I will always remember my first latte: it was at a waterfront coffee shop in Scottsdale, Arizona. For some inexplicable reason, I had let fifty plus years of my life slip by without having a single cup of coffee. But after savoring just a few sips of this new and delectable concoction I was in awe — this wasn't just a beverage; it was an experience! I now look forward to coffee time with the same joyful anticipation I once had for happy hour — and I'm getting into far less trouble!
Coffee (like our equally delicious friend, chocolate) was once shunned as an unhealthy indulgence. But after years of research (and being one of the most studied substances in food ever), the general consensus is that moderate coffee consumption is very good for your health — and your happiness quotient too!
Despite its awesomeness, coffee isn't perfect for everyone, especially those poor souls with a sensitivity to caffeine. And you'll be negating some of the benefits if you load up your coffee with sugar or artificial sweeteners, flavors, and creamers. But this doesn't mean it has to be boring. I make my latte with organic whole milk (preferably grass-fed), and maybe a little cinnamon or pumpkin spice sprinkled on top — and it's perfection!
Not everything we eat or drink has to be organic, but coffee falls into this category: it's one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. Buying organic ensures your brew is free from herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides — which is kinder to farmers, the environment, and you! One final caution is to let your coffee cool a little before consuming, as some studies have shown a link between drinking extremely hot drinks and esophageal cancer.
Unfortunately, even the healthiest coffee isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Ironically, the same roasting process that makes coffee so delicious also causes a natural by-product named acrylamide, which is a known carcinogen. But please don't let this freak you out. Coffee actually contains very little of acrylamide, and you would have to drink an outlandish amount of coffee to come close to a dangerous level.
Also (and I'm not sure if this will make you feel better or worse), acrylamide is in numerous foods that we eat every day. This same chemical is generated when certain (mainly starchy) foods are cooked at high temperatures for long periods of time. Potatoes, bread, black olives, and prune juice all have higher amounts of acrylamide than coffee. And french fries and potato chips are off the charts!
After reading (endless) articles on this pesky compound, I'm really not worried about getting an unhealthy amount from coffee. But if this still concerns you, there are things you can do to reduce acrylamide consumption in both coffee and food:
So now we know the scary part isn't so bad after all, let's get back to the warm and fuzzy feeling we get whenever we spy a coffee shop. I don't know if it's the cozy atmosphere, cool decor, or the intoxicating smell that draws us in (and let's face it — makes us all a little addicted), but there's definitely something uniquely welcoming. Although I wouldn't feel comfortable walking into a restaurant and eating alone, I have no qualms about being by myself in a coffee shop. It feels like a home-away-from-home. And even though we may only nod and smile at each other, I believe this comradeship is an acknowledgment of our mutual love for the coffee bean.
So, how did coffee change my life? Well, at the beginning of this blog I mentioned the similarity(for me) between "wine night" and "coffee time." At one point in my life, I was indulging in too much of the prior and hadn't discovered the pleasure of the latter (or latte - haha). Thankfully, a friend shared her concern over my behavior when alcohol was involved (after another rather rambunctious night), and it was an eye-opener and life-changing moment. I realized that the closeness and camaraderie I enjoyed so much with friends over wine could be achieved with coffee too. And that's when coffee became more than just a beverage and turned into a lifestyle I'm loving — and it loves me back!
Harvard Health Publishing: Health benefits of coffee and a proposed warning label
Healthline: Instant Coffee: Good or Bad
Although I have no formal education in nutrition, I've been researching this subject for over forty years. Healthy eating is my passion, and I love to share what's worked so well for me.