If you enjoy a nice cup of coffee as much as I do, morning, noon and night, there comes a time when you start wondering about its effect on your body. It does sometimes seem like you can’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper or magazine or catch up on social media these days without being told just how bad everything is for us – and that includes coffee.
Is coffee bad for you?
Actually, on balance, coffee appears to be rather good for you. Even health professionals now agree that there are many benefits to be had from drinking coffee in moderation. There is evidence to show that many conditions may actually be helped by a cup or two of coffee a day, including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and some liver conditions.
Coffee beans are actually packed full of naturally occurring chemicals known as phytochemicals which are good for health.
As you get older, you may find that inflammation increases in the form of, for example, arthritis. Since we all know that we need to pay attention to what we eat and drink, since, after all, we “are what we eat”, and this means it’s inevitable that we start wondering just how various substances are affecting us. So I set off to find out what causes inflammation, and whether coffee causes inflammation.
What is inflammation?
We don’t realize it, but our bodies are constantly fighting a battle on our behalf by producing white blood cells to keep us safe from foreign invaders: viruses and bacteria. Inflammation of some organs, like the skin, can usually be recognized by redness and swelling in the area.
Sometimes, when there are actually no invaders to fight off, our amazing immune systems trigger responses which means the body reacts as if perfectly normal tissues are abnormal or affected in some way. Arthritis is one example of this inflammatory response and although it’s perfectly natural, that’s no consolation when the inflammation causes pain or discomfort.
How to reduce inflammation?
There’s an ancient saying that we should all let our food (and drink) be our medicine. While changing our diet can’t necessarily work miracles, modern medical advice suggests that if we are suffering from inflammatory responses, it can be tremendously helpful to change our diet. For optimum health, and to reduce any inflammation, we should look at eating more anti-inflammatory foods and possibly taking more anti-inflammatory supplements.
So what are the best anti-inflammatory foods?
You’ve probably guessed the answer to this question already. If you want to reduce or combat inflammation, fruit and vegetables are undoubtedly your best friends at mealtimes. Load your plate with colorful berries: the intense dark red of cherries, the deep pink of raspberries, the purple-blue of blackberries, or with the vivid orange of apricots.
Or choose different shades of green to fill your tummy; the darker the better. Spinach and kale, both brimming with vitamin K, are excellent choices if you’re looking for ways to reduce inflammation, and broccoli and cabbage are both pretty high on the anti inflammatory foods list.
Are there any other natural anti-inflammatory substances?
Yes; staying with the “nature’s bounty” theme, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that many herbs and spices are naturally anti-inflammatory. Chili, cinnamon, curry powder, garlic, ginger and turmeric are all spices that can reduce inflammation, while basil and rosemary are two of the best and most easily obtained anti-inflammatory herbs.
And what are the foods that cause inflammation?
As you might expect, many inflammatory foods are those that are highly processed, with elevated levels of sugar and fat. Wheat can also be a trigger for some people, and fried foods are known to aggravate inflammation.
If you want to embark on an anti-inflammation diet, cut out the refined carbohydrates, eat as much fresh food as you can, eat more whole grains, pulses and squashes, and cut back on saturated fats. Since we all need some fat, look at using healthy substances like olive oil, preferably the extra virgin variety. Try to eat less animal protein and look at foods such as soybeans instead.
And what about coffee? Does coffee cause inflammation?
There is no evidence to suggest that coffee causes inflammation, at least as long as you keep your intake to a small number of cups a day. Coffee can affect different people in different ways, but some studies suggest that coffee can actually be anti-inflammatory and particularly beneficial, in some people, for liver conditions and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
So, far from being a cause of inflammation, coffee can actually be a very useful part of an anti-inflammatory diet. The additional good news is that there doesn’t seem to be any difference between the effects of coffee containing caffeine and the decaffeinated varieties.
Many inflammatory diseases are related to the aging process, and recently some researchers have discovered that drinking coffee might actually help to protect against many of these conditions.
Does sugar in coffee cause inflammation?
Here’s something of a thorny point though – many of us enjoy a little sugar with our coffee, or a shot of flavored syrup. (One of my favorites is caramel in a warm, milky latte.) And sugar is now known to be one of the bad guys when it comes to substances that can cause inflammation.
So, if black coffee is actually anti-inflammatory, what about coffee with sugar in it, then? How does that raise our risks of inflammation?
Well, as with so many things in life, especially the food and drink we consume, it depends on the amount of sugar you’re consuming. The USDA recommends that sugar should account for less than 10% of our total daily calorie intake. For an adult consuming the recommended 2,000 calories a day, that’s no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar in total, bearing in mind that you might not realize how many foods contain hidden sugar. Did you know that baked beans and tomato ketchup, for instance, both contain sugar?
Back to the original question – does coffee cause inflammation?
To my intense relief, current evidence shows that there is no link between coffee and inflammation. In fact, three to four cups of coffee a day can actually be a good thing, when it comes to protecting against or reducing the risk of many health conditions. So, on that note, I’m off to heat up some fresh filtered water – it’s been at least three hours since my last cup of Joe, and my coffee cup is feeling kinda lonely!
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