Americans are obsessed with a lot of things: our smart phones, celebrities, and finding a good bargain. But perhaps the thing we’re most obsessed with is good ol’ coffee. For many of us, our mornings are perfectly diabolical without at least a cup or two or three of the stuff. And, come 2 o’clock, when we know in our heart and bones we’ll never make it ‘til five and we need that pick me up, many of us head to the nearest deli or barista to grab a cup of “second wind.”
Here’s just how obsessed we are over our coffee:
- 31% of coffee drinkers brew a cup before they do any other morning behavior.
- 55% of coffee drinkers would rather gain 10 pounds than give up coffee for life.
- 52% of coffee drinkers would rather go without a shower in the morning than give up coffee. (yes, but what do their friends and co-workers say about it?)
- 49% of coffee drinkers would rather give up their cell phone for a month than go without coffee. (but how would they snap a pic of their latte and upload it to their Instagram account?)
- Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day. Just to give you an idea of how much that is… it’s equivalent to 146 billion cups of coffee per year, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world. (They don’t call us a super power for nothing!)
Based on these eye-opening statistics, it’s easy to believe that coffee shops are the fastest growing niche in the restaurant business. It’s also easy to believe that Starbucks is the King of all coffee shop chains in America and other parts of the world, with revenues topping $10 billion and over 16,000 shops in 40 countries.
But whether you’re addicted to Starbucks, Panera or Dunkin Donuts, be aware that not every cup of Joe was ethically sourced. When choosing which coffee giant to hand over your $7 to, consider not only whether fair trade was involved in sourcing the beans, but also the wages the workers are paid and the overall ethics of the company.
The Dangers of Drinking Too Much Coffee
You’ve probably heard it said before that drinking too much coffee isn’t good for you, but do you know why?
It Messes With Your Digestion
Many of us have our coffee in the morning on an empty stomach. In fact, some of us even brag that our coffee IS our breakfast.
The problem is drinking coffee on an empty stomach stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid (HCI). In the same way eating too much sugar causes problems with insulin production, stimulating HCI but giving it nothing to digest interrupts normal activity. If your body is “forced” to make too much HCI because of coffee, it may eventually have a hard time producing enough of it to actually digest a large meal.
The last thing you want is undigested food passing through your small intestines. Undigested protein is linked to a variety of health problems such as bloating, gas, diverticulitis, IBS and even colon cancer.
Yes, coffee is delicious, but some of that deliciousness comes from certain compounds in the coffee bean that are quite acidic. These acids can irritate the lining of your stomach and small intestine.
While ulcers are now believed to be caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, many medical experts are pointing to the acidic effect coffee has on the stomach which weakens the lining and allows H. pylori to take hold and wreak havoc.
When the lining of the small intestine is irritated, it can cause abdominal spasms, cramps and even elimination problems. If you find that you often alternate between constipation and diarrhea, also known as IBS, you may want to cut back on how much coffee you’re drinking.
Caffeine causes your esophageal sphincter to relax. While it is beneficial to relax other tense muscles throughout your body, this sphincter must remain tightly closed or it will allow the contents of your stomach to come up into your esophagus causing the hydrochloric acid to burn the delicate lining.
But before you grab a decaf instead, some research has suggested that other compounds in the coffee can cause heartburn problems for some people as well.
Poor Mineral Absorption
Coffee affects the way your stomach and kidneys absorb certain nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Because of this, heavy coffee drinkers will have a hard time getting these minerals into their blood stream even if they eat mineral rich foods or take supplements. It is estimated that 70% of people in the United States are magnesium deficient which causes issues like memory problems, muscle cramps and tremors, anxiety, behavioral issues, and irregular heartbeat to name a few.
The Key with Coffee is Moderation
In moderation (read: one to two cups a day), and provided you are drinking 100% organic coffee that does not contain any toxic chemicals, coffee can have quite a few health benefits.
It’s Loaded with Antioxidants
According to researchers at the University of Scranton, coffee is actually the number one source of antioxidants in the United States. In fact, the study points out that we Americans get more of our antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. The study also mentions that both caffeinated and decaffeinated versions provide the same levels of antioxidants and that only one or two cups is necessary to receive this benefit.
May Protect Against Type 2 Diabetes
Studies are now pointing to the possible benefits coffee has in fighting type 2 diabetes. Researchers at UCLA found that coffee increases the plasma levels of the protein sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) that plays a big role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Studies out of the Harvard School of Public Health also give a nod to coffee’s ability to lower the risk of developing the disease. Their research found that participants (who reported having type 2 diabetes) who increased their coffee consumption from one to two cups per day over a 4 year period had an 11% lower type 2 diabetes risk.
Possible Prevention Against Parkinson’s Disease
A study conducted at the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre found that the caffeine in coffee may help control movement in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, while other research concludes that coffee consumption may even lower the risk of developing the disease in the first place.
Coffee May Lower the Risk of Liver Cancer
Italian researchers studied the effects of coffee consumption and liver cancer and found that drinking two to three cups a day may lower the risk of developing liver cancer by 40% – 50%.
Your Heart May Heart Coffee
Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard School of Public Health concluded that moderate coffee consumption may prevent against heart failure. They define moderation as ‘2 European cups’ which is the equivalent to two 8-ounce servings per day.
It should be noted again that the key to these health benefits is moderation. Drinking one to two cups is not the same thing as having two venti lattes from Starbucks loaded with sugar.
Healthy Coffee Alternatives
So you’ve just read that coffee may have some health benefits when consumed in moderation, but what if you aren’t one of the millions of Americans who are obsessed with the beverage? What if you really don’t like the taste of coffee but still want to enjoy a beverage every day that comes with its own health benefits? Try one of these instead:
You may have heard about this funny-sounding drink before but weren’t sure what all the hubbub was about. Kombuchu is a type of yeast that, when fermented with sugar, makes a delicious and healthy tea. Benefits include aiding memory loss, preventing certain types of cancers, and helping with high blood pressure.
If you’re looking for the same morning “buzz” that coffee gives without actually drinking coffee, try a cup of Yerba Mate tea instead. The main benefit with this tea is that besides getting that morning jolt, you’re also getting a lot of nutrients too, and you won’t experience the same dreaded “coffee crash.”
There are now a variety of probiotic drinks on the market that are not only fizzy and delicious, but also give your GI tract those “good” bacteria which help your immune system thrive. Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your gut? Eating, or in this case drinking, probiotics can help balance the delicate system in your gut and help your overall health.
Here’s why you should start drinking coconut water: it’s naturally sweet and delicious, contains bioactive enzymes, and is loaded with rehydrating electrolytes, making it a much healthier choice than many of the sugary sports drinks on the market.
Hot Apple Cider
Hot apple cider is a little sweet and a little tangy, and is completely satisfying when you want a cup of something warm on a chilly morning. Apple cider also offers a lot of health benefits thanks to the fruit’s phytochemicals, which can help prevent and fight many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to alleviate joint pain and inflammation.
And if you DO suffer from joint pain, you’ll absolutely want to learn about a natural way to relieve joint pain in just 7 days [CLICK HERE]
So what have we learned about coffee? Like many other things in life it can be great or it can be really bad for us and it all depends on the quality of coffee you drink (go organic), what you put in it (do you really need two squirts of caramel syrup AND five packets of sugar?) and how much you consume.