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I LOVE COFFEE, BUT …

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coffee.jpg

I myself only started drinking coffee late in life. Unimaginable for me today, but I just didn’t like it and I didn’t need it. I drank an espresso now and then, which we made on the cooker in a simple espresso maker. But when I took on a new job with two still small children, I started drinking coffee, cappuccino to be precise. At that time, a wave of coffee vending machines swept over Germany and every bakery and petrol station now had café latte, espresso and cappuccino. That was at the end of the 90s. But most people still made their filter coffee at home in the morning. In 2003, we moved to California for two years. The first thing I noticed there was that everyone got their coffee-to-go in the morning. From that time on, at the latest, I began to love coffee. I liked the smell in the coffee shops and the atmosphere, and of course my cappuccino, which, by the way, always came with ‘regular’ milk back then. Because back then, soy milk was the only alternative. And today? Today I still love coffee, but I drink it either black or with oat milk, and I love it best with Oatly Barista (partner link).

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“WHOA, HOW IS THAT SUPPOSED TO WORK?!”

So when, at the end of last year, an alternative practitioner suggested, among other things, that I only drink a maximum of one coffee a day, I thought “Oha, how is that going to work?”. But on 2 January I actually started to engage in the experiment. It involved a change in my diet, but I’ll talk about that in another post. I looked forward to that one cup like a child at Christmas. I enjoyed it and each time I got a kind of little rush with more energy and more ideas in my head. So far so good. When the two months were up, I started drinking more coffee again, just sipping at first, then I was quickly back up to three cups and would have drunk even more if I hadn’t slowed myself down.

IF COFFEE, THEN FILTER COFFEE

But why all the action?! Coffee is much better than its reputation, says Bas Kast in his nutrition compass (partner link). He has researched all the serious studies on coffee and caffeine and, in general, the following can be summarised – for filter coffee:

Filter coffee reduces the risk of mortality; “Three, four, five cups of coffee a day are good for your heart”, as well as the rest of your body, especially your liver. “1
Filter coffee is associated with a reduced risk of various forms of cancer.1
Filter coffee reduces the risk of diabetes and Parkinson’s disease1.
This also applies to decaffeinated coffee, so caffeine is not the only reason for these research results. It must be emphasised once again that these results only apply to filter coffee. Because in the fine paper filter, the accompanying substances of coffee that are harmful to us – cafestol and kahweol – are largely retained, whereas they are drunk along with the coffee in all other types of preparation. An Italian study concluded that “more than two cups of espresso per day (in contrast to filter coffee) are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as a heart attack”.

ACRYLA … WHAT?!

What unfortunately applies to filter coffee like espresso and what Bas Kast does not write about is the acrylamide content of coffee. I could write a separate chapter on acrylamide. And I will. Therefore, here is a quick summary: Acrylamide potentially increases the risk of cancer for consumers of all ages. Genetic mutations and tumours have been observed in animal studies. Acrylamide can form when foods containing carbohydrates are heated to high temperatures, above 120 degrees Celsius. “In the adult diet, coffee and fried or deep-fried potato products are the largest sources of acrylamide, followed by biscuits, crackers, crispbread and toast. “2 You can find more sources of acrylamide here at the Verbraucherzentrale Hamburg3.

In summary, it can be said that filter coffee is actually good and all other coffee preparation methods are rather not recommendable. My friend Sabine has the Moccamaster filter coffee machine (partner link) and is very happy with it. And I have rediscovered my old porcelain coffee filter (partner link).

STRESS, CAFFEINE AND CORTISOL

So and now it may be that women in particular should take a different look at coffee and caffeine.

Caffeine increases the release of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that activates metabolic processes in the body, making energy available to the cells. We artificially expose our body to a stressful situation to which it responds by releasing glucose to make us able to react quickly. Means cortisol makes our blood sugar levels rise. This in turn makes our insulin levels rise. This causes the glucose in the blood to be taken up by our cells, which causes the blood sugar levels to drop again and as a result we have more fluctuating blood sugar levels. This is something we want to avoid. Because this can increase insulin resistance, a situation where the body cannot effectively release glucose into the body’s cells because the cells are less receptive to the insulin4. And high blood glucose levels are a precursor to diabetes. In Germany, 9.5 million people now already have diabetes5. A disease that could be avoided in 90-95%6 of diabetics – namely those suffering from type 2 diabetes – as its cause lies in poor diet and lack of exercise. Now I’ve drifted off, but if you chronically drink too much coffee, this can also contribute to type 2 diabetes in the long term.

