If you are someone who reaches for a warm cuppa joe first thing in the morning you are surely not alone. In fact, according to the National Coffee Association, 63 percent of American adults drink coffee daily.
While many folks are looking for a morning pick me up, help with focusing, and/or an overall boost in energy, others simply enjoy the morning ritual and the warm robust flavor of a good cup of coffee.
Is coffee good for you? Does coffee boost your metabolism? This is a common (and complex) question.
Here you will find some of the research behind coffee, the truth about coffee and metabolism, how to best enjoy your morning brew, and when it is best to consider avoiding coffee altogether.
The Various Metabolic Aspects of Drinking Coffee
High in Antioxidants
Simply living in the world causes oxidative stress—an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body that can lead to cell and tissue damage. This can be exacerbated or reversed by the purity of food you eat, the quality of air you breathe, the amount of stress you endure, the nature of your sleep, and your daily lifestyle choices.
Ingesting high levels of antioxidants in foods and beverages—such as high-quality coffee—can protect the cells from free radical damage—compounds and/or toxins that damage the cells. Coffee may also be a great addition to your diet to combat many related health issues, such as inflammation.
Phenolic acids are a type of polyphenol (micronutrients with antioxidant activity). These plant-sourced antioxidants are found in high doses in just one cup of coffee.
One type of polyphenol in coffee is chlorogenic acid. Research shows that this particular antioxidant can have a positive impact on degenerative disease (such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease).
While there is more research needed in this field, much of the research is pointing to how important antioxidants are in the mitochondrial (the powerhouse of the cells where energy is produced as ATP) production of energy, combating oxidative stress and improving metabolic rate.
Supports Liver Detoxification
Did you know that coffee has long been recognized for having liver protective properties? You may know your liver as the large digestive organ that lives on the right side of your abdomen. You may also know that your liver is one of the key organs that supports the detoxification processes of your body.
When the liver is not functioning well, there are many symptoms and conditions that develop. You may have heard of the many common liver conditions such as fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, inflammation, cancer, Hepatitis A, B, or C, and hemochromatosis, to name just a few. Clearly, a healthy liver function is imperative for a healthy, strong body and metabolism.
One study showed regular coffee consumption leading to lower rates of Hepatitis C progression, while another study confirmed an ingredient in coffee that protects the liver against cirrhosis (especially alcoholic cirrhosis).
The liver plays an integral role in all of the metabolic processes of the body. Consequently, when the liver is functioning at an optimal level and detoxifying efficiently, fat metabolism (breaking down fat in the liver cells) boosts metabolism, producing more energy for the body.
When it comes to coffee, there is a big question in the health and wellness industry: Is coffee a true energy enhancer? While many use coffee for a boost of energy, help with mental focus, and to get moving on those sluggish mornings, are the effects of caffeine building sustainable energy?
One study showed a direct correlation with caffeine intake and increased energy expenditure. This study revealed stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and increase of lipolysis (the breakdown of fats to release fatty acids). In laymen’s terms, coffee gives you a boost that helps you burn fat during your workout.
Another study confirmed an increase in metabolic rate within the three hours after ingesting caffeine. The study also showed an overall increase in fat oxidation in the final hour of the three hours the participants were monitored.
Caffeine increases resting metabolic rate by 3 to 11 percent, with the larger doses of caffeine having a more substantial impact. Caffeine also increases fat burning by up to 10 to 29 percent in women.
Caffeine may just be another reliable way to enhance your energy levels and metabolism on a biochemical level.
Increases Ketone Production
You may have heard of the ketogenic approach to eating. Originally created as a supportive diet for children with epilepsy in the early 1920s, the ketogenic diet is extremely low in carbs and high in protein and fat. The aim is to force the body into a ketogenic state where the body burns fat for energy instead of the usual glucose, which can sometimes result in weight loss.
When you have increased ketones (a type of fuel for your body derived from fat), your body burns fat as energy. This can have many benefits, such as decreased inflammation, increased weight loss, balanced blood sugar and insulin, and improved symptoms from neurological disorders.
