On Coffee: Taste, Health Benefits, Cautions and Tips

By Shaun Angel, Coffee Geek & CPT
Upgrade Coffee 2015-5 

Coffee: Such a welcome morning greeting to many…the process of brewing, the aroma, the warm wake-up signaling the official start of the day for many. At least for me, this is the case.  Whether it is cold or 100 degrees, it is the same:  I love my coffee in the morning.  However, the word conjures up pleasure or guilt to many people. Is it good, bad, healthy, going to extend life or peel back years? Coffee consumption is one of those forbidden fruits of many ‘health nuts’ and there are plenty of people, experts and research findings that support this notion. On the other hand, there is no shortage of research justifying its position in the human diet and even more current research promoting its pro-health effects. So, which is it?

The answer is yes. Both sides are right. As with many things, such as meat consumption, there are good arguments on both sides of the debate. Usually, one simply needs to backup, think logically for a minute and evaluate for themselves. In my experience, common sense tends to win over complicated arguments every time. Then, there is the whole ‘follow the money trail’ of the supposed research and deciding what it was they paid to prove in the first place, and your head could actually spin completely around. That is the very thing wrong with the ‘diet and health’ industry today. Don’t get me started on why diet and health should not be conjoined. Usually, the pursuit of one leads you away from the other. But, that is for another blog. Today’s blog is about coffee….

The Many Health Benefits of Coffee:

  • Antioxidants: A natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants are what makes organic, black coffee healthy. Actually, coffee is the #1 source of antioxidants in the American diet by a long shot!
  • Heart Health: 3-5 cups daily showed less calcium deposits in one study group of over 25,000 members in arteries…that's a good thing since calcium in the arteries is a big part of atherosclerosis. Another study said that the increased blood flow was good and lowered pressure on the heart. Another meta analysis of over 400,000 people showed decreased risk of stroke with 2-6 cups of daily consumption. Again, bear in mind they are not consuming Splenda and Caramel Candy sugar creamer in this research. It is black coffee!
  • Brain Health: There has been considerable research performed on coffee being a good neuroprotective substance, especially when consumed over long periods of time. Generally 4-6 cups daily were studied quantities. MS, Parkinson’s Dementia are all named as helped and benefited in the attached source article and sub sources from that article.
  • Better Mood: Coffee has been shown to stimulate neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, as well as BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is great for a function known as neurogenesis (creating more brain cells). Your Flex 151 workout also stimulates BDNF in the brain and muscle cells, which is why I lead my workout with a good shot of coffee unless it is after 2 pm. Who said ‘brain and brawn’ cannot work together?! You certainly are smarter for joining Flex 151 (sorry couldn’t resist!)
  • Blood Sugar Help: Coffee helps with insulin sensitivity, blood sugar regulation and new research is showing anti-cancer properties, liver support, and other benefits I cannot even explain right. See article for more info below.

Here is a short list of things to watch out for with your coffee habit:

Choose organic and fair traded.  This is less than 3% of all coffee sales worldwide. Coffee is a cash crop and heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides, so most of it is not harvested with health effects in mind, even if the marketing on the bag looks 'natural'.  Instead, the large corporate interest greed for profit and the quest for economies of scale run counter to our health and the farmer growing the coffee beans. Do your homework.  Due to American volumes consumed, you don’t want to accumulate these undesirable toxins in your body. These pesticides are bad on the system and the body fights hard daily to detox this junk out of our body; plus, the chemicals will quickly offset any of the health benefits of your cup of coffee. Yes, organic costs more, but your health is worth it. Regarding fair trade, contrary to what the marketing hype says on the bag you are buying, chances are you are enjoying a cup of coffee from a source that is actually running a small business out. Fair trade helps with this. Notice, I say helps….some of even that is 'spin', so knowing your source is key.