WHILE YOU WERE NOT SLEEPING

Caffeine can also affect our sleep; how well, how long and how deeply we sleep and also how well we fall asleep. If you have sleep problems anyway, the first thing you should do is stop drinking caffeinated drinks. For some people, just one cup in the morning is enough to make it harder to fall asleep in the evening. And unfortunately, our ability to tolerate caffeine also declines as we get older. In addition, women who take the pill or take hormones as part of hormone therapy also tolerate less caffeine. Caffeine is broken down more slowly in the liver when hormones are taken at the same time, because it uses the same enzyme system as hormones. This means that the caffeine stays in the body longer7. And last but not least, our cortisol levels rise with age anyway. If we continue to consume caffeine in the same quantities as before, this leads to higher cortisol levels overall with the effects described above. In other words, as we get older, the developments that can make it harder for us to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night increase. And that is why the doctor Sara Gottfried recommends in the book “The Hormone Diet” (partner link) to give up caffeine at least once a quarter for three weeks. This includes not only coffee, but also black and green tea, energy drinks and cola. Yet black and green tea have only about half as much caffeine as coffee. And, in order to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms that can occur when giving up coffee, she advises that people first switch to black and green tea and then slowly cut down on these two drinks as well.8 Sara Gottfried sees a vicious circle between too much stress combined with drinking too much coffee and alcohol, eating junk food and the resulting weight gain. If we give up caffeine for a while, we could break this cycle. It’s at least worth a try.

 

ON COFFEE WITHDRAWAL

For me, it was scary to see that I actually got a bad headache when I just stopped drinking coffee. And on that first day, I was very tempted to quickly make myself an espresso again. We have a portafilter machine at home and also a coffee grinder – the Mignon from Eureka (partner link). And I love the smell of freshly ground coffee. After this research, I’ll continue to enjoy the smell, but I’ll cut down on my consumption. Especially since I unfortunately don’t sleep well either and I hope that this will help me sleep through the night again.

WHAT ABOUT TEA THEN?

“I still can’t recommend coffee. Why? Because every cup of coffee is a lost opportunity to enjoy an even healthier drink instead – a cup of green tea. “9 Dr. Michael Greger writes in his German-language book “How not to die” (partner link) at the end of the chapter on coffee.

While Bas Kast sees green tea in a similarly positive light as filter coffee in terms of its effects and benefits, for Dr. Michael Greger green tea is something like a little miracle machine. Green tea is said to help alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms and – even more important – it has an anti-carcinogenic effect due to the polyphenols it contains. Most of the studies cited by Dr. Greger refer to laboratory or animal experiments. This is also due to the fact that meaningful studies on humans would have to be conducted over a very long period of time, because most tumours also grow very slowly in our bodies. Such studies are very time-consuming and therefore comparatively rare. However, observational studies show that Asian women, for example, are up to five times less likely to develop breast cancer10. And this is attributed to drinking green tea, eating soy products and mushrooms.

FOURTH DAY WITHOUT COFFEE

I am now on my 4th day without coffee, but not completely without caffeine. On the first day, I gave up completely and got a very bad headache, was listless and tired. Now I have switched to ginger tea and green tea (affiliate link) and I will try to add matcha (affiliate link) to my smoothie more often. Lemon water with cayenne pepper is also supposed to wake you up. And then there are the herbal teas, which I have underestimated so far. And I’m not talking about the usual suspects: camomile, peppermint or fennel tea. I mean tea from lady’s mantle, walnut leaves, hop cones, hawthorn and other herbs. More on this soon. For those who love coffee for its bitter taste, I recommend these two alternatives: dandelion coffee and MUD/WTR (both affiliate links).

Until then, I hope you are doing well with or without coffee. Stay healthy and sleep well.

SOURCES

1. studies cited by Bas Kast in Der Ernährungskompass, p. 197ff, 2018.
2. Verbraucherzentrale.de, Acrylamid: Problematischer Stoff in Lebensmitteln, as of 11.04.2018 https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/wissen/lebensmittel/lebensmittelproduktion/acrylamid-problematischer-stoff-in-lebensmitteln-13879
3. consumer advice centre Hamburg, Acrylamide in Lebensmittel, as of 10.04.2018, https://www.vzhh.de/themen/lebensmittel-ernaehrung/schadstoffe-lebensmitteln/acrylamid-lebensmitteln
4. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/coffee-and-hormones
5. International Diabetes Federation, via statista, Rainer Radtke, Countries with the highest number of people with diabetes 2019 to 2045, 07.01.2020, https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/241789/umfrage/laender-mit-den-meisten-diabeteserkrankten/
6. Federal Ministry of Health, Diabetes mellitus type-1 and type-2, https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/themen/praevention/gesundheitsgefahren/diabetes.html
7. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/coffee-and-hormones
8. Sara Gottfried, Die Hormondiät, Den Stoffwechsel regulieren und erfolgreich abnehmen durch Neustart des Hormonsystems, 2016.
9. Dr. Michael Greger, HOW NOT TO DIE, 2019, p. 353
10. Dr. Michael Greger, HOW NOT TO DIE, 2019, p. 182

 

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