You may have seen reports touting the health benefits of coffee, and rejoiced. It’s awesome to discover scientific evidence that justifies your daily habit. However, all coffee is not created equal. Similar to the way that an aged, raw French cheese can’t be compared to spray cheese from a can, there are vast disparities between different types of coffee.
The question is, which one are you drinking? Are you starting your day with the coffee equivalent of spray-on cheese? Or are you enjoying the wonderful benefits of high-quality coffee? If you are a health conscious person who would never dream of eating nasty processed food like cheese from a can, wouldn’t it be disappointing to find out that the coffee you choose daily is equivalent to junk food?
Here are a few simple guidelines to ensure that you are consuming a healthy cup of coffee so that your daily habit is something you can feel good about.
Choose the best coffee beans
It should come as no surprise that the raw materials of coffee — the beans you buy (or the type you order at a café) — are vitally important. If the beans are not up to snuff, you can forget the rest of the steps.
There are a few indicators of quality to look out for. We certainly recommend choosing an organically grown brand to prevent chemical exposure. Coffee is one of the most highly sprayed crops in the world. Conventional coffee is treated with pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides.
Choosing organic coffee protects you from ingesting a range of toxins. It also shows you are committed to the wider health of the planet and the people living in the communities where coffee is grown. Along with this consideration, buying a brand that is certified fair trade, shade grown and rainforest safe is also a good idea. Shade-grown varieties have very little impact on the natural environment. Conventional crops, on the other hand, are grown in cleared areas, which can cause devastating erosion.
When purchasing coffee, as with many other products, you get what you pay for. A higher price usually means a grower or producer has paid the pickers higher wages to be more selective in choosing only ripe, sweet cherries (the term for the raw coffee beans). This will get you a better-tasting coffee with greater health benefits — like those sought-after antioxidants and polyphenols.
In addition, if you choose to drink decaf coffee, make it a brand that is produced in a health-conscious way. The regular decaffeination process can leave toxic residues, so be sure to shop for a “Swiss water processed” brand instead.
Master a healthy coffee brewing process
Now that we’ve got the beans right, what’s next? It’s important to process the beans and brew the coffee so that the beneficial properties are preserved.
To that end, we recommend buying whole beans rather than pre-ground ones. Once the beans are ground, their delicate volatile oils are released and become oxidized over time. Therefore, it’s best to grind the beans just before brewing the coffee.
Next comes the water — and let’s make that filtered water. Most tap water contains chlorine, fluoride and lots of minerals that don’t result in the best-tasting coffee. Some coffee makers include a built-in water filter, otherwise try using an under-counter system for the kitchen sink.
Finally, the way the coffee is brewed can make or break its health benefits. It should go without saying by now that instant coffee is definitely not the way to get a healthy brew. Instant coffee is processed with any number of chemicals to create those strange water-soluble chunks.
Similarly, single-brew coffee machines with plastic cups or pods should be avoided. This brewing method is expensive, unsustainable and may expose you to toxic plastics and aluminum.
Using traditional methods like a French press or an espresso machine are the best choices if you want to enjoy the health benefits of coffee. When a drip coffee maker is used, choose a filter made with unbleached paper to avoid chemical exposure.
Take a look at your cup
Are you paying a few bucks a day for coffee served in a throwaway cup? Not only does that expenditure really add up over time (do the math!), it’s damaging to the environment and to your health. Foam, plastic and bleached paper cups can leach toxins into your brew, especially since the acidic nature of coffee encourages the extraction of chemicals.
We recommend sticking with porcelain, clay, glass or stainless steel to ensure your cup of joe is toxin free.
Consider fattening up your coffee
That’s right, we used that scary word “fat.” But don’t worry, adding fat to your coffee won’t add pounds to your thighs. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Research shows that drinking coffee blended up into a frothy, creamy delight with coconut oil or grass-fed butter has a gentler effect on the body. It also provides a long-lasting source of energy and makes the beneficial compounds in coffee more available. What’s not to love!
… but don’t add these nasty ingredients
While certain natural additives like those discussed above are perfectly healthy, many other ingredients should never make it into your cup. Stay away from artificial sweeteners and dairy substitutes. These chemical-based products will only serve to reverse any health benefits your coffee might deliver.
Check out the ingredients list on the back of a typical coffee creamer, and you will see things like hydrogenated soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. Just say no!
Instead, we recommend adding pure flavorings and whiteners to your coffee. Try some vanilla extract, cocoa or cinnamon, and stick with clean creamer alternatives like coconut milk or full-fat organic cream.
As far as sweeteners go, raw honey or maple syrup are the best options in our books.
That espresso the waiter tempts you with after a nice dinner is definitely not a health-conscious choice. While coffee can deliver some health benefits, the effects of caffeine must be taken into account.
Caffeine can really do a number on the hormonal system. Its ability to increase adrenaline and cortisol production may cause anxiety and overstimulation. That’s why it’s vital to time the consumption of coffee so that it doesn’t interfere with normal hormonal processes.
Wait at least one hour after rising in the morning before drinking a cup of coffee. This will allow the natural biological rhythm of waking up to run its course without the interference of caffeine. In addition, no coffee should be consumed within three to five hours of going to sleep at night. Some people even find that drinking coffee after midday can have detrimental effects on sleep quality.
We recommend that you pay close attention to your own body and its reactions to coffee and caffeine. In fact, taking a break from coffee for a few days a week is the smart choice for most people.
Now that you’re a healthy coffee connoisseur, you’ll never want to settle for cheap brown sludge in a Styrofoam cup again! Want to learn more? Check out this article about how healthy coffee is grown.
—The Alternative Daily