When I was working in a stressful job situation I drank coffee by the potful every day. It was partially nervous habit, partially survival mode. When I struck out on my own I started doing Shellac manicures. I quit drinking my morning Americano because it made my hands shake when I was trying to do nails. After a while I even skipped it on my days off because I didn’t want to deal with caffeine withdrawals. But on the days where I want to shut my eyes and take a nap at 10 AM I look longingly at the espresso machine on my countertop. Would it really be so bad to start drinking coffee again?
It seems like every couple of years a new study comes out. Coffee is bad for you. Coffee is good for you. So before I bid the espresso machine sayonara, I decided to go to the most legitimate source I know: Google.
Here is the Reader’s Digest version of what I uncovered: you aren’t going to die from drinking coffee.
A recent study from The Harvard School of Public Health looked at coffee drinkers long term, excluding some anecdotal evidence that has been reported in the past. They studied people over a 24-year span and found that coffee does not contribute in any meaningful way to a higher incidence of cancer, heart disease, or mortality in general.
But before you get too excited, coffee does still pose some health risks. Coffee contains a compound called cafestol which can raise your LDL cholesterol levels. If you brew your coffee with a paper filter the filter will catch most of the compound, but if espresso is your drink of choice, more cafestol is making it into your drink. If you french press your coffee you are getting the most cafestol intake from your java.
If you are not a coffee drinker and start partaking, coffee can also raise your blood pressure. After several weeks the affect generally diminishes, but the study found that it was still higher than before consuming coffee.
So what is my verdict? Coffee is not a health drink. While there are some studies showing antioxidant benefits, there are just as many showing negative health effects. The caffeine content is the culprit in several scenarios, so for some decaf may be a better option. Coffee isn’t a health drink, but it is a much better alternative to drink choices like sugary lattes, sodas, or artificial diet drinks. So if you are already a coffee consumer, carry on. According to the Harvard study you can drink up to 6 cups a day without any real ill effects, as long as you aren’t experiencing insomnia or jitters. But for those of us who have weaned ourselves off of coffee, its probably not a bad idea to brew a cup of tea instead.
Herbal tea offers many of the same antioxidant benefits without the caffeinated draw backs. Just make sure it is organic so you aren’t brewing up a cup with a side of pesticides.
What is your drink of choice?
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