Is coffee really that bad?

I'll answer your question with a question. Do you NEED coffee?  Are you asleep until you have your first cup?  Do you need the joe to get your day started?  Do you need coffee to function?  If the answer is "yes," then we need to dig deeper.  If you are not human until you have your coffee, we're dealing with other issues here.   Most likely, your diet and/or lifestyle are not supporting your energy, so you're looking to one of the most obvious external sources (sugar is the other) for energy.  If you're eating something like a standard American diet, eating refined foods, processed foods, eating late at night, going many hours without eating, skipping breakfast, drinking wine every night... all of these are likely triggers for your must-have morning coffee.  If you have a baby or small children that keep you up...well, that's a different story!

coffee for deck

Next, are you sleeping well?  Are you getting to sleep at a normal hour, getting restful sleep and waking up feeling okay?   What about your stress levels?   High stress can be exhausting, but coffee will make it much worse for you.

If you must have your coffee and don't feel like you can function without it, I think there's a bigger issue here and likely not a great idea for you to have it daily.  It is an addiction for many people and something to examine.  

Next, how do you tolerate coffee?  Does coffee dehydrate you?  Do you get major jitters? 

What about your digestion?  Does coffee give you a stomach ache?  Does it stimulate a #2 for you within the hour?  (hint: drinking coffee as a cure for constipation is dangerous bandaid and looking at your digestive health is essential).  Finally, if you have a known digestive disorder, coffee is a NO NO (you already knew that, but a little reminder is good sometimes).

SO, if you don't need coffee, don't have any digestive issues, tolerate coffee totally fine, are not addicted to it, but merely enjoy the taste and/or ritual of a daily cup of coffee, here's a few tips:


1. Look at the source of your coffee.  

Your corner deli is likely not brewing the highest quality coffee.  As with everything that goes into your body, quality is key.  Organically grown beans are better.  Small roasters, a source you know and trust, this is all a good way to go.  


2. Drink coffee the way people do around the world, not the way Americans do.  

Drinking 72 oz of brewed drip coffee out of a styrofoam cup on an empty stomach is not exactly a traditional way of drinking coffee. Yes, coffee is a traditional food and we've seen it in cultures around the world for a long time.  Typically, you'll see family and friends gather around for this ritual.  Whether a latte, cappuccino, Turkish coffee, espresso, etc, these drinks are usually sipped slowly and savored.  Of course, some of our not-so-admirable American ways are spreading the globe, but taking a lesson from tradition is always my favorite way to learn about food.  


3. Coffee is not breakfast.  

I do not recommend ever having coffee on an empty stomach.  Coffee spikes your blood sugar and what goes up must come down.  You'll crash soon after and likely crave something sugary or more coffee for energy.  


Trying to conceive?  Pregnant?  

Coffee is a hot topic for this audience.  All of the rules and tips above apply here as well, but I recommend going light on the caffeine, especially early in your pregnancy.  You know how strongly I feel about an optimal pre-pregnancy diet and so it should not differer from your pregnancy diet.  You'll want to nourish your body the best you can before, during and after pregnancy (if you are breastfeeding).  A rule of thumb here is if you are TTC (trying to conceive) and are used to drinking 1 cup of coffee per day, I think it's fine to continue that as long as you are never drinking on an empty stomach and, preferably, combining with milk (or nut milk- NO SOY MILK!) for additional fat to slow absorption.  If you can go every other day, that's even better.  Subbing in green tea for coffee would be excellent.  Black tea also has a lot of caffeine and I recommend grouping that with coffee- no more than 1 cup daily.  If you're in your first trimester and feeling completely exhausted, this is NOT the time to take on the coffee habit.  Your body needs rest, not coffee.   Do what you can to get through the day with optimal nutrition and hydration and get in bed as early as you can.

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