Grind your beans fresh and preferably daily: This preserves the antioxidant effect of natural oils in the coffee and prevents rancidity. When the bean gets exposed to air, oxidation sets in and starts to eliminate the health benefits. Many ‘bulk ground’ coffees in the store are rancid prior to you even brewing. Use the 'sniff test' to find out. Make sure the aroma is fresh and strong. Your olfactory senses can tell. If you are unsure compare your coffee smell to a bag of ours next time you are in the facility (sorry—shameless plug). When grinding use an inexpensive burr grinder, not blade grinder. You want a grinder that ‘smacks’ the bean, not a blade that cuts it….better flavor! If grinding ahead for a few days, store your beans and ground coffee in an airtight container.  Don't place in fridge or freezer, a dark cabinet will suffice.
Locally Roasted Coffee-1

Use clean, cool, filtered water. This is a big one to producing maximum flavor and not adding toxins to the brew cycle. Best way to believe me here is to try side by side comparisons using regular tap water and our remineralized R/O water (yes, we sell these systems too...another shameless plug). Grab some remineralized R/O living water at your next appointment from us and try. You will be amazed as long as you aren’t using a bad bean.

If using a drip method, make sure to find non-bleached, natural paper filters. Bleached filters have been found to have dioxins and disinfection byproducts that come out and go into your coffee. Schnucks sells unbleached filters.

Preferably, find a drip coffee maker that has the least amount of plastic parts as possible. Yes, I know I sound like a crazy man, but think about it: you are running boiling water through plastic parts and drinking this first thing it the morning on an empty stomach…and probably don’t stay hydrated on a daily basis anyway! You really think there aren’t some chemicals coming through? Little by little toxins add up. Regarding the gold vs paper filter, your call there. The mesh screens will give you more flavor and are more environmentally friendly. The unbleached filters will catch much of the oil from the bean, which some research says is healthier. Personally, I use a paper filter daily and once or twice per week ‘splurge’ on a good French press or gold screen cup of joe. Yes, it is much better!

Get away from all the sugar and additives. This is sure fire way to make that morning coffee addiction bad for you! Non-dairy creamers, creamers, flavoring, artificial sugar, sugar and other stuff ruin the health effects of the coffee and are disaster for your body. If you have to do this, you are much better off killing your coffee habit as it is only serving as a carrier and delivery agent for more chemicals. Yes, especially artificial “zero calorie” sweeteners as those are far worse for you than simply adding a sugar cube. Sugar unnecessarily spikes your blood sugar levels, which spikes insulin, which starts off a cascade of unpleasant inflammation to your body and helps you form insulin resistance. I don’t think you want your chances of diabetes increasing simply from coffee, right? Almond milk and coconut milk can serve as healthy creamers to cut the bitterness. If you tell me to jump a creek and still need the sweetener, I understand, but please opt for pure stevia, unsulphured molasses, local honey, or maple syrup or coconut sugar.  Those are natural sweeteners and do less harm on the body.  You will find that as you cut the sugars and processed foods from your diet, you will lose the need to add sugars. Who knows, maybe without the sugars and creamers you learn you don’t even like coffee and you instead start drinking more water and/or green matcha tea. If someone is still telling you that artificial sweeteners are fine for you or better than real sugar and will help you lose weight because they are calorie free, you need to tell them to stop and get with the program. They are lost and outdated. The bad information on that stuff is easily studied and debunked. I will help you with volumes of info and even a few entire books if you need them; just ask. Better yet, schedule some additional time with your trainer, Molly or Lisa to learn how to kick the sugar habit once and for all.

What about decaf coffee? If you are sensitive to caffeine but still like coffee, many people opt for decaf thinking it is healthier. Shoot for organic only when buying decaf. The reason is you will guarantee the processing method that removes the caffeine to be of a Swiss type (uses only water) or a Direct Method (using a plant hormone known as ethyl acetate or carbon dioxide). Non organic coffees can use a method known as Direct Process (which uses a chemical known as methyl chloride) to remove the caffeine. This methyl chloride is not good stuff according to the National Institute of Health, which lists it as cancer causing carcinogen. Keep in mind that if you are drinking decaf to reap the benefits of coffee cited here, that likely won’t work as many of the health benefits are, weirdly enough, related to the caffeine itself that is naturally present in the natural bean. Not all, but many of the benefits.

Watch your consumption! When you hear a ‘cup’ of coffee, researchers are referring to a 5-8 oz cup; most coffee houses start at 12 oz. Research shows benefits are less the higher in quantity you go and over 10 cups per day shows adverse effects on the body.

Make sure to stop drinking coffee after 2 pm max or it will certainly affect your sleep cycles and circadian rhythm (unless you are a fast caffeine metabolizer...we all know people who can sleep like a log after their dinner coffee.  

