Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen. Living a healthy life has roots in the kitchen. This week we will focus on a morning favorite – coffee. Many people do not consider their day started until after they have enjoyed their first cup, but coffee has numerous health benefits. Let’s find out together!
For many, the day would feel incomplete without a morning cup of Joe. Simple as they may seem, coffee beans are extraordinarily complex fruits which contain over 1,000 different compounds within each tiny package.1 It is estimated that 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world.2 French writer and philosopher Voltaire was rumored to have drunk 40 – 50 cups per day.3
Before becoming the popular morning beverage it is today, coffee was utilized in a variety of different preparations. In its natural and unprocessed state, coffee is actually a cherry-like fruit that becomes bright red when ripe. The famed coffee bean is actually the seed found at the center of the red coffee fruit. Initially, the fruits were mixed with lard to create a snack bar.2 Later on, the fermented pulp of the coffee fruit was used to make a sort of wine-like drink. Around 1000AD a drink appeared that was made from the bean and hull. In the 1400s, people began to roast the coffee beans – becoming the first step in the process we know today.2
Where does coffee come from?
According to the National Coffee Association, no one knows exactly how or when coffee was discovered, though there are many legends about its origin.4 The discovery of coffee is attributed to an Ethiopian goat shepherd named Kaldi. Kaldi had sent his goats to graze and when he found them, they were leaping and frolicking around with energy. He noticed that they had been grazing on the red fruits of the coffee shrub so he decided to try the fruit for himself. After consuming the fruits, he too noticed a similar reaction. A monk who also witnessed the goats’ behavior took some of the coffee fruits back to his monastery and shared them. He and his fellow monks were alert and awake for evening prayer.2 It is likely they were all reacting to the caffeine content of the coffee fruit. Caffeine is a stimulant that is present in the plants as a natural pesticide.2
Though the quality and selection may vary greatly, coffee can be found at nearly any retail establishment. Health food stores are more likely to carry a wide variety of beans from various geographic regions around the world. Different regions offer growing conditions that contribute to the nuanced flavors of the beans that grow there.5 Coffee is among the most highly sprayed crops when it comes to pesticides and other chemicals so choosing an organic variety is extremely important to avoid taxing the body with added harmful chemicals.
How does coffee help my health?
Coffee is a potent source of antioxidants. Scientists have identified approximately 1,000 antioxidants in unprocessed coffee beans, and hundreds more develop during the roasting process.6 On average, a US coffee drinker consumes about 3.1 cups per day.7 However, research has shown that higher intakes, in the range of three or more cups per day may help prevent certain medical conditions.8,9 For example, although coffee can raise blood pressure immediately after consumption, a majority of research evidence suggests a longer term protective effect on cardiovascular health. In fact, daily coffee consumption over eight weeks was shown to have a lowering effect on blood pressure.11 Further research has shown the ability of regular coffee consumption to dampen inflammation, improve cholesterol profiles (specifically increasing the HDL or “good” cholesterol fraction) as well as decrease calcification of the coronary arteries.12,13
Beyond the cardiovascular system, coffee has also been shown to benefit the brain. A large study found that consuming one to four cups of coffee daily cut the risk of Parkinson’s by 47% and adding a fifth cup decreased the risk by 60%.14 Research has also found that consumption of coffee compounds like caffeic acid and caffeine can slow multiple classes of enzymes responsible for causing neurodegenerative processes in the brain.15
What medical conditions/symptoms is coffee used for?
- Liver Disease
- Decreased risk of falling
- Reduced risk of autoimmune disease
When should coffee be avoided?
The caffeine in coffee may have a negative impact on certain people and may worsen certain health conditions like insomnia, anxiety, headaches, and high blood pressure. Those with health concerns like migraines (which can be induced by caffeine) or menstrual cramps may also need to avoid coffee. Decaffeinated coffee may be a good substitute for some, however ascertain that the methods employed to decaffeinate the beans are not relying on chemical processing. Additionally, the acidic nature of coffee may cause or exacerbate stomach discomfort and various gastrointestinal conditions. Because coffee constituents like caffeine are metabolized through specific liver enzyme pathways, those with sluggish liver detoxification may need to avoid consuming coffee.
Let’s try out coffee with these delicious and nutritious recipes!
Greek Yogurt with Coffee and Fig Compote
1 1/4 c brewed coffee
7 oz pkg dried mission figs, stems removed and figs quartered
1/4 c honey (preferably local)
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t cardamom
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t nutmeg
1 t orange zest
24 oz plain Greek yogurt
- In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the coffee, figs, honey, spices, and orange zest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon, remove figs from pan. Simmer liquid an additional 5 minutes, uncovered, over medium heat until reduced and syrupy. Combine figs and syrup and allow to cool to room temperature on the counter. Then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Spoon 6 oz. of the Greek yogurt into each of four serving dishes. Top each generously with the coffee fig compote.
Thank you to Foodtastic Mom for this wonderful recipe!
Carrots Slow-Baked on Coffee Beans
1 lb thin carrots (no thicker than 1/2 in in diameter), peeled
1 t olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper
1 c medium-roast coffee beans, preferably decaf
Preheat the oven to 225°F. Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat to heat for about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the carrots, olive oil, and garlic and toss until the carrots are slicked with oil and the garlic bits are distributed evenly. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
Add the coffee beans to the hot skillet and remove from heat. Shake until the coffee is aromatic and the beans look a bit oily, about 3 minutes. Scatter the carrots over the beans in a single layer and cover the pan with a lid or a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake until the carrots are fork-tender and infused with coffee oil, 2 to 3 hours.
Lift the carrots from the bed of coffee beans and serve immediately. Discard the coffee.
Thank you to Splendid Table for this great dish!
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