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To coffee or not to coffee? Should you or shouldn't you?

Posted Mar 27 2011 11:25pm
If you’re reading this blog post while sipping on your morning coffee, you might be struggling with feelings of guilt. Should I really be drinking coffee? Is it healthy? Seems like a lot of scientists have been trying to answer this question too, particularly those in Western cultures where coffee consumption is widespread.

After an hour searching through the scientific literature, I couldn’t find a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether coffee is good or bad for you, (although that’s often the case with scientific research).  Some research found that regular coffee consumption increases your metabolic rate, making it very useful for fitness training and for people on weight loss regimes. Other reviews suggested that the caffeine in coffee was a very useful drug for maintaining alertness in shift workers and students.  (If you’re a naturally anxious person, becoming more alert may not be the effect you want.)

The caffeine in coffee is certainly a drug that acts quickly. That’s because the caffeine molecule is tiny, enabling it to quickly pass through your stomach into your bloodstream, and through your brain’s protective membranes to affect your brain cells. But caffeine will also push its way to the front of your liver’s processing queue, delaying the processing of other possibly important tasks for your liver. So excessive amounts of coffee could make you feel sluggish and toxic.

When faced with conflicting scientific evidence on a particular food, it’s often useful to look backwards, to the way it has been used over the last thousand years or so. Coffee is actually just a bean; roasted, ground and mixed with water to create a drink. Once coffee reached Europe in the middle ages, coffee houses began to appear, and developed as a great place to exchange ideas – helped no doubt by the brain-stimulating effects of the caffeine!

On the face of it, coffee seems to be just another food that you can use to your advantage or abuse to your detriment. The key to a healthy diet is to enjoy everything in moderation, and as close to its natural form as possible. So if you’re sipping on a regular size cup made with real coffee beans, there’s a fair chance it’s actually doing you good. But if the coffee sitting on your table is super-sized, based on a mixture of milk, syrup and instant flavoured coffee laced with additives, maybe it’s not doing you much good at all.

Your call.

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