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Episode 190: Coffee... Friend or Foe?

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Sometimes the more you dig into nutrition studies, the more confused you become. 

I could find you literally hundreds of articles proving that alcohol has health benefits as well as hundreds of articles proving that you should never have a sip of alcohol again. 

Same can be said for fat, carbs, fasting, soy, dairy, grains... the debates on what's good vs evil are endless. 

But one controversial drink hits a little too close to home for many of us.

We start the day with it, we use it to connect with others, we rely on it for casual dates, we consume it to bring us joy and energy on a daily basis.

Yes, I am talking about our beloved coffee.

Which is why we are dedicating an entire episode to this king among men. We're going to dig into the benefits and the downsides, as well as how to navigate such drastically conflicting nutrition advice. 

So before we dive into all things coffee, you may be wondering how we can get such different outcomes when looking at studies on just one particular food item. 

And the answer always is going to come back to bio-individuality. Our genetics, out gut microbiome, our hormones, our enzymes, our stomach acid, our pH balance, and our detox capabilities all are going to impact how food behaves in our body. 

With that being the case, we have to let go of the idea that studies alone are going to tell us everything we need to know about nutrition. 

As frustrating as it may be to hear, we are going to have to roll up our sleeves a bit and intelligently experiment.

And within that experimentation, we have to get good at reading our body's response to figure out what food is our medicine vs what food is our poison (and sometimes the signals are subtle as hell, so make no mistake, this is a skill you have to hone). 

However this doesn't mean studies are useless. They can be a good jumping off point, particularly when we apply our own common sense and what we know about ourselves to the data. 

For example, a study might boast about the benefits of intermittent fasting. But if you know you have a history of an eating disorder where any time you restrict or get too hungry it leads to obsessive thoughts around food or binges, you can apply that internal knowing and say to yourself, "not for me."

But this episode isn't about fasting, it's about coffee and what role it plays in your health outcomes. So let's get into it...

On the one hand coffee has a ton of health-boosting benefits like:

☕️ Improving your performance in the gym by increasing muscle endurance, focus, and energy while reducing tiredness. It also preserves muscle glycogen stores which gives muscles more time before they wear out, allowing you to lift more weight for longer periods of time.

☕️ Supporting the health of the brain, potentially preventing or slowing the progression of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, dementia, and cognitive decline.

☕️ Aiding in liver health. "A study involving nearly 500,000 people finds that drinking coffee significantly lowers the risk of developing liver disease... fatty liver, and liver cancer." - Medical News Today

☕️  Preventing type 2 diabetes by improving the health of beta cells in your pancreas which are responsible for helping to regulate blood sugar levels. 

☕️  Reducing risk of depression due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and microbiome-boosting benefits.

☕️ And increasing longevity by providing the single biggest dietary source of antioxidants which can help protect against DNA damage, lowering inflammation, and reducing your risk for cancer, heart disease, and other signs of aging.

Sounds pretty spectacular right?? With those stats it seems like everyone and their mother should be drinking coffee by the truck load. But let's take a look at the flip side.

🙈 Coffee beans "are among the most heavily chemically treated foods in the world.They are steeped in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides" - Equal Exchange Resource Center So you definitely want to opt for organic coffee as much as humanly possible.

🙈 Drinking coffee can inhibit the absorption of important nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and iron. So it would be ideal to drink it away from other meals (but to be clear, this should not  be your breakfast... see the next point).

🙈 When consumed as your primary breakfast, you can set yourself up for a blood sugar spike and then crash (since cortisol is naturally high in the morning which already causes higher blood sugar, and then in the short-term caffeine further raises cortisol and blood sugar). This can lead to pretty intense cravings, hunger pangs, and mood swings later in the day.

🙈 Coffee's high caffeine content can be problematic for people with high levels of stress, anxiety, and HPA axis dysfunction due to its stimulating effect on the central nervous system and activation of the sympathetic nervous system (also known as fight-or-flight).

🙈 It can cause negative side effects like headaches, insomnia, frequent urination, increased heart rate, and muscle tremors. -Mayo Clinic Even if you don't experience full blown insomnia, even a little bit of caffeine in the morning can negatively effect your sleep since caffeine blocks the brain chemical adenosine which makes you feel tired. 

🙈 It can be problematic for people with IBS, diarrhea, or loose stools as coffee (even decaf) increases peristalsis in the intestines.

🙈 Conditions like h pylori and acid reflux can be exacerbated by the consumption of coffee due to its caffeine content and acidity. 

 If you're feeling more confused or overwhelmed than ever right now, take a breath. 

The point is, when it comes to nutrition there are no hard and fast rules, only what works for you. 

Which may seem annoying and a bit daunting at first because you just want to be given the cheatsheet of right answers. But when you accept that there is no cheatsheet and it all comes down to your body's individuality, it's actually really freeing. 

We don't have to automatically demonize every food that a study deems as 'bad'. We don't have to cut fat, and carbs, and vegetables, and bananas, and soy, and dairy, and breakfast, and bread, and everything else that's demonized in the nutrition world in order to be healthy. 

We can do the upfront work to learn our body, figure out the handful of foods that our system doesn't jive with, and call it a day! 

And if you need help learning how to read your body and how to intelligently experiment to get your own answers to the question "what should I be eating?" that's exactly what we do in my 1:1 nutrition coaching. Click here to book a free consultation and I'll share the option that's best for your goals, struggles, and budget!


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