Is Coffee Healthy?

Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte - Photo Courtesy Starbucks.com

Recently I received a question from a friend on Facebook about coffee, and whether it was bad to consume it. More specifically, the question asked about the health views on the occasional latte, a drink consisting of espresso, milk, sugar and flavorings. So, is coffee healthy? Let’s first look at coffee itself.

Is Coffee Good, Bad or OK?

Coffee is the highest natural source of caffeine, behind tea and chocolate. This can be good and bad. Caffeine can be healthy and very good for the body and brain, but only at lower doses than what the typical person is used to. For example, caffeine can help raise metabolism, boost the endurance during a workout and help people perform better on tests and speed up reaction time by acting on the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

Pregnant women and children, however, do not need to be ingesting large amounts of caffeine, so coffee is best avoided by these people. Also, non-organic coffee is often the source of a large amount of pesticides in the diet. Although not felt now, the effects of pesticide exposure and consumption can wreak havoc on your health from its cumulative effects, namely on the thyroid (more common in women), as well as increasing the rate of certain cancers.

Coffee, itself, is rather acidic. You don’t want an acidic body, or a bunch of pesticides, if you want to be healthy. Consuming one cup of coffee, if healthy, is OK, because we need acidic foods in our diets just as we do alkaline foods (although more alkaline forming foods than acidic). There is also a lot of opposing views on coffee in the scientific literature on blood sugar levels. One study has shown that coffee can negatively affect them, contributing to the development of diabetes. One study showed that it positively affects them. It is unknown as to whether the first study included sugar or milk in the coffee.

Is Coffee Addictive?

It sure is! But so is chocolate, peanut butter, ice cream, nuts, processed foods, sex, procrastination and sleeping in late. Coffee is far more addictive than other things, mainly because of its caffeine content. Caffeine is considered a drug, so weaning yourself off coffee, if consumed in excess, is best for your physical, as well as mental, health.

I use this brand of coffee substitute made from roasted barley and rye, as well as roasted chicory. It is an herbal coffee that doesn’t have caffeine and isn’t acidic. Plus, it tastes just like coffee. I’m incredibly serious. I also like Teeccino. My advice for weaning off coffee is to decrease your cup of coffee by 1/4 and replace that 1/4 with herbal coffee. Keeping decreasing by 1/4 every other day or so, until you find you no longer need it and enjoy the taste and feeling of drinking herbal coffee.

Coffee can become even more addictive when you add milk, cream and sugar. Sugar itself is highly addictive. A famous study showed that 94% of rats, when placed in a cage with both sugar and cocaine, chose to consume the sugar more than the cocaine. Even those who were previously addicted to cocaine switched over to the sugar. These rats became addicted to the sweet taste, as well as the dopamine changes within the brain that normally accompanies the ingestion of sugar. Think about the thousands (if not millions?) of children who are currently addicted to this “drug” called sugar.

Lattes!

I do like lattes. Always have, and probably always will. I make mine at home, however, using herbal coffee and sometimes, every now and then, organic, fair trade coffee. If using coffee, it is especially important to purchase fair trade, as a lot of coffee beans are being harvested by slaves and children. This is true for the cocoa bean as well, so purchasing fair trade chocolate, when possible, is a great way to go. Also, you can always email or call your favorite chocolate manufacturer (as well as coffee manufacturer) and ask them about their harvesting practices (chances are most of them are completely in the dark).

Lattes, however good, are disastrous for your health. Why is this? It isn’t necessarily the caffeine, unless you are consuming lattes on a daily basis, or even twice a day. What is? The milk and the sugar.

Let’s take a look at the nutrition data forΒ Starbuck’s Cinnamon Dolce Latte. For just a tall (around 12 oz, or 1 and 1/4 cup), the drink contains almost 1/2 cup of sugar! That’s 7.5 tablespoons or 22.5 teaspoons. Considering that one should only be eating 4 added teaspoons of sugar daily, this goes way over. Now the milk contributes some to this sugar content but no more than 1/4. This is even true if the latte is using soy milk, as they do not used unsweetened soy milk in their coffee drinks (besides, you do not want to be choosing soy milk, anyway).

Iced lattes contain far more sugar, and some drinks go up to 3/4 cup of sugar in one tall drink! You would never know — as I didn’t, when I used to drink these a few years ago. This will not only become addicting, it can also lead to high tryglicerides, high blood sugar levels and chronic bouts with inflammation. Until Stabucks, and every coffee shop, starts to sweeten their beverages with stevia and adding milks like unsweetened almond or coconut milk, I will just be ordering regularly coffee.

Pure milk in coffee is probably the best choice when going to these places, then adding your own flavoring and sweetener. OR–you can just make it at home. That way you can have a lower glycemic coffee drink without milk (milk, however healthy, is higher on the glycemic index than, say, homemade almond milk or coconut milk), and using only natural sweeteners. It saves money, and you can control what kind of ingredients you are putting in your body.

Having a latte, every now and then, might be OK if you are healthy. That means you are regularly exercising (exercise can help control blood sugar levels after ingesting sugar), getting enough sleep and sunshine and managing your stress. I would be considered healthy, but I still don’t see the point of drinking these and putting my body under any stress that I have a choice of avoiding.

In the next post, I will be making my own latte with herbal coffee, coconut and almond milks, as well as natural sweeteners that won’t cause inflammation or raise blood sugars.

Until next time, this is The Healthy Advocate.

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5 Responses to “Is Coffee Healthy?”
  1. Megan 27 May 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Great article Brandon! This info is all too important to share in times like these. I actually used to work at Starbucks and I would drink a venti iced caramel macchiato (and occasionally two) everyday……it’s no wonder my weight skyrocketed to 210lbs! (and I’m only 5’4″)
    Sugar has definitely been my weakness over the years but I’ve made a lot of healthier choices in the past year. I’m happy to say that I’m now below 170 (and continuing to lose w/ the help of homepathic HCG) and have cut all added sugars out of my diet. I get my sugar fix from organic fruits, only use unsweetened coconut milk and drink my coffee black with stevia. Yum!

    Thank you for being a “healthy advocate”!

    • admin 28 May 2011 at 7:44 am #

      Thanks Megan! πŸ™‚ That is so awesome about your weight goals. It seems HCG works for a lot of people, and it seems to be working for you too. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Deborah Yaffee 27 May 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Hey, Brandon….

    Great article.

    Aside from the pesticides and caffeine, there are a lot of rancid oils in roasted coffee beans (organic or not, decaf and caf both) and those are very hard for the liver to detox.

    Best,
    Debbie
    http://www.dharmanutrition.com
    http://www.thelittlecookingschool.com

    • admin 28 May 2011 at 7:42 am #

      Thanks for contributing Deborah! It’s very important that we protect our detoxifying centers as much as possible, which is another reason why I don’t consume coffee all that often.

  3. Lynne Quintana 1 June 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I love coffee. I can relate in every article you write about it. πŸ™‚ Although Im also aware of its bad effects in our health if taken too much I believe there are advantages of coffee too. Like its ability to protect us against diabetes and so on. πŸ™‚ Great!

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