Don't count coffee in your (1/2 your body weight in ounces water) daily water goal.  Even though I love coffee and admittedly use it as a crutch due to a fast paced lifestyle, it dehydrates me. After 4-5 cups I am craving water. If I don’t stop then, I get a 2 pm headache.

If you are pregnant, it’s probably best to avoid coffee or any type of caffeine. The caffeine passes through the placenta and gives zero benefits to the baby. Even decaf is not caffeine free (3-18 mg per cup).

A final caution centers around lifestyle: the more rested I am, the less coffee drives my day. Balance is key in life. If you are after antioxidants and a healthy life, focus on healthy nutrition and whole food eating as laid out in our Whole 9 guide. You don’t need coffee. With that being said, I admit I like coffee…without sugar; just plain black, strong coffee. Just like my occasional glass of red wine and dark chocolate addiction, I do the best I can sourcing the healthiest options. Coffee for me is an enjoyment.  I try to use the best beans and process I can, and as a result of it costing more, I started drinking less and appreciating a good up of joe more than just the weak and tasteless and bitter mud water I used to drink. Same thing happened with wine and chocolate. Funny how that works. My team members get onto me when I start going back for more coffee, and it is always because I have been pushing the needle too much. Just like recovery makes Flex 151 work, our body needs recovery.  In today’s modern, frenzied culture, Starbucks are popping up everywhere for more reasons than the European coffee house experience that made them famous and subsequently changed the American coffee experience. We American’s are nuts on stimulants to keep us from resting. So, generally if you are in a frenzied lifestyle and always on the go, you my friend are a perfect candidate to drastically curb your coffee consumption to protect your adrenals and not exacerbate the band-aid effect of the caffeine. Yes, I am talking to myself here! To you others, enjoy in moderation and ask me for any research you want. I can make your head spin with the positive effects of coffee and could talk hours on moderate, unsweetened coffee consumption being one of LEAST of your worries in the health world. Enjoy it and quit letting people sucking down diet cokes and heavy grain based diets tell you to quit drinking coffee. However, counter that with the fact that the research I find shows 2-6 cups per day! Keep in mind this is FAR less than standard America’s Grande cup and incessant refills. So, moderation is key. Be conservative. Another thing I am doing lately is skipping a week every month to keep me honest.  As I write this, I have just came off a ZERO caffeine kick for a MONTH as part of a liver cleanse.  Caffeine is a potent drug. Health effects in moderation are one thing; pure out addiction and using ‘research’ to justify weakness is another. If this is you like it was me (and still is at times I admit), we need to talk about meditation, yoga, the chi machine, sleep quality vs quantity, nutrition and other lifestyle factors. These are all the things that drove Molly and I to expand the business into Livewell.

Move-Empower-Release-Connect-Nourish-Strengthen. Health and wellness is a process and takes a balanced approach. We want to help.
Upgrade Cafe Cold Brewed Coffee

By the way, if you don’t want to worry about the above stuff, we have the highest quality and freshest coffee around. I guarantee it when you take into account not only taste and freshness, but health and wellness. Adding to above list of things to look for is the fact that our beans are roasted WEEKLY, thereby adding considerably to the freshness, taste and antioxidant levels. We sell a full 16oz bag for less price than most store organic specialty coffees, which trick you by selling you only 12 oz in a bag (a trick that really started to surface after the last recession).  Flavor is freshness with coffee, so the freshest coffee you find with normal distribution at stores around here is about 3 months.  We source only high altitude and wet-washed coffee beans to keep dangerous mycotoxins and other molds prevalent in coffee beans as low as possible. Plus, Bill Slatter of Berries to Beans here in town is who does our microroasting at precise temperatures to give you flavor without the 'burnt to a crisp' bitterness of your local FiveBucks. If you think I nerd out a little in this article on health and impact from coffee, you haven’t seen anything until Bill gets a hold of you and starts discussing the cupping notes and profiles of the various coffee beans he provides us to our specs that would make any sommelier in the wine industry grin and be impressed. Truly amazing man. So, you are not only supporting local at Livewell, you are supporting Bill and Jackie’s passion, and Molly and my passion, to provide you with the best possible enjoyment, with highest possible health effects, of your daily coffee habit.

Thanks to all of you who support Livewell, and thanks for putting up with my long blog! 

Please read more and check some source information at this site and by following the article citations: Dr. Mercola Geeky Coffee Health Effect Article