Coffee lovers date all the way back to the 15th century (!!), where it was a common drink in Yemen monasteries. Maybe the monks sipped on coffee and asked themselves if coffee was good for them, too? Whether or not coffee is good or bad for you boils down to the type of coffee you’re drinking, and how much coffee you drink each day. I’m sharing some of my favorite “healthy” coffee that tastes awesome and actually has awesome health benefits too (and they’re not as expensive as you think). I’m also going to give you some fun ideas to “spice up” your coffee while adding nutritional boosts at the same time.
The endless different types of coffee are overwhelming. Shade grown, fair trade, french press, drip, roasted, mushroom, cold pressed, and the list goes on. On top of that, there seem to be rows and rows of coffee available in grocery stores, which makes it even more overwhelming to pick the “right” coffee. While the process of how your coffee is made does make a difference in the quality of your coffee, it may be more important to first focus on what coffee you’re putting into your body. Remember–food (and drink!) is medicine!
1. Important traits to look for in a coffee
I used to add two packets of Splenda and about a gallon (well, more like 4ish tablespoons) of flavored creamer to my coffee. I also used to be 20+ pounds heavier and generally unhealthy. My coffee was pretty much an unhealthy dessert–and I still a little queasy from all the artificial sweeteners and other “gunk” I used to put in my coffee. It tasted amazing at the time, but usually made me feel disgusting afterward. I call this coffee “abuse” and no longer fill my cup with 1/2 coffee, 1/2 junk! 95% of the time I go with black coffee, but sometimes if I have a little extra time, I put a 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil and teaspoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (all natural spices!) and blend. Yum and I still feel great afterward!
Even without all the extra junk that gets added to coffee, most coffee today is highly chemically treated, unfortunately. Coffee is one of the most chemically treated crops! Coffee plants are sprayed with chemicals during the growing process, so it’s safest to stick with Organic when possible. Sadly, even some organic coffees are laden with chemicals, so be sure to do your research! (Or you can check out my coffee recommendations below.)
2. Don’t drink too much coffee, especially caffeinated after 2 pm
The recommended amount of caffeinated coffee per day is around 2-3 cups (more or less depending on how much you weigh and how many mg of caffeine the coffee contains). Drinking over 6 cups a day has been found to possibly have negative health impacts according to a recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study (which also found negative impacts for people that don’t drink any coffee at all!).
So is coffee going to make you healthier? Maybe. A study by the Mayo clinic demonstrates that coffee may reduce the likelihood of Type 2 Diabetes, liver cancer, and even Parkinson’s Disease. It may also decrease mental health disease (i.e. depression) and increase brain function. However, depending on your genetic makeup, if you have too much coffee, it can lead to cardiovascular issues (especially in people that cannot metabolize caffeine efficiently).
Strange facts…the lighter the roast, or the more finely you ground the coffee beans, the more caffeine the coffee has. And did you know that using a paper filter actually filters out some of the cafestol, which may raise cholesterol levels, but the paper still lets the helpful antioxidants through to your cup? And there really is such a thing as mushroom coffee-but that’s for another blog post.
3. Try This, Not that
It’s probably no surprise, but all that extra stuff most people add to coffee can add up to hundreds of calories and wreaks havoc on our bodies (sugar spikes, raised cholesterol, increased inflammation just to name a few). Try swapping some of the non-nutritive, unhealthy options, for healthy and nutrition-boosting options. In general, dump the junk. Junky creamers are full of “flavors” and fillers that are going to just irritate our bodies. For example, seriously consider cutting sugar. It’s more addictive than drugs and does a number of unhealthy things to our bodies. If you must sweeten, add honey or another natural sweetener (again read the labels!), like Stevita drops (love these! and a little goes a long way).
Okay, so I know this is going to sound crazy, but wanted to throw it out there. Just try drinking regular, plan ole’ black coffee. This sounded extreme to me too at first, but I genuinely love being able to savor and enjoy the true, rich flavors of coffee all on its own! The first week coming off of your sugar and cream-laden coffee can be hell, or it was for me at least. But give it a good month and you may find yourself a black coffee connoisseur!
If you can’t switch to black coffee, try replacing some of your unhealthy coffee additions (“not that” category) for the healthy, nutrition-full (“try this”) category:
4. Coffee and Exercise
Coffee actually impacts your fitness-who knew!? Drinking coffee AFTER your workout can restore glycogen levels in your body at the same time it uses up the fatty acids. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, drinking coffee BEFORE exercise can increase performance during exercise. It has also been found to decrease muscle soreness, increase mental and physical performance, and even help burn fat!
My coffee recommendations
I love trying new coffee, and typically like non-bitter, low acidic, strong coffee. I have tried probably 50 different kinds of coffee within the last several years, but my go-to for clean coffee is Subtle Earth’s Caffeinated and Subtle Earth’s Decaffeinated whole coffee beans. I actually prefer the taste of their decaffeinated coffee (not sure why) but it seems a bit more smooth.
I love Subtle Earth’s coffee so much I’ve started buying it in 5 lb bags (mostly because I forget to order it from Amazon in time and I like the additional savings I get when I use subscribe and save). Reasons why I love this coffee:
- CCOF certified organic and GMO free. CCOF is a non-profit, highly reputable organic certification group.
- Subtle earth uses the “leftover” parts of the coffee plant as natural fertilizer (awesome!!). Most coffee companies over-fertilize the heck with chemically, possibly cancer-causing compounds.
- The company is part of a Sharing Certified Program, meaning it helps out the farmers in countries where there is lopsided or unfair payment for goods and services (think fair trade and also feel good about doing something socially responsible).
- It has a rich, deep, smooth flavor that I love!
- It’s low on the acid level! So if coffee has given you stomach pains and you think it may be from the acid, this could be the coffee soul mate!
- Their Decaf coffee is Swiss “water processed” (sounds fancy). Most decaf coffees go through harsh chemical treatments to become decaf. Not this one!
- It’s inexpensive!! You can get two pounds for $20 or less! That’s cheaper than most of the non organic “less healthy” coffee you can buy in the store. Win win!
Adding some simple ingredients to your coffee not only adds delicious flavor, but also is an easy way to sneak in some added nutrition! Next time try these add-ins:
- Cinnamon-can help lower blood glucose and cholesterol, and is sweet
- Turmeric-anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- Celtic sea salt-provides nourishing minerals (only use a tiny bit–a little goes a long way)
- Coconut Oil-a bit of sweetness and can be a creamer substitute
- Pumpkin pie spice (or your own ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon)-delicious and sweet
- Vanilla or chocolate protein powder-get a boost of protein and sweet flavor
The bottom line is to know how you feel when drinking coffee. I can usually tell when I’ve had too much because I have way too much energy and can feel my heart rate is elevated. And once you’ve mastered how much coffee is “ok” for you, be sure to do your research and read labels.
Happy coffee drinking!