Liana Werner-Gray is the founder and owner of The Earth Diet, author of diet-related books and an advocate for natural healing using a healthy diet and lifestyle. Check out her books: Cancer-Free with Food, Anxiety-Free with Food, The Earth Diet, and 10-Minute Recipes. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram @lianawernergray.
In today’s times, most people cannot start their day without their cup of coffee. Is that you? If so, keep reading! There is always controversy around if coffee is actually healthy for us and how much coffee we can consume at a healthy level. Personally, I believe that coffee is one of nature’s best gifts and can assist us in living a healthy, energized, and joyful life when used in balance.
Coffee is super packed with antioxidants which I think people forget about! There are several thousand-fold differences in the antioxidant content of different foods. Spices and herbs are some of the most antioxidant-rich ingredients, and some levels are exceptionally high. Clove, mint, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and rosemary are the highest! Nuts and seeds were the next most antioxidant, with the level in walnuts being off the chart, followed by the level in pecans, and then in sunflower seeds and chestnuts. Berries, fruits, vegetables, chocolate, and even coffee were also loaded.
Another reason coffee can be helpful in our diets is due to Dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates the brain’s pleasure centers. Coffee slows down the reabsorption of dopamine, keeping that good feeling going for longer. However, coffee is also a stimulant; the caffeine in it is an antagonist of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that enables us to feel drowsy. Too much coffee makes us jittery. As long as you don’t have more than once a day and take a break from coffee if you feel like you need to, a coffee will lift your mood.
Some say caffeine and coffee are enemies and can cause anxiety. However, there also have been studies showing that coffee is neuroprotective and has health benefits in regard to anxiety. However, data obtained from human clinical trials indicates that coffee exhibits protective effects against brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). With this being said, consuming coffee is a bio-individual approach in that it can affect everyone differently.
When determining whether caffeine is right for you, keep in mind that the study published in Psychiatry Research shows that people with anxiety disorder tend to have increased caffeine sensitivity, and that caffeine isn’t good for all body types. A study reported that for healthy adults, caffeine consumption is relatively safe, but that for some it could contribute to impairments in cardiovascular function, sleep, and substance use. Some people’s bodies just don’t tolerate it well. Also, if you have been under constant stress for a while and have adrenal fatigue, it’s not a good idea to consume caffeine. Too much caffeine can deplete neurotransmitters and burn out the adrenal glands, which are associated with the fight-or-flight response.
The Good News
Creative superfoods that you can add to your coffee are:
- Turmeric: Adding this to your coffee allows for an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and turmeric helps to support brain function.
- Lemon balm: A lemon-scented herb in the mint family. It has traditionally been used to improve mood and cognitive function and as a sleep aid and digestive tonic. It promotes calmness and reduces stress and anxiety. It is available in essential oil form to add to your coffee.
- MCT oil: MCT oil is coconut oil that has gone through a refinement process that involves extracting and isolating the medium-chain triglycerides. Since it is a healthy fat, when paired with coffee, it helps the fats to absorb slowly into the system and it kicks the body into a fat-burning drive first thing in the morning.
- Liquid chlorophyll: Chlorophyll is the compound extracted from dark leafy greens that is responsible for the green pigment. One particular study on the antioxidative capacity of chlorophyll isolated from spinach described how it increased the lifespan of microorganisms by more than 20 percent. The researchers report that “dietary chlorophyll derivatives support the recommendation of nutritionists to eat green vegetables and salads containing high contents of chlorophyll, as this could help to improve human health and prevent diseases.” Add to your coffee - it will not change the flavor!
Overall, I believe that caffeine is not the enemy. It’s only troublesome if we have too much of it. If you do choose to enjoy coffee, keep it to no more than one cup a day. If you feel like you have had too much caffeine, consider abstaining for a month to give your body a break and then reassess how you feel when you ingest it.
Whatever you do, do not put white table sugar in coffee. Instead, use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, monk fruit, or stevia instead. In fact, Vincent M. Pedre, M.D., who prescribes an antianxiety diet to his patients, says, “The spike-and-crash feeling of even a few teaspoons of sugar in your coffee can ramp up anxiety, impair your ability to cope with even the minor stressors life throws your way, and leave you feeling lethargic and groggy.”