Coffee Myths Debunked! 

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Go ahead and have that delicious Cup o’ Joe! Coffee myths debunked!

Often times I have brand new clients who come to me for weight loss practically begging me not to “take away” their coffee. First, I assure them I am not the type of clinician to “take away” anything and that we are on this journey together. Second… I ask them why they would think that to begin with?  

Why would I advise a client to avoid a beverage that is loaded with bioactive compounds that are associated with improved health and longevity?

Of course, I think it is important to be mindful of certain coffee “beverages” which are really more like milkshakes or glorified hot chocolate and not coffee. These frozen or hot liquid candy creations have a lot of added sugars and fats, but all that aside- there are very few instances when I would tell someone to really limit the amount of coffee they drink.

With that being said, I think now is a perfect time to debunk 2 prevailing coffee myths and discuss all the amazing healthy benefits associated with drinking coffee and why it is likely a great beverage choice!

Myth #1

"You can’t drink coffee when you’re pregnant."

Many people think that when a woman is pregnant, coffee is completely off limits. Since research done in humans is quiet conflicting when it comes to coffee intake and the overall health of your baby, ACOG and the March of Dimes recommend that pregnant women should limit their intake to ~200mg/ day. That’s a decent amount! 

Let’s put that into perspective. If you were a coffee drinker before you became pregnant, you can still enjoy about 12 ounces per day!  

Since caffeine crosses the placenta, just like it is a stimulant for you, it’s a stimulant for your growing baby, so you should be mindful of the amount that you’re ingesting. Also, if you’re a coffee drinker, be aware of the caffeine that is naturally present in other beverages like teas and soda (but soda should be limited regardless of whether or not you are pregnant!). Being mindful does not mean you need to cut it out completely. Two totally different things!

In addition, certain brands of coffee have been shown to have more caffeine than others. For example, your 8 ounce home brewed coffee has ~ 95mg, and an espresso based beverage has roughly 65mg. While certain popular commercial brands have > 150mg per 8oz, so if you’re craving your morning cup- consider brewing it yourself. You’ll get to enjoy a little more and you control the intake. If you are not mindful and caffeine intake it too high there can be negative consequences of high maternal coffee intake (growth and development effects in particular), some research suggests an increased risk of childhood weight problems when the mothers had MORE than 200mg/dL - so pay attention to how much you’re taking in total. But, giving it up altogether for 9 whole months is SIMPLY NOT necessary!

Myth #2

"Coffee causes dehydration."

I’ve heard this myth countless times and believed it myself until I did some research of my own. It is important to stay on top of topics like this because the media can misconstrue science and of course the scientific literature can change any day!

It turns out that the dehydrating effects of coffee are grossly exaggerated and may be flat out untrue. Overall, cumulative data suggest that caffeine and water both cause a relatively mild amount of diuresis (meaning they will cause you to urinate) with no imbalances on fluids or electrolytes.  

Although one study found higher intake of caffeine from coffee might induce an acute diuretic effect (for example a 24oz coffee for a 150 pound person), BUT a lesser amount (about half that) doesn't disrupt fluid balance at all.

Conversely, one particular study found that men who habitually drank 3-6 cups of coffee per day were equally as hydrated as men who drank water. This coffee- dehydration “relationship” is particularly good to keep in mind if you’re reaching that 3pm hour and are in need of a pick me up but simultaneously afraid that it will dehydrate you at the gym. Now you can have a cup of coffee to power you through to your next workout! So, don’t cut back on the coffee just yet for sole fear of dehydration- because fortunately it seems that there is no true science to back up this claim.

Now for the good stuff!  

If you’re already a coffee drinker, here are two reasons why you should continue to be:

Reason #1

Coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants.

Coffee is loaded with different phytochemicals, polyphenols and high levels of glutathione, which act as powerful antioxidants in our bodies to combat free radicals (those compounds that are associated with many diseases, inflammation and wrinkles!).

In fact, since coffee is such an excellent source of polyphenols (plant antioxidants) it may even help protect skin from aging and actually is associated with decreased hyperpigmentation of “age” spots. I can almost hear you taking a sip of coffee right now…

In addition to the antioxidants in coffee potentially helping us look younger and combatting inflammation, these antioxidants also seem to affect our GI tract.  

Recent studies have shown that certain components in coffee can induce antioxidant gene expression in GI tissues and protect against gastrointestinal oxidative stress.  

Chlorogenic acid, which is one of the most common plant antioxidants found in many different fruits, veggies, spices and olive oils, is also found in this wonderful drink. Chlorogenic acid is also studied in weight control and blood sugar health. You’ll be happy to know that this polyphenol works inside our cells to fight oxidative stress and is a powerhouse anti-inflammatory agent. It turns out that coffee not only increases the antioxidants in our body, but it even increases the antioxidant and vitamin content of fruits and veggies when added to the soil! So save those coffee grinds!

Reason #2

People who drink coffee are at lower risk of many diseases, including cancer and obesity.

Coffee, when consumed without loads of sugary flavored creamers is now more often being recognized as a healthy beverage. For years it has been demonized, but it’s finally starting to come out on top.

In fact, research points to the fact that people who drink coffee are at lower risk of many diseases including cancer, depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Plus, it seems like our liver likes coffee also- people who drink coffee have decreased risk of liver cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver. Filtered coffee in particular may even prevent the LDL or “bad cholesterol” from going up.

In regard to weight loss, the data on regular roasted coffee is conflicting however, caffeinated coffee about an hour before a meal has been shown to decrease the amount you eat- so having a cup when you find yourself to be craving some junk food may be a good idea if you’re watching your weight. Although these associations between coffee and better health don’t PROVE anything, it’s probably safe to say that it does MORE good than harm.

The next time someone judges your beverage choice, you can feel confident that coffee is a beverage that can easily be added to your diet and provide you with an array of healthy benefits. If you’re feeling like you have a bit of a green thumb don’t throw out those used coffee grounds! When you’re done, there are plenty of great uses- whether you add some into your cooking or baking to reduce advanced glycated end products from developing (during the heating process), adding them to your garden to help fertilize the flowers and produce, or using it for a body exfoliator, the used grounds have a variety of benefits of their own!

Hope you enjoyed a yummy cup of coffee while reading this!

Healthfully, 
Jaime