum pops are not better at all. The health concerns of the aluminum link to issues like depression, anxiety, Alzheimer´s.
Every pod you use leaves a footprint in the environment.
The mindset about the environment has changed in the past year. The big companies feel the pressure to do something against the environmental pollution. They are forced more and more to work out sustainable recycling processes for their pods.
2. Is it safe to reuse coffee grounds?
Maybe you have been in the situation that you were out of coffee and thought about using the old coffee ground a second time!
That is actually not a good idea. The brewing process will give you the maximum flavor from the coffee beans.
Over-extraction will lead to a bitter taste. While under-extraction will result in a sour cup. And you want to avoid both.
Once you reached the sweet spot of the perfect brewing time, you have basically extracted the full flavor range of the coffee beans into your cup.
3. Is it ok to drink a day old coffee?
You are in a hurry and can´t finish your freshly brewed beverage. After a few hours, you have now finally time to drink the rest of it. Is it safe to drink the leftovers?
To answer this you should consider these factors:
A – How old is the coffee?
B – What is in it?
After 30 minutes the coffee cools down and loses its flavor. After about 4 hours the oils go bad and the coffee becomes more acidic. A quick stop at the microwave will not reverse this process.
If you added milk then it is probably a good idea to leave it alone. Drinking milk that is unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours is never a good idea.
4. How can I make my coffee less acidic?
What types of coffee beans do I use for a less acidic outcome? Opt for a dark roast coffee such as an Italian and French roast. They are usually lower in acid than light or medium roasts. The beans undergo chemical changes while they roast. The longer they are roasted the more acid is removed.
Cold brewed coffee is about 60% less acid than the hot brewed. This type of coffee is made by allowing ground beans to steep in cold water for at least 24 hours. In comparison to hot water, cold water extracts fewer acids.
Calcium-containing products like milk help neutralize acids.