International Coffee Day

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is if coffee is good or bad for us. And like most things in the world of nutrition my answer is it depends!   And whether it’s good or bad may well depend on whether we are fast or slow metabolisers of coffee, and this is down to genetics.  But for most of us, having a cup or two of coffee a day is fine, but with the following provisos:

The good

  • Caffeine can stimulate mental and physical performance – it can be a useful pre-workout stimulant, particularly in endurance exercise, but can also aid recovery
  • Caffeine may have a positive effect on our weight by temporarily boosting our metabolism and suppressing appetite. But this can be undone by drinking large, milky or flavoured coffees, which can be high in calories
  • Coffee contains nutrients and antioxidants, which have a host of positive effects on our health
  • Good coffee tastes amazing and is a great way to start the day!

The bad

  • It’s addictive, and the more you have, the more your body adapts to it
  • If you suffer with anxiety and have high stress levels, drinking coffee may not be right for you. Caffeine can increase cortisol, our stress hormone, adding to the symptoms of stress. If this is you, try cutting back on the amount you drink and see if you see an improvement
  • Increases in cortisol can interfere with our hormones
  • If you are a naturally ‘wired’ personality type, lots of high-intensity exercise, always stressed and running on empty, then caffeine may be feeding into this scenario, making symptoms worse
  • Caffeine can interfere with blood sugar levels
  • Caffeine can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, and so should be consumed in moderation for people with heart disease
  • Caffeine can deplete certain nutrients in our body – notably B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc
  • We all know caffeine can interfere with sleep, but most people just associate this with a post-dinner coffee. While effects are usually felt within 15-45 mins of ingestion, it can still be present in the body 4-6 hours after you’ve drunk it.  Keep this in mind if you’ve trouble sleeping

Pregnant women should check current recommendations for intakes.  And as with all food and drink, if you feel you have a sensitivity and it doesn’t agree with you, then steer clear of it.

The verdict: A daily dose of caffeine isn’t essential and it’s definitely something you can live without … but for those of us who appreciate a good coffee in the morning, the day always starts better when it involves (in my case) a good flat white. So with the above in mind, if coffee works for you then enjoy it.  Just make sure to leave out the sugars and artificial sweeteners!

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