Despite the warnings in recent years about how dangerous coffee is to health—and there is truth in many of them—coffee has many benefits to mind and body. It’s been prescribed for generations in the treatment of asthma, vertigo, headache, jaundice, and even snakebite. A poultice of wet coffee grounds speeds up the healing of insect stings and bruises. Coffee enemas have long been used internally as a strong purgative stimulant to both the bowels and the liver in the natural treatment of serious illness, including cancer.
Coffee warms us, stimulates us, and has a natural diuretic and purgative effect on the body. From the point of view of our creativity and mental functioning, coffee most definitely has something to offer. The cafés in Paris in the last century were filled with famous writers, artists, politicians, and thinkers who enjoyed the stimulation that coffee can bring, among them Ernest Hemingway, Collette, Jean-Paul Sartre, Picasso, and even W.B. Yeats.
The most popular beverage in the world is coffee. More than twelve billion pounds of coffee are traded each year. Once known to Persians and Arabs as the ‘drink of the gods,’ coffee has become so much a part of modern life that many dread to be without it. In the United States more than 60% of people drink coffee daily while 80% drink it occasionally. Most coffee drinkers swallow about two cups a day.
If you’re going to drink coffee, there are certain things you need to know about it—for instance, how to choose the best coffee and how to protect yourself from the ever-increasing contamination from pesticides and herbicides.
From the point of view of digestion, coffee can have a tendency to eat away at the villi in the small intestine. This can happen if you drink too much of it. And if you are not savvy about making sure that the coffee you drink is only the very best, it can also interfere with the assimilation of nutrients from food—one of the reasons why heavy coffee drinkers tend to be deficient in minerals.
The acidity of coffee has also long been another concern. If your body becomes too acidic from the wrong kind of coffee, it will tend to leach calcium—an alkaline element—from your bones to balance the acidity of the blood.
The good news is great news. Clean, fresh, organic, fair trade coffee—which is the only kind you should be drinking—can be a major source of helpful antioxidants in your diet. These help neutralize the aggressive action which coffee can have on the body. While it was long believed that drinking coffee would increase your blood pressure, recent studies show that this is not a great problem. In one meta-research project involving 11 studies and some 480, 000 people, researchers concluded that drinking one to four cups of coffee a day can even diminish the risk of developing type II diabetes. A Japanese team discovered that drinking a cup of coffee could also lower the strain on the heart by enhancing blood flow in the capillaries. Other recent studies indicate that coffee consumption may help limit Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, and liver disease. One of the ingredients in coffee may help protect from alcoholic cirrhosis. And coffee boosts athletic performance.
Virtually all of the previous research into the damaging effects of coffee was done using readily-available coffee in the market-place, which is contaminated by an ever-increasing number of herbicides and pesticides that build up and poison your body by interfering with metabolic processes. In developed countries such as Europe and the United States, once a herbicide or pesticide is labeled ‘dangerous to human health’ and made illegal, the chemical companies who sell it then tend to send the banned chemically contaminated beans to third world countries for use there. Coffee itself is grown in third world countries. In most of these countries there are no statutory controls over allowing how much of a specific herbicide or pesticide is to be sprayed on crops. Coffee is the second most contaminated food in the world. Organic coffee is free of the chemical dangers, none of which have been fully investigated but which are certainly considerable in relation to human health. So, when buying coffee, go organic.
Here are my own guidelines for safe, delicious coffee drinking.
- Limit yourself to two cups of the very best organic, fair trade, fresh coffee, which is pesticide free.
- Buy whole beans and grind them yourself just before making coffee.
- Make sure the beans you choose smell fresh and delicious. Most brands are too old and these can poison your system.
- Dark roasts, especially espresso roasts, are the best to buy. Espresso has less caffeine in it than ordinary coffee. It is also more delicious.
- Always drink your coffee black, without cream or sugar, otherwise you’ll undermine your ability to receive all the newly discovered benefits from coffee drinking.
An important warning: Never drink coffee when pregnant. Even one or two cups drunk while pregnant can affect fetal heart development and long-term function.