Is coffee good or bad for you?
If you can’t start the day without a coffee, you’re not alone. There isn’t enough evidence either answer if coffee is good or bad for you. So from a health perspective, it depends on you! Having seen many clients who drink coffee though, I can see where it helps and where it hinders.
- If you don’t eat much dairy, then that takeaway latte is contributing some much needed calcium, potassium and folate to your day.
- The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant which can give your brain (and body a much needed boost). It can help you make the most of a workout or a complicated task at work. It’s a much more natural alternative to preworkout!
- Coffee is rich in antioxidants which could prevent cancer and other chronic diseases (potentially – more research is needed).
- Some studies have shown that coffee could lower the risk of heart disease and Parkinson’s disease (again, we need more research to be sure).
- If you’re watching your weight, the kJ (calories) in takeaway coffees plus any syrups or sugars could be stalling your progress (check out my post that compares the energy in different coffees).
- It can cause gastrointestinal upset like diarrhoea or stomach cramps.
- Even in small amounts, caffeine can exacerbate feelings of panic, overwhelm and anxiety.
- Caffeine has a long half life, about 6-8 hours. This means it is still effective your nervous system long after the buzz has worn off. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, afternoon coffees can make this worse.
- Even if you don’t have any trouble falling asleep, any caffeine remaining while you sleep interferes with your sleep by shortening the time you spend in restorative REM asleep.
How much coffee?
There is no ideal amount of coffee or caffeine to balance the good and the bad as everyone is different. Many studies seem to indicate that benefits of improved mood and cognition are seen with 300mg of caffeine; around 2-3 cups. This seems a sensible amount to balance the benefits with the potential side effects. This is also recommended to be a safe maximum daily amount if you’re pregnant (remember this is from all sources including tea, chocolate and cola). Breastfeeding mums can drink coffee in moderation – exactly how much depends on their own sensitivity, how much they drank while pregnant and the age of the baby.
I find that most people feel their best with this limit (if at all). Even if you don’t feel sensitive to caffeine, you can still benefit from a midday cut-off from all caffeine, including tea and soft drinks, which means you’re caffeine free for bed time. Even if you don’t have trouble falling asleep, it could still be effecting your mood and sleep. The best way to tell is to cut back for a little while and see how you feel.
If you’re regularly low on energy, stop using coffee as a prop and nourish your body with real food instead. Switching refined white carbohydrates and processed sugary snacks for fruit, vegetables and whole grains will do wonders for your energy! Try to avoid drinking coffee in the afternoon and a limit of 2 a day. Try this for a week or two and keep some notes about your energy and sleep. You’re likely to find an improvement. If you don’t, introduce it back in. You’ll find that you don’t need as much for the energy and mental benefits after having a break.
I love my morning coffee. I look forward to it. But instead of a needed, hurried craving; I have made it a relaxing morning ritual. It’s 5 minutes of my own meditation that starts with the boil of the kettle. Instead of deciding is coffee good or bad, check in with your relationship with it. Do you need to set some limits, improve the quality of your sleep and diet or just take some more time to savour your morning brew?
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist. She has 10 years’ experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and wants you to know that activated unicorn berries are not the answer to your health and wellness. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.