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  • Jenna Seward

Is coffee bad for your health?

With coffee shops at every corner it’s no surprise coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks, but is coffee good for us?

The good bits:

Coffee contains powerful antioxidants (chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and melanoidins). Antioxidants have a protective effect in the body, protecting our cells from oxidative damage which can lead to ageing, disease and cancer.

Coffee is widely known for helping us perk up and feel more awake, but did you know drinking coffee has also been shown to improve brain function? That’s right, coffee has been found to improve memory, mood, vigilance, energy levels and cognitive function.

Several studies have also found consuming 3-4 cups of coffee a day can improve immune function and lower your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 19%, with Alzheimers and Parkinsons reduced by 60%.

Research has also found coffee to be protective against depression, cancer, liver disease (cirrhosis) and type 2 diabetes.

Other health benefits from coffee include;

· Boosting metabolic rate

· Increasing physical performance

· Increasing fat metabolism during exercise

It’s also important to mention that when I say “coffee” I’m referring to good quality black coffee, not instant coffee or coffee loaded with loads of sugar from starbucks. To help you pick the best coffee, a study carried out by the “Journal of Medicinal Food” found that light roasts offer more antioxidants than dark roasts. It’s also important to pick an ethical brand which pays the workers who farm the coffee beans a fair wage.

The bad bits :

Before you run out to get yourself a coffee, there are also some other things you should know about the bean. While drinking coffee can offer some health benefits, too much coffee can be damaging to our health. It’s recommended not to drink any more than 4 cups of coffee per day, and not to drink coffee too late in the day (past 12pm). Consuming any caffeine late in the day can negatively impact our circadian rhythm and lead to sleep issues.

Also if you’re the sort of person who likes to start your day with coffee (pretty much everyone with kids), unfortunately this isn’t good for you. When you drink coffee on an empty stomach your stomach produces acid, without food to buffer this acid it can damage your stomach lining and lead to indigestion, heartburn and digestive issues.

Another negative impact of drinking coffee on an empty stomach is the impact it has on your adrenals. Caffeine causes your adrenals to release the stress hormone cortisol to be released. Constant activation of your adrenals can also lead to adrenal “burn out" and elevated levels of cortisol can lead to stress in the body and a host of health issues.

Although research has suggested the optimum amount of coffee to have is 3-4 cups a day, the amount you should drink will depend on you as an individual. We all metabolise coffee differently depending on our genes, so to get your optimum dose you need to listen to your body. If you find you get the shakes or feel anxious after drinking coffee, try having less, have it after food or maybe don’t drink it at all.

If you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious, drinking coffee is likely to exacerbate these feelings, therefore it is better to steer clear of coffee (and all caffeine) when feeling like this. You should also avoid coffee if you suffer from sleep issues, heart palpitations, migraines, hypertension and hot flushes.

Another time you should limit caffeine consumption is during pregnancy due to a link found between caffeine, miscarriages and still births. The maximum amount of caffeine recommended during pregnancy is 200 milligrams, this is equivalent to 2 cups of instant coffee. (This amount also includes that found in other caffeinated drinks and foods such as coke, tea and dark chocolate).

Another negative side to coffee is caffeine has been found to deplete the body of important nutrients, such as vitamin B6 and interfere with the absorption of essential minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

Bottom line:

· Pick a good quality, light roast, fairtrade coffee

· Drink your coffee with food or after food, not on an empty stomach

· Don’t drink coffee past 2pm and no more than 4 cups a day

· Avoid caffeine if you suffer from anxiety, stress, migraines, heart palpitations, panic attacks, hot flushes, sleep disturbances or hypertension

· Either limit or avoid caffeine while pregnant

· Make sure your diet is rich in B vitamins, magnesium, calcium and iron

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