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What’s in Your Cup of Coffee?

Do you sport around a travel mug or store brand coffee cup as you go about your day? You are not alone, over 150 million Americans drink coffee daily. In addition, coffee consumption is not limited to just one cup. The average consumption is 3 cups a day. Whether you drink it for a boost of energy, ability to concentrate or just out of habit, let’s see what you are getting out of each savory cup.

Coffee, as you know, contains caffeine which stimulates the nervous system resulting in increased alertness and energy levels. It also contains nutrients like vitamin B, potassium & magnesium. and is rich in antioxidants. Research has also indicated coffee may help protect against certain medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease.

What you add to your coffee however can offset some of the benefits mentioned. Creams, sugar, artificial flavors, and sweeteners add calories and fat. The next time you are ready to order your favorite flavored coffee or macchiato check out the calories, grams of fat and grams of carbohydrates. You may be shocked to find out how many empty calories you are chugging back. By making some switches such as using 2 tablespoons of reduced fat milk or non-dairy milk product and adding natural spices like cinnamon, cardamon or cocoa powder you can have a healthier cup of Joe.

On the downside, you need to pay attention to how much coffee, as well as other caffeinated beverages, you drink each day. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should not exceed 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine in a day. An 8-ounce cup of coffee contains 96 mg of caffeine. If you add in a shot of expresso (1 ounce) you increase your caffeine intake by 64 mg. Remember caffeine is addictive and daily consumption builds your tolerance. As a result, you may need to drink more to get the same effect. Moderate-high amounts of caffeine (greater than 300 mg) can result in acid reflux and heartburn, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, anxiety, restlessness/jitters, as well as difficulty sleeping. Caffeine can also interact with certain medications, including anti-depressants and thyroid medications.

At this point, we have just reached the tip of the iceberg so delve a little further with me. When you order, or perhaps even make, your cup of Joe you probably do not spend time thinking about where your coffee is from let alone it’s quality. Coffee is cultivated in more than 80 countries. The source and process the coffee goes through before reaching your cup matters. Let’s briefly discuss the process so you have a better understanding.

The way in which coffee is harvested and processed impacts the quality of the final product you drink daily. You may not know this, but the so-called beans are the seeds of a fruit called a coffee cherry. The crops are treated with high amounts of chemicals from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. Each coffee cherry contains two seeds (beans) which are green in color. The seeds are soaked, fermented, and goes through a drying process. Producers, however, cut corners to keep costs down and use an inferior drying practice, re-wetting, large batch roasting, and poor storage environments which can promote mold growth (mycotoxins). The beans are then ground, brewed, and poured into your cup. As a result, toxic contaminants are likely to ended up in the final product you enjoyably sip back.

Now you may be wondering about the newer “healthy coffee” trends. Over the past few years, increased attention has been placed on a mushroom coffee. Now before you make a face, mushrooms are not floating around in your cup. The mushrooms (reishi, chaga, lions mane and cordyceps) go through a drying and extraction process and made into a powder. The powder is then blended with same coffee you drink regularly. Mushroom coffee contains less coffee therefore less caffeine. It is also known for its antioxidants, which can boost your immune system, and anti-inflammatory benefits. If the idea of sipping mushrooms in your coffee does not appeal to you, do not worry. You can get the same benefits by adding mushrooms into your favorite meals.

Another in vogue coffee is the bulletproof coffee. It is made by adding grass fed butter and MCT or coconut oil to your coffee. The butter contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory acids. The oil is a healthy fat which may increase good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce inflammation. This type of coffee is favored if you follow a ketogenic diet. Be cautious, a cup can contain over 450 calories and lacks nutrients. Replacing a meal with bulletproof coffee will reduce your daily nutrient intake by approximately 33%, depending on the number of meals you eat a day. In addition, bulletproof coffee is high in saturated fat and may increase cholesterol levels and other risk factors associated with heart disease in some individuals.

So, if you are not sure what do or where to begin, here are some guidelines to consider.

  • Look for certified organic coffee. This indicates there are no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals used in the growing or production of the beans.

  • Avoid coffee blends as this tends to be a mix of cheap beans. Buy coffee from a single estate.

  • Light roasts have a higher concentration of caffeine and acidity compared to dark roasts.

  • Avoid plastic coffee pods. The hot water that drips through the pod releases the chemicals from the plastic into your coffee. Look for pods that made with stainless steel or have a paper or mesh filter.

  • Use an unbleached paper filter in your coffee machine instead of a plastic filter which has the same issue as the plastic pods.

  • Store your coffee in an airtight container in a dark cabinet away from heat. This will maintain its quality as well as its flavor.

Hopefully you will keep this information in mind the next time you reach for your cup. It all comes down raising awareness and making better choices. Remember each purchase you make, or do not make, sends a message to the production and manufacturing companies. What will your message be?

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