That caffeine fix which gets you going is not harmful in any way. The important thing is to drink coffee in moderation and switch to the organic or green variety
Personally, I’m not a coffee drinker — other than the occasional iced organic coffee with almond milk when in holiday mode. Moreover, conventional coffee plantations use chemical fertiliser in abundance, so I prefer organic coffee. Such consumer preferences support healthy ecosystems and sustainable methods. But since I’m surrounded by friends and family who are coffee lovers, I thought that for their sake I must address the question of whether coffee is good or bad for us.
Among the interesting things I discovered is that the bad press that coffee got for some years was based on studies that didn’t take into account that heavy coffee drinkers were also those who smoked and were physically inactive. Such people are at high risk of heart disease.
Dr Namita Nadar, Chief Dietician, Fortis Hospital, Noida, has reassuring words for those who love their coffee. She says coffee in moderation has certain benefits, for instance in type 2 diabetes and low blood pressure. “If a patient is depressed or has low BP, coffee increases the heart-beat and the metabolic rate. Those who go to the gym or for workouts are often told to have black coffee beforehand, for its fat-cutting qualities.”
It’s also a question of how the coffee is prepared. Filter coffee gives 100 per cent benefits, such as anti-oxidants. Boiling the coffee makes its lose some of its nutritional value, but you still get 60-70 per cent anti-oxidants. Moreover, the benefits come with only 2-3 cups per day, which amounts to 25-30g maximum. But if you have about 15g in one go, you may suffer palpitations and anxiety. There is no risk of heart disease with such moderate use. She says coffee is forbidden only for pregnant women and lactating mothers.
What about the heart specialists? Dr RR Kasliwal, Chairman of Clinical and Preventive Cardiology at Medanta says, “By all means, enjoy your cup of coffee if it gives you a kick. But I care if it gives a kick to the heart.” He explains that caffeine overload leads to rhythmic disturbances, which can lead to irregular heartbeats, missed beats and palpitations. It is certainly not good for hypertensive patients and those with high BP. So his advice in general is that it is best to have black coffee in limited amounts or take the decaf option.
Ayurveda has a very nuanced approach. To demystify, I spoke to Dr Sudhindra Adiga Uppoor, founder of Ayurshree Clinic, Goa, who frequently comes to Delhi to meet patients. “No herb in this world can be beneficial for all, no herb in the world can be harmful for all,” he says. Both the leaf and the bean are used in Ayurvedic treatment, and the medicine can even have side effects. The use of coffee is up to individual doctors planning their line of treatment. It has to be customised. If A and B have the same disease, a herb might be useful for A and poison for B.
Retailers of natural products are also selling green coffee beans online, as the roasting process takes away a lot of different acids — some are good for health, others are bad. Roasting has to be done in such a way that aroma is retained and chlorogenic acids (which happen to be anti-oxidants) are managed. Like green tea, green coffee became popular in 2012 when Dr Oz recommended it on his TV show for weight loss, claiming it burns fat fast, and that you don’t need to exercise or diet alongside.
So there it is — coffee in moderation is good for you. But if you never did get hooked, don’t start now, unless you are taking the organic green coffee route. And here’s a tip: the caffeine in coffee is beneficial as a body scrub, for it lifts up energy levels, and is great for cellulite, exfoliating and smoothening the skin.
Dr Reshma is an advocate of wellness, prevention and holistic health. Instagram handle: dr.reshmakhattarbhagat