Is Coffee a Superfood?

November 05, 2017

Is Coffee a Superfood?

I’m someone who is a die-hard coffee drinker. I honestly can’t remember the last time I woke up and didn’t have at least one cup of coffee. I’m also someone who is obsessed with eating healthy. Now, if you were to believe the “common knowledge” about coffee, you would assume that eating healthy and drinking coffee are mutually exclusive - you simply can’t have your coffee and drink it too! We’ve all heard the negative talk about coffee, such as “it will stunt your growth”, “it dehydrates you” and “it can increase your chances of developing certain cancers.”

These are, of course, quite serious allegations that would cause any health-conscious human to give up their beloved coffee. However, when I was confronted with these statements and began to do more research into the negative effects of coffee, the evidence didn’t seem to hold up. In fact, the more I looked into it, the more I found evidence of the contrary! To my surprise, I discovered that not only is coffee relatively harmless for one's health, there is actually a mounting body of research that seems to suggest that coffee could be worthy of “Superfood” status.


Debunking the Coffee Myths

Before I get into the exciting new research on the health benefits of coffee, I would first like to debunk the negative coffee claims that I mentioned above.


Myth #1: Coffee will stunt your growth

There is no evidence to suggest that coffee will stunt your growth. There has been research that seemed to show that caffeine, the active stimulant in coffee, could cause calcium loss, however only in very small amounts and the research was not definitive. This information, I assume, was then erroneously over-exaggerated into a cause for osteoarthritis, which may lead to height loss through spinal compression fractures. But again, there is zero evidence that caffeine consumption leads to osteoarthritis.


Myth #2: Coffee will dehydrate you

This is a myth that seems pretty believable. We have all experienced the seemingly excessive peeing that usually accompanies a cup of coffee. This is in part due to the mild diuretic effects of caffeine. However, if you're a regular coffee drinker, this diuretic effect will no longer affect you because your body will have already built a tolerance to its effects. So if coffee doesn’t have a diuretic effect for regular coffee drinkers, then why do we pee so much after we drink it? It’s the same reason you have to pee after consuming any liquids. The same result would happen if you drank an equal sized cup of water in the same amount of time.


The other reason why we think coffee dehydrates us is because it makes us feel dehydrated. Since coffee is a hot liquid it tends to wash away the thin layer of saliva in our mouth that keeps it feeling wet. Once that initial layer is gone, our mouth and throat will feel dry and we mistake this feeling for dehydration. The exact same effect would happen if you were to drink a cup of hot water. Multiple studies have been done on the hydrating effect of both caffeine and coffee to test whether or not they actually cause dehydration. In one study where participants were given caffeine capsules, researchers found that the caffeine had no effect on hydration levels. Even with higher doses the caffeine was no more likely to dehydrate than lower doses. In another study done on the effects of coffee and dehydration, researchers found that coffee does not lead to dehydration - in fact, it does the opposite. They found that not only does coffee not lead dehydrate, it actually hydrates just as well as water!


Myth #3: Coffee increases your risk of developing certain cancers

In 1991 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) deemed coffee to be a Group 2B carcinogen, meaning that it could “possibly cause cancer.” The reason for this classification was due to a few small studies that were done that seemed to link coffee consumption to bladder cancer. However, since then newer and more thorough evidence has proven no causal link between coffee consumption and bladder cancer. In fact, after another extensive review was done by the IARC in 2016, they ended up degrading coffees risk and concluded that “coffee is unlikely to cause breast cancer, prostate cancer, or pancreatic cancer”. New research has also shown that coffee consumption may actually prevent certain cancers, most notably liver cancer.


Researchers from Southampton and Edinburgh universities analyzed 26 studies involving more than 2.25 million participants and found that participants who drank one cup of coffee a day lowered their risk of liver cancer by 25%, participants who drank 2 cups lowered their risk by 35%, and participants who drank five cups a day lowered their risk by a whooping 50%. They also looked at the effects of decaf coffee and found that it helped to a much lesser extent. This seems to suggest that caffeine could have liver protecting qualities to it.


Benefits of Coffee

Although the term “Superfood” gets thrown around a lot these days, I do believe that there are certain foods that contain unique nutritional qualities that put them into a category of “foods that have been shown scientifically to greatly improve one's health.” I also believe that coffee fits nicely into that category - here’s why:


Nutrition

A lot of people are unaware of this but coffee contains a fair amount of antioxidants and nutrients. Here’s the nutritional profile of a medium coffee (2.5 cups):

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 27.5%

Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): 15%

Manganese:15%

Potassium: 15%

Magnesium: 5%

Niacin (B3): 5%

If you were to drink two medium coffees (5 cups) this would be the nutritional profile:


Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 55%

Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): 30%

Manganese:30%

Potassium: 30%

Magnesium: 10%

Niacin (B3): 10%


Not bad for a drink that’s suppose to be harmful to your health!


