For many, coffee is the elixir of life every morning, and rightfully so! It’s caffeine kick makes it a desirable beverage in the American fast-paced lifestyle, and it has been long promoted for its nutritional value (when not doused in sugar). In fact, coffee is actually the highest source of antioxidants in the Standard American Diet.
A Little About Coffee
Coffee beans are the seeds of a fruit called a coffee cherry. The fruit itself is also extremely high in nutritional value, higher than blueberries in fact. With this in mind, food manufacturers have started to find ways to incorporate it into the food system. For those of you that have heard of Bai Antioxidant Beverages, this red pulp is the main ingredient!
However, like any other food, quality and processing methods are a huge determinate of the actual nutritional value. The popularity of coffee has resulted in poor production practices which can compromise health attributes of coffee at nearly every step of the coffee making process.
5 Shocking Facts About Coffee
- Coffee contains mold. At least a large majority of it does. Mold can form due to a variety of reasons, including harvesting moldy fruit or poor storage methods of the beans during the production process. Although most mold can be killed by the roasting process, Ochratoxin A (OTA), a byproduct of mold remains. In fact, this study found that of 40 coffee brews prepared from commercially available samples, OTA was detected in 18 of them. So why is this a problem? Over time, OTA can accumulate in our tissue. This has been associated with cancer, brain damage and kidney disease.
- Only 3% of coffee is organic. Coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops. In addition to the health risk this poses for consumers, the workers and the local ecosystem are also greatly impacted as herbicides and pesticides are most toxic when inhaled or make contact with skin. Organophosphates (i.e. glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp) are used extensively in countries such as the Dominican Republic, and have been linked to lymphoma and leukemia. Chronic exposure can also cause reproductive issues, neurodegenerative disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. This is especially apparent in developing countries where working conditions are often poor, regulations are minimal or ineffective, and workers are uneducated regarding these hazards.
- Over-roasting reduces nutritional value. Over-roasting can result in the production of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). In addition, as beans are roasting, healthy chlorogenic acids and antioxidant content decreases. Opt to choose brands that roast for a high quality product.
- Coffee goes stale. Like most foods, coffee can oxidize and eventually spoil, so the fresher it is the better. Here are some tips to obtain the maximum benefits: buy coffee beans rather than grounds, use coffee beans within 20-30 days of them being roasted, consume coffee within 15 minutes after being ground.
- High quality coffee is VERY good for you. Despite all the depressing talk in Facts 1-4, research has shown that drinking at least 2 cups of coffee per day has some incredible health benefits! It has been associated with a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and up to 15% reduced risk of prostate cancer. In addition, a 2006 epidemiological study demonstrated that heavy alcohol drinkers who drank 2 cups of coffee per day reduced their chances of getting cirrhosis by 40 percent!
What to Look for When Buying Coffee
Organic – Coffee is the most heavily sprayed commodity next to cotton and tobacco, so choosing an organic brand is a great starting point.
Specialty grade coffee – This is the highest grade of coffee, meaning the beans used will be free of defects and processed more carefully.
Choose a medium roast – As mentioned earlier, over-roasting can cause a lot of the nutritional value to deteriorate. This can be the case with the dark or very dark roasts. Choosing a medium roast will help ensure you get the most bang for you buck.
Labeled “Shade grown” or “bird friendly” – This indicates that the coffee was likely grown in its natural habitat rather than an industrial farm. The natural environment provides better growing conditions and soil quality, increasing the nutritional value.
“Handpicked” or “hand-selected” – As the name suggests, this indicates the coffee fruit was individually hand-picked rather than collected with a tractor, which is another indicator that the coffee was grown in its natural environment.
My Favorite Brands
Purity Coffee – I have tried a lot of high-quality, organic coffee and this is one of my favorites! I listened to this podcast to learn more about Purity Coffee and was totally blown away. They have set extremely high standards for their coffee. They screen their beans for mold and toxins, and source them from farms that take care of their employees and the environment. They also test and roast each batch of coffee to ensure the highest nutritional value! Use my code RSUGLIA20 to save 20% off your order of Purity Coffee!
Four Sigmatic – I have been drinking this brand for a couple years now and still love it. It contains adaptogenic mushrooms (sounds weird, tastes delicious) that provide an extra boost of energy while helping control your stress response. I keep a canister of their instant coffee at my office desk for those rougher mornings.
Bulletproof Coffee – Similar to Purity Coffee, this brand sources high quality, hand-picked beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. They also test for mold and toxins to ensure you get a high-quality brew.
Coffee can be great for you if it comes from a good source. I am always looking for simple ways to continuously improve my health that won’t break the bank, so upgrading my coffee seemed like a no-brainer since it is something I will drink regardless.
What simple things have you changed to improve your health? Share below!