Posted on: September 14, 2016 at 11:01 am
Last updated: September 27, 2017 at 2:14 pm

This amazing article was written by Nicole, a holistic nutritionist with a strong belief that it is possible for everyone to discover how good their body is designed to feel. Nicole works in partnership with her clients to achieve a lifestyle that is both balanced, fulfilling and nourishing. Go check out her fantastic blog with healthy recipes, or follow her on Facebook!

Let’s talk about coffee and the healthy/unhealthy relationship that you may have with it.

We can’t seem to decide whether coffee is good or bad for us, and that’s because the answer truly is that it depends. There are studies which show the benefits of coffee for cognitive function, metabolism, and energy levels and there are also studies which show the negative effects of raising blood pressure, increasing anxiety, disrupting sleep patterns and causing headaches.

How Can Coffee Be Both Good and Bad For You?

is coffee bad for you, is coffee good for you

Well, in order to understand how we must look into a few things. First, the science behind it all, then your coffee quality and your overall relation with the stimulant. Coffee lovers anonymous, it’s time to learn how you can create a much-needed balance in your relationship with java.


Your Body on Coffee

The effects of coffee are different for everyone and this is because of our own unique metabolism. After you take a sip of coffee, it takes only 5 minutes for caffeine to initially be absorbed into the blood stream, then it takes just a total of 45 minutes for 99% of the caffeine will be fully absorbed. Effects of caffeine can last anywhere from 4-6 hours on average. The speed at which caffeine is metabolized depends on your specific your genes (yes, your coffee drinking ability is in your DNA).

Caffeine is not stored in the body – 24 hours after consumption it is excreted. It is our lovely liver which metabolizes the caffeine along with other toxic substances that we may ingest in a day. Your phase 1 and phase 2 of liver detoxification are there to transform toxins into a less-toxic form which can now be safely excreted. Now – just as we newly discovered planets end up with names such as Kepler-186f, enzyme names are also pretty technical, so don’t stress it when I drop some enzyme names in the next few sentences.

Caffeine Metabolism

When it comes caffeine metabolism, and an enzyme called CYP1A2 does the work. This enzyme is a part of the cytochrome P450 ‘super family’ and plays a large role in phase 1 of liver detoxification where alcohol, drugs, medications and of course caffeine are converted into a form that is more ‘water soluble’ and can now be excreted by the body This family of P450 enzymes also play a role in producing cholesterol, steroids, fatty acids and vitamin D. (Isn’t your body amazing). [1]

This enzyme called CYP1A2 is the also key to whether you are a fast or slow caffeine metabolizer.

We all have two copies of the gene which make up the enzyme CYP1A2, we get one copy from each parent. Just as your parent’s genes determined your hair colour and eye colour, they also were responsible for your caffeine metabolism. There are 2 variations of this gene which affect how quickly a person metabolizes caffeine [1]

  • CYP1A2*1A metabolizes caffeine very rapidly
  • CYP1A2*1F metabolizes caffeine slowly

The difference between these is one single nucleotide, meaning one single building block in your DNA that determines your true relationship with your love for java.

Is Coffee Bad for You or Good for You?

You can undergo genetic testing to see if you and coffee are a true match made in heaven. Both Nutrigenomix and 23andMe provide genomic testing which can tell you where exactly your DNA structure falls. This is valuable information to know, especially if you are consuming more than one cup of coffee a day. Those who metabolize caffeine more slowly are much more susceptible to complications associated with high blood pressure and have an increased risk of heart attack. Slow caffeine metabolizes should not drink more than one cup of coffee a day [2].

Limiting yourself to a few coffees a week and no more than one a day is in my opinion, the healthiest habit to form with caffeine. Use it’s benefits for when you truly need it. When you do reach for your cup-a-joe, remember that the most important part is your bean of choice.

Why Go The Organic Route With Your Coffee?

You can actually get some nutrition from your coffee when you choose high quality and certified organic varieties. “You mean I have to buy organic coffee!?”, well – yes!

Why Buy Organic Coffee

Coffee is actually one of our most heavily sprayed crops and this bean is mass produced. Choosing organic ensures that your coffee is not drenched in pesticides – making for a chemical cocktail in your morning cup. Organic, fair-trade coffee also tastes better – less bitter and the true flavours of origin come through in a wonderful way. Some coffees have more of a vanilla undertone, while others take on berry or citrus flavour.


Why Buy Fair Trade Coffee

Picking fair-trade equals good karma. Many coffee farmers make little to no money and fair-trade means that the coffee farmers that work hard to produce your java are also making a living from their hard work. Buying organic and fair-trade means there’s no artificial flavours added and no chemicals are used in the processing. Coffee beans naturally contain magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, copper, and minerals from the healthy soil they grow in.

While there are lots to consider with our coffee habit, the biggest takeaway is, do not let coffee rule you, premium organic coffee, with no dependency can definitely add some bonus points to your day (for cognitive function and energy), ideally, you would hopefully be a fast metabolizer and not sensitive to stimulants.

Signs that Your Coffee Relationship is Unhealthy

On the flip side, and unhealthy habit is one where dependency on coffee is present and you cannot function without it. This is a tell-tale sign of poor adrenal function. Caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands which can put you into a constant fight/flight response where your body produces more adrenaline and cortisol. Caffeine does create dependency and you must always remember that when you drink coffee you are not really getting energy, you are borrowing energy from caffeine if your top reason for consuming coffee is because you cannot function without it than some underlying work needs to be done.

In my holistic nutrition practice, I highly recommend following a 14-Day Coffee Elimination Challenge to eliminate any dependency that you may have developed. See the worksheet below.

is coffee bad for you, is coffee good for you, coffee elimination challenge

Finally, make sure what you add to your coffee also supports your health, avoid adding artificial sweeteners and creamers. Some recommendations I have are using coconut sugar, maple syrup or a pure stevia to sweeten, make butter coffee by adding some organic grass-fed butter and MCT oil, or add in coconut oil, maca, protein powder or nut/seed milk or the occasional organic shot of full-fat dairy.

You don’t have to give up coffee! Just make the healthiest choice possible.

Nicole Eckert
Holistic Nutritionist
Nicole Eckert is a Holistic Nutritionist and the Owner + Founder of Holisticole. On her holistic living blog: - you can find amazing clean-eating recipes, informative blog posts and online programs.

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