One study concluded that caffeine increases ketone production, specifically in the morning hours. While there is more research needed in this area of study, coffee appears to be a ketogenic-friendly beverage and a great way to burn fat for energy.
Healthy Ways to Make and Drink Coffee
As with anything you put into your body, ensuring that it is of the highest and purest quality is always a good rule of thumb. The same goes for coffee. Try these simple yet effective strategies and align your coffee drinking with your personal health as well as sustainability practices.
The coffee industry (like many other wings of the food industry) has taken many wrong turns when it comes to purity and quality. Coffee is a highly (pesticide) sprayed crop. Not only that, while there is little research on pesticide residue in coffee, potential toxicity comes from the conventional growing and processing of coffee and could lead to a negative impact on your health.
When buying coffee to drink, be sure it is organic whenever possible.
Choose Fair Trade
Fair Trade USA is a non-profit that ensures that goods such as coffee, sugar, and chocolate are made with environmental and sustainable practices (protecting land and waterways in 45 countries and counting). The Fair Trade Certified seal also assures fair treatment for those involved in the production of the goods.
When buying coffee, look for the Fair Trade Certified seal.
As with everything you put into your body, using pure ingredients, including water, for your homebrew helps ensure you are getting the purest (and tastiest) of coffee. Coffee is primarily made up of water so it is important to consider using filtered or spring water when brewing coffee.
Give Your Coffee a Boost
There are many ways to give your coffee a nutritional boost by adding some popular superfoods. It is tasty and easy to do. When brewing your coffee try adding a dollop of coconut oil, a scoop of collagen powder, a spoonful of ghee, or make your coffee into a cacao mocha with a dash of raw cacao powder.
Brewing Coffee Using Non-Bleached Filters
Beware, have you thought about the type of filters you use? Using a naturally made filter will ensure you do not bleed any toxins (such as bleach) into your morning brew.
Try Some Cold Brew
Many people choose to cold brew coffee—a version of coffee using room temperature water over a 12–24 hour period. Cold brew coffee is said to be smoother and less acidic than a more standard hot brewed coffee, but more research is needed to confirm the scientific health benefits.
When Coffee May Not Work For You
Life can be wrought with stress, overwhelm, excessive busy-ness, and a feeling that life can be too much. The state of the environment, political unrest, and even carrying out what most folks need to get accomplished in a day can tax your nervous system and create a high level of stress and anxiety.
According to research, anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent mental conditions in the world—present in up to 13 percent of Americans. While the stress of daily life can exacerbate anxiety symptoms, there is also a strong brain chemical relationship making it harder for some folks (more highly sensitive) to manage or deal with stress than others.
If you are someone who deals with anxiety (mild to severe), coffee (and other highly caffeinated beverages) may not be for you. Coffee (consumed in moderate to high amounts) is said to increase anxiety in individuals who are highly sensitive.
Getting a restful night of sleep is one of the pillars of good health. The body needs a deep night of sleep to repair and regenerate effectively.
Insomnia is a sleep condition that affects 33 percent of people and is characterized as sleep issues including trouble initiating asleep, trouble staying asleep, early morning wakefulness, and non-restorative poor sleep quality.
Coffee, and the stimulant effect of caffeine, has been shown to create disruptive effects on sleep patterns—even when ingested six hours before.
If you are struggling with insomnia or challenging sleep issues, coffee (and caffeine) may be a beverage to refrain from, or at least limiting intake to morning hours.
As you may have experienced, coffee is a digestive stimulant. While this may help many folks stay regular each day, there are some cases where coffee has been shown to worsen digestive issues in people who have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or acid reflux.
One study showed a worsening of symptoms in patients with IBS who drank coffee. In fact, coffee was one of the top 10 foods that produced digestive symptoms such as dyspepsia (consistent or recurrent pain in the upper abdomen), pain, and loose stools.
Notably, if coffee is triggering or worsening your digestive issues, it may be wise to avoid or minimize your coffee intake.
Coffee works well for some people and not for others. Choosing to drink coffee or avoid it is a personal decision that could promote or hinder your metabolism. As with anything, making a wise and informed choice in how to fine tune your diet based on your unique situation is always best.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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