Lately there has been quite a bit of research and a number of published studies revealing that coffee is not the express way to ill health that most us were under the impression it was. In fact, coffee has some remarkably positive health benefits to it. These include things like warding off depression, protecting against liver disease, providing serious amounts of antioxidants, and speeding up one’s metabolism and fat burning capacity.
For coffee lovers this is great news, as knowing that something you enjoy is good for just makes it even more enjoyable.
If you are really keen to reap the full range of health benefits which coffee can provide, then you’ll be excited to know that there are a few things which you can do to maximize its health giving potential.
How to Get the Health Benefits of Coffee –Without Any Harmful Extras
Pure coffee brings with it a host of nutrients, antioxidants and potentially positive effects on the body. What you don’t want coming along, are poisons and toxins, bleach, additional calories, and preservatives.
If you are getting real excited about how your coffee habit can boost your health, then one of the first things you should look at, if you are not doing it already, is to start buying a good brand of organic coffee. Coffee plants are one of the most intensively sprayed crops today. This is because though they naturally occur in the shade of other forest plants, in order to increase yields agricultural companies now clear land for coffee cultivation, and as a result are forced to use high amounts of pesticides and fertilizers in order to maintain the plants.
Effects of Pesticides
Pesticides are poisonous to insects, and in the same vein are poisonous to us. At this point there are at least 19 (1, 2, 3) published studies which link exposure to and consumption of pesticides to serious illnesses such as neurological disorders, Parkinson’s disease, childhood leukemia, lymphoma, and asthma. Cancer patients have been found to often contain a high level of pesticides within their bloodstream.
Effects of Fertilizers
Fertilizers stimulate growth in plants, however, they do not provide the complex makeup of nutrition which a naturally healthy and rich soil does. According to records (4) the nutritional value of foods has fallen since the beginning of the 20th century, and this is thought to be caused by the advent of artificial fertilizers, and the discontinuation of previous sustainable farming methods.
If you are enthused about the health benefits which coffee has to offer, then you definitely do not want pesticide residue on your coffee, and you do want to opt for a brand of beans which has its full nutrient levels.
Ditch Sugar, Harmful Sugar Substitutes, and Artificial Creamers
While coffee itself has proven health benefits and nutritional value, refined sugar, and artificial sweeteners and creamers do not. In fact, refined sugar has been termed one of most harmful elements of modern day diets if consumed in excess. Artificial sweeteners have been linked (5) to certain cancers, and the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) warns against coffee creamers, which contains chemicals and additives.
Avoid Bleached Paper Filters
If you are making coffee via the drip method, whether mechanized or pour over, then have a look to see if you can buy unbleached filters. Bleach is a harmful substance, and residues of it can filter through into your coffee.
Be Careful When Buying Decaf
If you are enjoying the benefits of coffee via decaf (while the health benefits of caffeine will not be present, you will still reap the other beneficial compounds present in coffee), then make sure that you are buying a brand which uses natural and non-harmful methods to extract the caffeine. Many varieties are decaffeinated using solvents, residues of which can remain in the coffee.
The best method of decaffeination is also the oldest, and it is called the Swiss Water Process. Organic coffees are decaffeinated almost exclusively this way, so if you are buying organic – you probably have nothing to worry about. Coffee that has undergone the Swiss Water Method will always state so on the packaging.
Be careful of decaffeinated brands which state that they have been decaffeinated ‘naturally’. This usually means that the decaffeination process is carried out using ethyl acetate as a solvent. Ethyl acetate is toxic in high concentrations. The amounts which might carry through into your decaf are not high, but it is good to be aware that some residue will be present, and that brands which state that they have been decaffeinated ‘naturally’ are not talking about the solvent free Swiss Water method.
Do Not Brew Your Coffee With a Coffee Machine
Are you brewing your coffee with a coffee machine? If you are someone who is concerned about BPA’s leaching into your food and the health hazards which come with them, then have a think about your coffee machine. Coffee machines are prime candidates for this type of leeching, as they are exposed to very hot water whenever you use them, and this hot water goes directly into your cup. This may depend, of course, on the model of machine you are using and the type of coffee.
If you are really concerned, you might consider using a French Press, a Percolator, an Aeropress, or other more simplistic (and plastic-free) coffee maker. Read our guide to all the different methods to brewing coffee for some ideas.
Use a Metal or Ceramic Pour Over Filter Holder
If you are a pour over coffee drinker fan, rather than use a plastic pour over filter holder, choose one which is made out of metal or ceramic. As with coffee machines, the hot water passing over the surface of the plastic has the potential to leach harmful BPA’s into your coffee. Not what you want when on the mission to drink the most health elevating coffee around.
How Maximize Coffee’s Health Benefits
Besides ensuring that you are not getting any harmful substances in along with your coffee, there are some other tricks you can use to ensure that you are really getting the most out of your cup.
