“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” T S Eliot
Coffee. That morning cup of alertness that coaxes your body from slumber to face the day ahead. As of April 2023, 65% of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis, with 16% of them enjoying specialty drinks such as espresso, cappuccino, and latte. One third of coffee drinkers prefer flavored coffee, with vanilla, mocha, hazelnut, and caramel being most popular. Most people don’t realize, however, that their brew may be contaminated with molds, fungi, toxic pesticides, and more. Before we dive into the good, the bad, and how to avoid the bad, let’s take a brief look at this magical “bean” that is loved by so many.
Legend has it that coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia when a goat herder discovered his goats acting strangely after munching on the yellow and red fruits of a midsized green shrub. The drink as we know it today was first cultivated, roasted, and ground in Yemen in the mid-15th century and spread through Europe and the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries. Cultivation began in Hawaii in 1825. As time went on, industrial machines were developed for roasting and grinding, and decaffeination methods were developed.
Coffee itself is actually not a bean at all. It’s the seed, or pit, of the red fruit known as a “coffee cherry.” After harvest, the seed is removed from the fruit and dried through one of many methods – each of which can impart a different flavor profile to the “beans.” Once the coffee “beans” have been removed from the fruit, they are typically roasted to develop the flavor profile we recognize as coffee.
Speaking of flavor, there are four main varieties of coffee with differing taste profiles — Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica, and Robusta — that are grown commercially. The most common are Arabica and Robusto, or blends of the two. Arabica especially is beloved for its smooth, nuanced flavor, and its rich phytonutrient and antioxidant content.
If you are a coffee drinker, you know that not every cup is the same: flavor is affected by the environment and growing conditions (terroir), farming practices, the processing of the beans, how the beans are stored, how (and when) beans are roasted, whether they are blended with beans from other regions, and how the coffee is brewed.
The same factors that affect flavor also affect the quality of the coffee with respect to healthful components and anti-nutrients. The truth is…harmful chemicals can sneak into your coffee. And they can sneak in at many places between crop and cup. While the coffee plant thrives in the shade, commercial (non-organic) growers use sunny fields and other methods to maximize production, making plants more vulnerable to attack from pests, molds, fungus and more. As a result, commercial coffee has become one of the most heavily sprayed crops, with toxic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers being applied. During the processing stage, if beans are not dried properly, mold can grow, adding mycotoxins to the mix. The toxin acrylamide can be formed during the roasting process, but is broken down as roasting continues, making medium or dark roasts preferable to more lightly roasted beans. Finally, coffee is perishable, meaning that over time its oils begin to oxidize, giving it a stale, even “musty” flavor. The bottom line: Most commercially produced coffee has a long lag-time from harvest and roasting to sale, and can easily accumulate toxic minerals like arsenic, cadmium and mercury; molds and mycotoxins; harmful chemicals; and any of hundreds of other toxins on its journey from plant to you.
The good news: you can choose a healthier coffee bean that is fresh and sustainably grown, recently-roasted, mold-free, shade grown, low acid, aromatic, and antioxidant-rich. Always choose organic beans. Choose a coffee company that tests to be sure, then fresh-roasts sustainably grown coffee shortly before sending it to you. LifeBoost Coffee tests their beans for hundreds of harmful chemicals and toxins to make sure they are excluded.
Once you have your beans, you’ll want to ensure that your grinding and brewing processes are plastic-free, to avoid introducing new toxins into your coffee. For grinding, we prefer a burr grinder. Burr grinders crush coffee beans between a moving grinder wheel and a stationary surface, producing a consistent, uniform grind for a consistently delicious cup of coffee.
Once ground, we prefer to use a French press, as shown in the photo below, to brew high quality coffee without introducing paper or plastic (or toxins). Then pour into a cup or mug and enjoy!
Organic toxin-free Arabica coffee, in addition to its prized and nuanced flavor, is known for its health-promoting activity when consumed in moderation. Let’s dive into a few health benefits from your morning brew.
The caffeine in coffee, in low to moderate doses, stimulates the brain, increasing focus, alertness, and energy. It also stimulates the sympathetic and intestinal nervous systems to help eliminate kidney, stool, and sweat. The warmth, aroma and taste of coffee together stimulate dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and epinephrine “happiness centers” in the brain, as well.
Coffee has many other health benefits, including: lowered risk of type 2 diabetes and lowered risk of depression, neuroprotective effects in some degenerative brain diseases (such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia), healthy weight management, liver support, improved athletic performance, improved longevity, and more.
There are a few steps I recommend you take to improve and enhance the health-boosting effects of coffee even further:
Hydrate. The caffeine in coffee is diuretic in nature; it can cause you to lose water and become dehydrated. We recommend Including an extra cup of mineral-rich water for each caffeinated beverage you consume. Check out our previous blog post for more hydration inspiration. Morning coffee, sipped slowly, along with mineral water, helps me rehydrate to jumpstart my day healthfully.
Avoid sugar and additives. You are sweet enough as you are. We recommend that you avoid adding sugar, artificial sweeteners, dairy, or artificial creamers to your coffee. Coffee should be satisfying and delicious without unhealthy additives. Berries and fruit, eaten whole, or added to beverages can provide needed sweetness. (Want to measure your average blood sugar levels over time? Ask your healthcare practitioner about measuring hemoglobin A1c (Hgb A1c). This tells you about the amount of sugar stuck on hemoglobin protein. It should be less than 5%.)
Boost the antioxidants. Coffee is rich in delicate polyphenolic antioxidants, which help detoxify the body. Vitamin C, in the form of nature’s L-ascorbate, renews, recycles, and regenerates coffee antioxidants to get more value from them. We recommend an ascorbate calibration (or C-Cleanse) to determine how much ascorbate your body needs, with a weekly re-test to adjust intake. Learn more about the C Cleanse here.
Combat acidity. Coffee is typically acidic with a pH ranging from 4.3 to 5 and can be irritating to those who suffer from acid reflux, GERD, and gastritis. We recommend choosing a low-acid coffee. In addition, supplementation with magnesium (with choline citrate to boost magnesium absorption) can help buffer metabolic acids in the body to restore optimum pH balance. Check your first morning urine pH to determine your need for buffering minerals.
So, coffee, like most substances, can be healthier. Your choices matter. Now that you know the truth about coffee, you can make wiser choices.
“I never drink coffee at lunch. It keeps me awake in the afternoon.” ~President Ronald Reagan
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