If you love coffee, this is the blog for you.
I adore coffee. I love the combination of bitter, sweet, and smooth.
The whistling kettle acts as a second morning alarm and it initiates my daily ritual of steam, aroma, and zing for my senses.
In the most glorious way possible, coffee cements that my day, has in fact started.
Over 400 million cups of coffee are guzzled down in America per day, yet one of the most common questions I get is, “Should I consume coffee?”. Like so many subjects related to nutrition, the answer is- it depends.
Coffee is actually a berry and has a similar appearance to cranberries with an excellent phytonutrient composition (i.e. the stuff in plants that is good for humans and helps prevent disease). Why is this important? Because coffee, when properly sourced and prepared, can have remarkable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. We know that putting out the inflammatory fire is key to delaying chronic disease, and coffee is chock-full of firefighting superpowers.
Coffee has been associated with lowering cancer risk, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. It can be neuroprotective (i.e. protect nerve cells from damage) and promote mental alertness, improved athletic performance, and heightened cognition. It also promotes beta-oxidation of fat in muscles cells which is super important for energy extraction and mitochondrial health (this is particularly pertinent for those eating a high-fat diet such as ketogenic or Paleo).
These benefits can make it a very healthy, nutritious beverage for those in good health. However, if you contend with the following conditions you might steer clear:
If you cleared those hurdles, then enjoy. Should any of the above apply to you and your love of coffee exceeds any concerns, then proceed reading and enjoying. I am in the latter category. I do have the slow metabolizing gene, but I drink it anyways (and tell myself it’s “on occasion”).
On to the good stuff. My overarching goal with coffee is to maximize flavor and the antioxidant level, while avoiding toxin ingestion.
There are five important considerations with coffee:
1) Source of beans
3) Preparation methods
4) Mode of transportation of coffee to your mouth.
Let’s start with Sourcing.
In general, you want beans from higher elevations. All species have some type of self-defense feature that increases the likelihood of its own survival. In this case, beans grown at higher altitudes possess greater antioxidant levels to offset the intense UV exposure. They also grow slower because of the colder temperatures, which fortunately imparts a bolder, more robust flavor than their lower altitude counterparts. In general, focus on beans grown at ~5000-6000 feet (roughly 1500 meters) in altitude. These regions in the world are typically:
· Papua New Guinea
Choose beans that are machine dried rather than sun-dried. It sounds very romantic and earthy to choose beans that have been dried by mother nature. The problem is mold will grow when left out for days during the drying process, particularly in humid regions. You are consuming that mold. If you have any issues with candida or yeast overgrowth, take this into strong consideration. Contact your favorite grower to find out the method of drying.
Next is Quality.
If your pocketbook affords, purchase organic. I can’t think of a more toxic beverage to consume than a pesticide-coated bean that is pulverized into tiny pieces and then soaked in boiling water. Actually, I can. A non-organic, decaffeinated bean soaked in a solvent that is pulverized and soaked in boiling water. Please go organic for decaffeinated coffee or choose a product that is decaffeinated naturally with a Swiss water-processing method.
Opt for a medium roast. Now here is a bit of a conundrum. The chemical acrylamide is produced when you roast coffee beans, which has been associated with increased cancer risk (as least in animal studies). The highest acrylamide levels are measured with a light roast. However, when you char a coffee bean to a dark roast, the antioxidant, superpowers lower significantly. Remember, you always want higher antioxidant intake. What’s a coffee-loving peep to do? Though acrylamide has been linked to cancer, the benefits of coffee far outweigh the detriments, and ironically, coffee is associated with cancer risk reduction. Choose a medium roast and hopefully research will point us in a better direction with time
Now that you know about the where, how, and what of coffee bean production, the next blog will focus on preparation methods, coffee carriers, and additives.
Stay tuned….I’m going to go make a cup of tea :)
Shannon is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist with a penchant for provocative topics, almond butter, and local theater.