Coffee has a particularly powerful hold over many people. For millions of us, it’s not only an addiction to caffeine; there’s also something else—something more than just the chemical effects of the coffee. We relish in the experience of leisurely sipping on a cup, the smell and warmth of it, and that familiar flavor that tantalizes the taste buds. That could help explain why around 90% of adults in the US enjoy at least one cup of coffee a day.
So when you contemplate dropping your daily habit, or even worse . . . replacing it with something healthy, it can feel like the world’s coming to an end. So, is coffee bad for you? The answer is not so simple; there are both benefits and risks associated with drinking coffee. Let’s look further into what makes it good, and how coffee is bad for you.
How is Coffee Good for You?
First, let’s start with the good news—coffee may actually be good for you when consumed in moderation. Studies have linked coffee consumption to several potential health benefits. Filled with antioxidants, regular consumption of coffee offers numerous advantages, from improved brain functions to protected cellular damage. Here are five main reasons why coffee is good for you:
- Helps with Weight Loss: Potassium, magnesium, and caffeine all work together to lower unhealthy cravings, maintain insulin levels and help fat cells to burn for fuel. Plus, coffee may even boost your metabolism.
- Improve Focus: Caffeinated coffee is known to increase cognitive speed during test-taking, and generally improves focus and energy levels.
- Increase Physical Performance: Caffeine can rev up adrenaline levels, improving the body’s response times and boosting heart rate.
- Balances Blood Sugar: Regular coffee consumption shields the body against type 2 diabetes in both men and women. It’s known to decrease insulin sensitivity while impairing the body’s glucose tolerance.
- Lowers Risk of Cancer: Studies suggest that men who drink 4 cups of coffee per day have a 20% lower chance of developing prostate cancer, and women who do the same have a 25% decreased risk of endometrial cancer. Coffee may even reduce the risk of liver cancer by 40%, as well as the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
- Helps Fight Chronic Diseases: Regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease by up to 58%, while also reducing nerve damage. Research shows that women who drink coffee daily are 38% less likely to suffer a stroke. It’s also been proven to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Coffee also contains antioxidants that protect against the free radicals that contribute to heart disease and cancer.
Why is coffee bad for you?
However, it’s not all good news—coffee can be harmful to your health in large doses. Too much caffeine can cause headaches, increased heart rate, insomnia, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances if you don’t drink enough water throughout the day. Here is a closer look at why too much coffee is bad for you:
- Sleep Deprivation: Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it increases alertness and energy levels in the body. While this makes it great for waking up or helping you stay focused during an afternoon slump, it can also disrupt your sleep patterns if consumed too late in the day or in large amounts. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, try cutting out that afternoon cup of coffee to see if it helps.
- Anxiety and Stress: Caffeine can also cause feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and even panic attacks in some people who are particularly sensitive to its effects. If you find yourself feeling overly stressed or anxious after drinking coffee regularly, consider cutting back or breaking your habit altogether.
- Digestive Issues: Coffee can also cause digestive problems like heartburn and indigestion due to its acidic nature and high caffeine content. Additionally, some people experience diarrhea after drinking coffee due to its laxative effect on the bowels. If you have frequent digestive issues after drinking coffee, talk to your doctor about other options for keeping alert throughout the day without causing digestive distress.
- Dehydration: Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it increases urination frequency and volume which can lead to dehydration if left unchecked. Since dehydration can have serious adverse effects on your health—including headaches, dizziness, and fatigue—it’s important to make sure you’re replenishing fluids lost through frequent caffeine consumption with plenty of water throughout the day.
- Alters the natural effects of hormones: Caffeine can stimulate the production of cortisol in the body, which is dubbed as ‘the stress hormone’, which can be linked to various health issues like weight gain, irritability, and even diabetes. Coffee also increases dopamine and adrenaline, giving you a temporary boost but possibly making you fatigued and depressed later.
- Toxicity: It can be slight, but we still thought it was worth mentioning. There are two ways that coffee could have toxicity: pesticides and acrylamide. Coffee is one of the most chemically-treated crops. According to some research, roasting coffee beans can only reduce toxins by 85 percent (yet another good reason to stick with organic coffee). During roasting, another potentially harmful chemical known as acrylamide can form. This natural byproduct of the cooking process occurs when certain starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures. Acrylamide poses a serious risk to our nervous system if exposed for long periods of time; however, the danger is mainly only a concern for those who work in the manufacturing processes that use this chemical. The small, trace amounts of acrylamide in coffee are considered safe.
- High blood pressure: Coffee can raise blood pressure in some individuals. Individuals who already have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing it may want to limit their coffee consumption. Additionally, individuals with anxiety disorders should also be aware of the potential to worsen symptoms when drinking too much coffee.
- Potential addiction: Coffee can lead to addiction for some, making it difficult for the body to rely on natural sources of energy. This is because coffee causes a release of dopamine, which is the same chemical released when people become addicted to drugs. Over time, this addiction can wear down the body’s natural ability to regulate energy levels.
So, Is coffee good or bad for you?
As far as we can tell, the health benefits of drinking coffee outweigh any potential drawbacks. As long as it’s consumed in moderation, coffee can have a positive influence on overall health and well-being. Knowing the potential benefits and risks of consuming coffee can help you make informed decisions about what you drink and when. Opting for organic, fair trade coffee, limiting your intake to 2-4 cups per day, and sticking with black coffee can help to maximize any potential health benefits. Ultimately, the key is to be mindful and enjoy your coffee in moderation, while finding other healthy ways to get the energy boost you need.