When to Drink it
As coffee is a stimulant, it is best to enjoy it during the day, and leave a good gap between your last cup and bedtime if you ever have trouble with light sleeping. Coffee is best not consumed on an empty stomach if you sensitive to it, as this can cause low blood sugar – or otherwise known as the coffee jitters.
What Not to Drink it With
Coffee is acidifying upon digestion – one of the less healthy aspects of it. If you are enjoying a diet which has alkalizing elements in it such as fruit, veg, herbal teas etc, then you probably do not need to worry overly about the acidifying effects of a moderate amount of coffee. There is however, one thing which is good to keep in mind, and that it, do not drink coffee in combination or right after a meal or snack which you are eating partly for its alkalizing benefits.
For example, if you eat a piece of fruit for breakfast, or for a snack, as a sort alkalizing routine, then do not pour coffee on top of it – because your good work will be ruined, the fruit will not have a chance to do all of its alkalizing. The other benefits of the fruit and the coffee will remain, however, the alkalizing part will not be as effective.
When having a cup of coffee, why not make it a habit to pair it with a tall glass of water? Coffee is a diuretic, which means that it pulls water from your cells and sends you off to the bathroom at some point. By drinking extra water with your coffee you will counteracting its dehydrating effects.
Save the last sip:
Save the last swig of water for when you finish your coffee. Coffee can leave one’s mouth feeling ‘dirty’, and this is a reality when taking into account tooth enamel staining. Once your coffee is finished, take the last sip of water and swirl it in your mouth before swallowing to rinse any potentially staining coffee away.
Coffee Additives to Boost its Benefits
While it is a good plan to stay away from adding harmful things to your coffee, such as refined sugar and artificial creamers or sweeteners, there are some super tasty things which you can add which can actually boost the beneficial power of your cup.
Unless you are a hardened black coffee drinker who would never taint their coffee experience with any experimental flavors, you might find there is a lot of fun in adding in spices to your coffee. Here are some ideas:
- Cardamom (a common additive to coffee in the Middle East)
- Vanilla pods
- Ginger (East African tradition)
If you do not want a grainy texture of spices floating around in your coffee, or do not feel like struggling to mix them in – a common frustration with cinnamon powder – then opt to combine the spice or spices with the grounds when brewing. If you always drink your coffee with a certain spice, you can mix some into your bag or jar of coffee to save having to add it in each time you make your coffee.
Oils – Going Bulletproof
A recent trend has developed which at first sounds decidedly unappetizing. However, once you try it you will probably really enjoy it! And that is bulletproof coffee. A bulletproof coffee is basically a normal black coffee, blended at high speed with about a tablespoon of either grass fed butter or coconut oil or both. The oil becomes emulsified in the coffee, resulting in a beautifully smooth and luxurious tasting drink.
Bulletproof coffees were developed less as a decadent coffee recipe, and more as a health jumpstart drink which can assist weight loss (if consumed without carbs), heighten energy levels and increase alertness and mental function.
Bulletproof coffee is particularly great for those of us who might experience low blood sugar levels after drinking coffee, as the added healthy fat content counteracts this. Bulletproof coffees are good for tiding you over until the next meal, as they can help to energize and keep hunger pangs at bay at the same time.
Bulletproof Blending Hack –
As we are almost done, I thought that I would quickly share with you my manual blending technique for making bulletproof coffees. If you ever find yourself sans blender – whether that be staying at the in-laws, traveling, or simply experiencing a power outage – you might live to thank me ; ).
Combine your bulletproof coffee ingredients in a shaker, including sugar if that is part of your bulletproof. If you do not have a shaker, you can use a jar or anything else with a lid which seals.
Now give the container or shaker a very gentle shake. Immediately crack the lid to release pressure. Repeat this a few times, until the pressure stops building up so much every time you shake.
No go for it. Shake the heck out of it! Switch arms, let the muscles burn.
You can shake for as long as you want, but a perfect time to stop is when you can hear that the texture of your bulletproof is changing. This indicates that is has fully combined with the coconut oil or butter, or whichever oil you are using.
Now pour and enjoy! You might find that the temperature of your drink will be lower than when using a blender, as the emulsion process will take a little longer – but if you are craving a bulletproof (yes they are that good) it is a small sacrifice.
As you can see, optimizing your coffee to give your all the health benefits possible with some added ones on the side when you want to do flavoring, and making sure that you are not ingesting any harmful substances along with your coffee is a rewarding process.
In fact, it can lead to better, more tasty coffee, which is sustainably produced and full of nutrients. Flavoring your coffee with spices and healthy fats can be a lot of fun, and yield up some very satisfying and stimulating drinks, with the added benefit that the flavors come with their own healthy elements.
Made and drunk correctly, coffee can be used to clear one’s mind for mental work, allow the energy to rise for physical workouts, and stimulate neurons in the brain that cause that super pleasurable feeling which comes when one gets the scent and taste of really good coffee.
Let that really good coffee be your coffee!