Longevity

In three large-scale observational studies which included countries from Europe and America totalling 727,330 participants, researchers discovered that people who drink coffee tend to live longer than those who don’t. One of the studies found that people who drank two or more cups a day were 18% less likely to die by the end of the study. In another study they found that people who consumed at least four cups of coffee per day had a 64% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who never or almost never consumed coffee. Additionally, there was a 22% lower risk of all-cause mortality for each two additional cups of coffee per day.


So why do coffee drinkers tend to liver longer? We’re not quite sure yet, although it may have to do with the fact that coffee consumers tend to have lower instances of developing chronic diseases.


Disease Prevention

Very few chemicals have been studied more extensively than caffeine. One of the reasons is because caffeine has consistently been linked to disease prevention. Coffee and caffeine consumption has been linked to lowering one’s risk of developing certain chronic diseases such as type ll diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, depression, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and certain types of cancers. New research has even shown that caffeine may have anti-inflammatory properties, counteracting age-related inflammation that could lead to cardiovascular issues.


Happiness, Creativity & Productivity

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a part of the reward system in our brains. The reason it feels good to accomplish goals, hug loved ones, and receive social media likes is because of dopamine. The caffeine in coffee also helps to bolster dopamine, which is why we love it so much.


Unlike harder stimulants such as amphetamines which stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain, caffeine takes a different approach. Caffeine helps to block adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that our brain produces that makes us feel sleepy. When our adenosine receptors are blocked by caffeine, the brain's natural levels of dopamine are able to stimulate the mind and body more effectively. This means that caffeine is less of a stimulant and more of a fatigue-inhibitor.


Studies have shown that by having higher levels of dopamine in the brain, one can experience increased energy level and feelings of euphoria; improved physical and mental performance; better problem solving, decision making and short-term memory, and enhanced productivity, motivation and creativity - that’s quite the list of benefits! When used responsibly, coffee can be an incredible tool. However, when it’s abused it can have some pretty harsh side effects.


The Downside to Coffee and How to Fix it

Anxiety and Jitters

One major downside of coffee is that if you drink too much of it you can experience symptoms of anxiety and jitters. These feeling can be very unpleasant, but fortunately they can be greatly reduced by adding Level Up Superfood Coffee Mix to your coffee! When you drink coffee on an empty stomach, like you might in the morning, there’s nothing to slow down the absorption of the caffeine, and too much caffeine too quickly can lead to feelings of anxiety and jitters. However, with the addition of Level Up Superfood Coffee Mix to your coffee, you can effectively reduce those symptoms while also adding a deliciously rich and silky texture and flavor!


The two main ingredients in Level Up Superfood Coffee Mix are raw cacao powder and coconut oil. One study found that when one adds cocoa powder (a less potent version of cacao) to coffee it can calm the body and reduce feelings of anxiety. In addition, since coconut oil is pure fat it will slow down the digestion of the caffeine, giving you a slower and steadier release, thus extending the effects of the caffeine and lowering your chances of developing anxiety or jitters.


Caffeine Dependency

The other downside to coffee is that we can become dependent on the caffeine for energy. When we increase the amount of coffee (and caffeine) we consume, our brain starts to build a tolerance to it and we’ll begin to need more of it to feel its effects. By adding coconut oil (which is rich in MCT oils, a fat that is well-known for increasing energy levels) and raw cacao, a food known for improving mental focus, we no longer need to rely solely on caffeine for boosting our mental and physical energy.


When I began drinking Level Up Coffee, I started to notice that I was naturally gravitating away from caffeine. Eventually I had to make the switch from regular coffee to a half regular, half decaf blend (I use the “Half Ass” blend made by Kicking Horse Coffee, although you can always make your own) because the Level Up Superfood Coffee Mix was providing me with so much energy. Another benefit of the Level Up Coffee is that by having multiple sources of energy, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of developing a physical dependency on caffeine.


With what we know now about the effects and benefits of coffee, there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be embracing it. What other food has this many mental and physical benefits with so few side effect? Coffee is truly in a league of its own, which is why I believe that it should finally be inducted into the category of Superfood.




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