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Sep 3, 2014

For the Love of Coffee

Natural health practitioner Shelly Zagor says she can gladly give up sugar, wheat, or meat, but NOT her coffee. If you are one of those people for whom the pleasures of the morning ritual and accompanying caffeine jolt are critically necessary in your life, consider the other effects taking place with your first sip of joe. Coffee contains hundreds of active compounds and substances, which can positively and/or negatively affect your system.

Some of the major antioxidant phytochemicals found in coffee are the following:
Chlorogenic acid: a compound specifically shown to inhibit glucose in the liver. It is thought to reduce the risk of glycemic disorders, like diabetes.
Quinic acid: contributing to acid taste. It is used in making Tamiflu, a popular treatment for influenza.
Cafestol: a compound extracted from the beans oil during brewing and thought to have anti-carcinogenic effects.
N-methylpyridinium: created by roasting, it is believed to enhance the potency of the other antioxidants in coffee.

A 2012 Danish study published in ScienceNordic Journal suggests coffee can be beneficial in reducing the risk of several illnesses including bile tract and liver cancer, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. A Finnish study found a significantly decreased risk for depression in older women who drank coffee. More research is needed to determine which indicators are the most at work, since it is difficult to isolate each component. Most of the data studied used an old-fashioned filtered brew. The studies make a point that the highest benefits are achieved by drinking 3-4 cups a day.

The type of coffee you drink, method of preparation (standard coffeemaker, French press, Chemex brewer, single-cup cone brewing, espresso etc), how grown and roasting time can all affect the efficacy of what’s in your coffee cup. Instant coffee is thought to have a lower antioxidant value than brewed.  Another factor is cup size. In Europe and even in Asia, a cup of coffee is small, barely one ounce of esspresso, and because of the way it is processed is low in caffeine. An American cup of coffee at Starbucks is 12 oz and the largest cup contains 20 oz!

Naturopathic doctor Peter Bongiorno, ND, LAc, of InnerSource Health in New York City and Long Island, N.Y., refers to coffee as “the most popular drug.” He stresses the importance of understanding the benefits and detriments to your health, and recommends the following if you drink coffee (which he does):

Drink a glass of water before to balance the diuretic or dehydrating effect. To pump up your hydration add 2 teaspoons of chia seeds to 8 ounces of water, let it steep, shake, then drink.
Don’t drink coffee everyday. Are you addicted? Make sure coffee doesn’t start to ‘run’ you. Take a day or two off every week.
Don’t substitute coffee for sleep. If you are sleep deprived and are drinking continuously to get through your day, your body’s adrenal system will rapidly become depleted and you can suffer symptoms of “burn out.”
Be aware that males and females exhibit different reactions. Studies show caffeinated coffee enters men’s systems faster than women, and men feel the effect of caffeine more. And a 2003 study from the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse suggests that young women (ages 8-22) who drink coffee are at higher risk for smoking and alcohol addiction than males that age.
Think about what is balancing for your system, and what stimulates or calms you. How do you feel after drinking a cup of coffee, both immediately and an hour after?
If you are going to drink coffee, make sure it is organic.Coffee plants are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, coated with chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Most decaffeinated coffees are also chemically treated to reduce the caffeine; water washed decaf is the safest.

Gwen Korovin, M.D., an otolaryngologist in New York City, says although studies show drinking coffee reduces the risk of dying from oral/pharyngeal cancers, many of her patients who drink substantial amounts of coffee complain of acid reflux. “What may be beneficial to the upper part of the throat may not be so in the lower tract,” she says. When they cut down on their consumption, the symptoms dissipate.