Lately coffee has been in the news; this time being touted as a health beverage rather than a guilty pleasure. In response to this joyous update, you may have clicked around online to get the details only to find yourself more confused.

One “expert” says drinking coffee is akin to chugging arsenic, while the next claims it's a magical cure-all that will wipe out illness, give you unlimited energy and even wax your car for you (if you ask nicely).

The truth, however, is somewhere in the middle.

Coffee, like many other plants and herbs, does have therapeutic effects when used properly by people who are not reactive to it. However, most people get their coffee from popular retailers who load up their products with cream, sugar, artificial flavorings and - gasp - even whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

As you might have guessed, this type of coffee drink has no health benefit whatsoever; the pros simply do not outweigh the cons.

On the other hand, freshly ground, organic coffee with minimal added ingredients does appear to have some significant health benefits that cannot be dismissed.

What Are The Health Benefits of Coffee?

Recent research has shown that moderate coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk for certain diseases, probably due to certain antioxidants it contains.

As stated in the book, Unlock Your Muscle Gene by Ori Hofmekler, coffee has been shown to trigger a mechanism in your brain that releases a growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) that may help keep your brain and muscle tissue young.

Additionally, studies have shown a lower cancer risk among coffee drinkers. For instance, a Japanese study found that those who drank coffee daily, or close to it, had about half the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a type of liver cancer, than people who never drank coffee.

Another study of nearly 50,000 men also found that those who drank six cups of coffee a day had a 60 percent lower risk of lethal prostate cancer, while those who drank three cups a day had a 30 percent lower risk. The benefits were thought to come from the non-caffeine components of coffee, which include multiple nutrients and flavonoid antioxidants.
Other research has also linked coffee with lower rates of:

- Type 2 diabetes
- Parkinson's disease
- Dementia
- Heart rhythm problems
- Stroke

Which is Better, Dark or Light Roast?

Scientists have found that dark roast coffee delivers more health benefits than light roast.

New research in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that dark roast coffee restored blood levels of the antioxidants vitamin E and glutathione more effectively than light roast coffee. The dark roast also led to a significant body weight reduction in pre-obese volunteers, whereas the light roast did not.

Separate research also showed that dark roast coffee contains more of a chemical called N-methylpyridinium that appears to prevent your stomach cells from producing excess acid. This means dark roast coffee may be gentler on your stomach and not induce the irritation that light roasts can often bring.

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, dark roast coffee also has less caffeine than light roast. While this can be considered a positive attribute, know that caffeine in coffee may not be as harmful as once thought.

While the health warnings about caffeine in isolated form are well-warranted, caffeine - like so many other natural substances - is better when left intact in the whole food. Whole caffeinated foods, such as coffee, cocoa beans and tea, may actually be highly beneficial.

Note that regardless of the source, it is still recommended that pregnant women avoid caffeine consumption.

Everybody is Different

The truth is that not everyone responds to caffeine the same way and some people metabolize coffee differently than others. Our detoxification pathways are genetically determined. That is why some people can have one cup of coffee and feel jittery for days while others can have a double espresso after dinner and experience little or no trouble falling asleep that night.

The good news is that some people are naturally better at metabolizing coffee and may be able to tolerate higher consumption. The gene involved in coffee metabolism is called CYP1A2 and you can get a lab test to find out if you are genetically predisposed to trouble with metabolizing coffee.

Regardless of your test results, keep these coffee facts in mind:

- It is addictive, and with continued consumption, you will need to drink more to get the same “high” and eventually coffee is needed just to feel “normal.”
- It stimulates the release of dopamine, which can help with focus, mood and memory, but over time can deplete dopamine reserves and blunt its effectiveness.
- It stimulates the release of stress hormones including adrenalin and cortisol which can cause heart palpitations, stubborn belly weight gain, anxiety, insomnia, and spikes in blood sugar and insulin.
- It increases homocysteine, which increases your risk for heart disease, depression and cancer.
- It depletes vitamins and causes mineral loss, including magnesium (the relaxation mineral) and calcium.
- It can irritate the digestive tract and can cause diarrhea, acid reflux and heartburn.
- It may interact with common medications such as Tylenol, causing liver damage.
- It increases the risk of stillbirths and iron deficiency in mothers and babies.

How to Get the Benefits of Coffee Without the Risks

If you want to get the most benefit from moderate coffee consumption, you must choose fresh, high quality coffee. Here are a few pointers for choosing the right bean.

- Choose organic. Non-organic coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops on the market and the beans are contaminated with these pesticides. Make sure to choose organic coffee to avoid these pesticide residues.

- Choose whole bean. To get the most health benefits and best taste, grind your own coffee just before brewing. Pre-ground coffee may have lost its antioxidants and gone rancid before you even brew the first cup.

- Be sure it's processed properly. If the beans are properly roasted and dried, the coffee should smell and taste fresh, not stale. If your coffee does not have a pleasant aroma, it is likely rancid or of poor quality and will give you fewer health benefits.

- Avoid additives. If you're interested in health benefits, drink your coffee black, without sugar or pasteurized cream. Sugar negates most of the health benefits of coffee by spiking your insulin levels and causing insulin resistance. Alternatively, you may sweeten your coffee with xylitol, which does not induce the same negative insulin response.

In addition, be sure to use non-bleached filters in your coffee maker. The bright white filters that most people use have been bleached with chlorine which will leach into your coffee during the brewing process.

What's the Final Verdict?

So, is coffee good or bad for you?

The answer is neither - and both - all at once.
With coffee, as with many if not all things, it is the dose and your body's own response that determines whether something is good for you or not.

Each person is different and metabolizes coffee - and everything else for that matter - in a different way. Pay attention to your body's response and if you find yourself needing coffee just to function, you have likely fatigued your adrenals and need to kick the coffee habit.

If you want advice on how to stop drinking too much coffee without the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, follow this link to learn about natural cures for caffeine withdrawal and ways to boost your energy naturally.

Author's Bio: 

Carisa Holmes is a holistic health advocate, Reiki practitioner and author based in the Powell area of Columbus, Ohio. Carisa has worked in the holistic health and natural beauty fields for nearly 10 years.

Through overcoming a plethora of personal health issues and working with clients, Carisa has developed a clear understanding of the functions of the physical body as well as the more subtle layers of the human energy field.

In her practice, Carisa helps empower people to move toward higher levels of wellness. Using tools such as whole food, natural skin care and powerful yet gentle Reiki energy healing, Carisa helps clients lose weight without starving themselves, heal sickness and injury, increase energy levels and feel more calm, happy and alive.

Carisa is very grateful for the many things she has learned and is eager to share them with others. Carisa writes a health and wellness column for GrapeVine Columbus Diversity News Source and maintains a private practice in the Powell/Columbus, Ohio area.

To contact Carisa about how you can heal yourself naturally, visit or email directly at