Although I still partake from time to time, I consider myself a recovering coffee addict. I do truly love the stuff. The taste, the smell, coffee culture, coffee shops, getting a cup of joe with a friend. I must attest to having a deep love for coffee. The problem is when I was at my peak of consumption, I was having upwards to 5 cups each day. I knew I needed to reconsider my approach to sustaining energy. After doing some research, I found that in such excess coffee was causing more harm than good and along with a poor diet contributing to some negative health conditions I’m still recovering from.
I went from devout coffee-head to full-on herbal enthusiast and have now made the journey a quarter of the way back to a once-in-a-blue-moon cup of joe. When I’m traveling with my band or in recording sessions I tend to be more inclined to fall back into coffee habits. It must be something about the artist/creative lifestyle that makes drinking a ton of coffee appealing. Love it or hate it, coffee has some health benefits and downfalls. The most compelling, I’ve compiled below…
1. Antioxidants released in the roasting process of darker brews helps prevents the damage of cells from free radicals, which may otherwise lead to cancer and other diseases. A testament to coffee or a sad truth, coffee may be the top source of antioxidants in the Standard American Diet.
2. Energy Levels & Brain Function increases when caffeine enters bloodstream and blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. This leads to higher energy levels and improved memory
3. Fat Blasting Potential of coffee has been known to increase metabolism and enable weight loss. By stimulating the nervous system, caffeine sends signals to fat cells to break down. Studies have shown that caffeine can increase the metabolic rate by 3-11%. When a tolerance to caffeine is built up, however, these effects tend to diminish.
4. Mood Enhancing properties of coffee were found in a study done by the National Institute of Health, which discovered these effects went beyond caffeine. Antioxidants are the likely happiness helpers in java, while caffeine can act as a mild antidepressant, helping to release serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline.
5. Improved Athletic Performance has been noted as a key benefit to drinking coffee. Caffeine increases adrenaline levels, allowing you to be ready for physical exertion. It also helps release fatty acids into the bloodstream, which can be used as fuel by the body and in particular, the muscles.
1. Energy Rollercoasters have been known to occur in coffee drinkers. The same properties that give us that famous energy boost may be causing a similar crash. This is due to the excess release of adrenaline, which is connected to our “fight or flight” state. Unless you are in a life-or-death situation, this forced release of adrenaline may not be serving you. In fact, many experience extreme drops in energy only hours after consuming. Are we putting our bodies into a false “survival mode” only to be tired and confused not long after?
2. Acid Forming foods and drinks like coffee have been known to be detrimental to our health and can cause scores of negative health conditions. To maintain consistent health, we need a balance of acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods. The typical American diet consists mainly of acid-forming foods. Considering that the 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day and that on average over 3 cups per day, coffee could be contributing to this troublesome acidic state that so many bodies are in today.
3. Addictive and habit forming, coffee drinkers often joke of their dependence to caffeine. We’ve all heard people say “don’t talk to me till I’ve had my fix” equating java to heroin or meth in a silly tongue-in-cheek manner. The problem is, coffee IS a drug. When you get that “high”, the more you drink, the harder it is to re-create the same effects, leading to even heavier consumption. You can see how this can snowball into an out of control habit with some coffee drinkers consuming up to 6 cups daily. I was up to nearly 5 cups daily and even more when I worked as a barista.
4. Adrenal Drainage could be a common negative side effect of excessive coffee consumption. Adrenal exhaustion & fatigue are like the weary feeling after a period of extreme stress. As described above, coffee causes the excess secretion of adrenaline, putting our bodies in a stressed “fight-or-flight” mode. Over consumption of caffeine, other stressors, and the practically devoid of nutrition Standard American Diet can put the adrenals in a constant state of depletion. It’s difficult to have any relaxation time when you are perpetually in a state of stress or fatigue.
5. Gut Irritation & Heartburn can occur from excessive coffee intake. Caffeine and other acids found in coffee have been known to irritate the stomach and small intestine and can be problematic for people with IBS, ulcers, Crohn’s and other digestive tract issues. Coffee can increase stomach acid, causing heartburn for some people. People with these issues are generally advised to limit their coffee consumption.
Most of the benefits of coffee, aside from antioxidants, seem to be hindered by its user’s tendency to form habits and the body’s natural tolerance that is all to easily built up. Using coffee for its health benefits becomes then another form of “chasing the dragon”. You’ll never get that first “high” again, but you’ll keep trying to no avail. My simple approach has been effective and it comes down to keeping it in moderation.
Personally, I was able to make the switch from java junkie to nearly no joe without any withdrawals thanks to the help of energy enhancers that don’t leave me high and dry. I still have about 1 cup of organic coffee per week give or take, but mostly prefer green tea, yerba mate, cacao, & astragalus root to name a few. I also like to make herbal “coffee”, which is a dark java-like brew that satisfies my craving and offers even better benefits!
Java-less Joe (Herbal Alternative to Coffee)
Serves: 2 (12 oz. each)
24 ounces of boiled water
2 tablespoons roasted chicory root
1 tablespoon roasted almonds (crushed into a meal)
2 teaspoons dandelion root
¼ teaspoon raw cacao powder
1. If necessary, set oven to 350 and roast almonds for about 15 minutes or until a darker brown. When toasty, crush almonds into a meal. I used a mortar & pestle, but a food processor works too.
2. Add all ingredients to a coffee or tea press.
3. Add boiled water to press and let it steep for 5-10 minutes.
4. Press and drink as you would your favorite cup of coffee!
- Chicory root has been known for its liver cleansing and blood purifying power. The ancient Egyptians and Romans were known to consume chicory in large quantities for this reason. Chicory is also loaded with antioxidants and increases the flow of bile, which works as a digestive aid.
- Dandelion root promotes healthy digestion, improves liver function, diuretic that helps clear out kidneys, immune boosting, reduces inflammation, and helps lower blood pressure.