How to Tell if Coffee is Good or Bad for You.

Let's talk about coffee and the healthy/unhealthy relationship that you may have with it.

We can't seem to decide whether coffee is good or bad for us, and that's because the answer truly is that it depends.

There are studies which show the benefits of coffee for cognitive function, metabolism, and energy levels and there are also studies which show the negative effects of raising blood pressure, increasing anxiety, disrupting sleep patterns and causing headaches.

How can coffee be both good and bad for you?

Well, in order to understand how, we must look into a few things...

How to Tell if Coffee is Good or Bad for You

First we will go over the science behind it all, then your coffee quality and finally your overall relation with the stimulant.

Ok coffee lovers, it's time to learn how you can create a much needed balance in your relationship with your cup-a-joe.

The effects of coffee are different for everyone and this is due to our own unique metabolism. After you take a sip of coffee, it takes only 5 minutes for the caffeine to initially be absorbed into the blood stream, after 45 minutes 99% of the caffeine will be fully absorbed. Effects of caffeine can last anywhere from 4-6 hours on average. The speed at which caffeine is metabolized depends on your specific your gene makeup (yes, your coffee drinking ability is in your DNA).

Since 2.25 BILLION cups (with a B) are made each day in the ENTIRE WORLD. A habit so common, must be over analyzed. What I want to share today with you is the metabolism side of things, aren't you interested in knowing how some can drink a cup of coffee and go to sleep within the same hour and how others can get jittery and anxious off just a sip?

Caffeine is a drug, it stimulates the central nervous system and your body metabolizes it like one. Caffeine not stored in the body - 24 hours after consumption it is excreted. It is our lovely liver which metabolizes the caffeine along with other toxic substances that we may ingest in a day.

Your phase 1 and phase 2 of liver detoxification are there to transform toxins into a less-toxic form which can now be safely excreted. YAY for your body!

Now - just as newly discovered planets end up with names such as Kepler-186f, enzyme names are also pretty technical, so don't stress memorizing the enzyme names i'm about to drop in the next few sentences.

When it comes caffeine metabolism, an enzyme called CYP1A2 does the work. This enzyme is a part of the cytochrome P450 'super family' and plays a large role in phase 1 of liver detoxification where alcohol, drugs, medications and of course caffeine are converted into a less-toxic form that is more 'water soluble', which can now be excreted by the body This family of P450 enzymes also play a role in producing cholesterol, steroids, fatty acids and vitamin D. (Isn't your body amazing). [1]

This enzyme called CYP1A2 is the also key to whether you are a fast or slow caffeine metabolizer. 

We all have two copies of the gene which make up the enzyme CYP1A2, we get one copy from each parent. Just as your parents genes determined you hair colour and eye colour, they also were responsible for your caffeine metabolism. There are 2 variations of this gene which affect how quickly a person metabolizes caffeine [1]

  • CYP1A2*1A metabolizes caffeine very rapidly
  • CYP1A2*1F metabolizes caffeine slowly

The difference between these is one single nucleotide, meaning one single building block in your DNA that determines your true relationship with your ability to love your java.

You can undergo genetic testing to see if you and coffee are a true match made in heaven. Both Nutrigenomix and 23andMe provide genomic testing which can tell you where exactly your DNA structure falls. This is valuable information to know, especially if you are consuming more than one cup of coffee a day.

Those who metabolize caffeine more slowly are much more susceptible to complications associated with high blood pressure and have an increased risk of heart attack. Slow caffeine metabolizes should not drink more than one cup of coffee a day - and if you don't know where your genetic makeup stands (and don't want to pay to find out), then you're best off having just one cup a day [2].

You know, limiting yourself to a few coffees a week and no more than one a day, in my opinion the healthiest habit to form with caffeine. Use it's benefits for when you truly need them. & when you do reach for your cup-a-joe, remember another important choice is the quality of the bean.

You see, you can actually get some nutrition from your coffee - when you choose high quality and certified organic varieties.

"You mean I have to buy organic coffee!?", well - yes!

Coffee is actually one of our most heavily sprayed crops and since this bean is mass produced, choosing organic ensures that your coffee is not saturated in pesticides - which would make for a chemical cocktail in your morning cup. 

Organic, fair-trade coffee also tastes better - less bitter - and the true flavours of origin come through in a wonderful way. Some coffees have more of a vanilla undertone, while others take on berry or citrus flavour (true coffee lovers know).

Picking 'fair-trade' will also equal good karma. Many coffee farmers make little to no money and fair-trade means that the coffee farmers that work hard to produce your java are also making a living from their hard work. Buying organic and fair-trade means there’s no artificial flavours added and no chemicals are used in the processing. Coffee beans naturally contain magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, copper, and minerals from the healthy natural/organic soil that they grow in.

While there is lots to consider with our coffee habit, the biggest take away is do not let coffee rule you, premium organic coffee, with no dependency can definitely add some bonus points to your day (for cognitive function and energy), ideally you would be a fast metabolizer and not sensitive to stimulants.

On the flip side, an unhealthy habit is one where dependency on coffee is present and you cannot function without it. This is a tell tale sign of poor adrenal function. Caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands which puts you into a constant fight/flight response where your body produces more adrenaline and cortisol. Caffeine does create dependency and you must always remember that when you drink coffee you are not really getting energy, you are borrowing energy from caffeine, if your top reason for consuming coffee is because you cannot function without it than some underlying work needs to be done. 

In my holistic nutrition practice, I highly recommend following a 14-Day Coffee Elimination Challenge to eliminate any dependency that you may have developed. 

Finally, make sure what you add to your coffee also supports your health, avoid adding artificial sweeteners and creamers. 

You don't have to give up coffee! Just make the healthiest choices that benefit your body & mind.

Little secret, I drink coffee - but I also listen to my body. When I was showing signs of imbalanced hormones I cut it out for 2 months to improve how I was feeling. When I am under stress I reach for Organic Holy Basil (Tulsi) Tea as my first choice.

But when I do have coffee, I limit myself to 3-4 times a week and I alternate how I enjoy mine, but these are my top 3 ways:

  1. Butter Coffee as a meal replacement, typically on a HIIT day
  2. Organic Giddy Yoyo Coffee with 1 scoop Bulletproof Collagen Powder and pure maple syrup
  3. Four Sigmatic Instant Mushroom Coffee (Cordyceps & Chaga) with pure maple syrup