Welcome to Edition 1 of my new series “Eating The Good Stuff”. These are going to be short and fun. There’ll be a good mix of scientific reasoning and unreasonable opinion, suggestion and mandate. We’ll start with one of my favorites: Coffee.
Coffee is great. Some people say they avoid it because they don’t want to be addicted to it. That’s ridiculous. Why wouldn’t you want to be addicted to coffee? Reasonable amounts are perfectly healthy, there’s a ritualistic comfort in preparing and consuming it, it’s a useful drug, and it can be a wonderful ‘indulgence’. Let’s take these in order
There’s all kinds of websites hawking the health benefits of coffee, most without citing sources. Or they only cite observational studies. I haven’t looked very hard, but it would be nice to see an actual designed experiment with several populations serving as control groups, experimental groups receiving differing quantities of coffee, etc. But I don’t think such an experiment has been conducted, yet.
Here’s an obvious one, though: Coffee has caffeine. Experimental studies have been conducted on caffeine. Caffeine is proven to enhance athletic performance. One reason is that is lowers an athlete’s perceived level of exertion – going fast feels easier. Another reason is that it helps mobilize and utilize fat stores as an en energy source. This is good for long endurance events (2 hours and longer) where depleting glycogen stores is an important consideration. Mobilizing and metabolizing fat stores also seems like a desired outcome for the non-athlete population.
Apparently there are antioxidants in coffee, as well. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals in the body, helping maintain good health. Studies are inconclusive on the claims that “coffee prevents heart attack, type II diabetes, stroke and Parkinson’s”. But even a placebo effect is a real effect, so go ahead and think that coffee is offering at least some degree of protection.
There are maybe some drawbacks. Digestive issues could be provoked by excess coffee intake - heart burn, IBS, a laxative effect. Additionally, caffeine causes cortisol (stress hormone) release in the body. More cortisol is maybe a good thing if you have a lot to get done, maybe a bad thing if you have high blood pressure or are already grinding your teeth.
Obviously, pouring sugar into your coffee negates a lot of health benefits (and it’s gross). Dairy is questionable. The fats in dairy are probably a good thing, but dairy in general is a contentious topic. Alternatives to dairy are addressed at the end.
Brewing and consuming coffee is certainly a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. It’s not necessarily religious or particularly solemn, although some people would certainly assign it that importance. Maybe it’s more rightly called a procedure. Regardless, I’m calling it a ritual.
Rituals decrease stress and anxiety, while increasing confidence – a studied fact. And if you connect good thoughts with the ritual – gratitude for the security and solitude of your home, for the abundance in your life, excitement for the upcoming day – you will automatically feel those thoughts every time you engage in the ritual. How nice is that!? Feel abundance, feel contentedness, get stoked for the day, get engaged in the moment – just from spinning up a pot of joe.
Sometimes you just want to get jacked up on caffeine. Useful drug.
Coffee is damn near free, if you make it yourself. Less than $0.20 per cup for some awesome single-source, fair-trade, recently harvested, recently roasted, and organic Arabica coffee. Buy it at Costco. Grind it yourself. Make it in a bialetti or French press. Both are easy and vastly superior to your drip maker. And such coffee is vastly superior to anything at the gas station or Starbucks.
Tastes great, provides desirable stimulating effects, provides positive ritualistic effects – these are some pretty great things, for ‘damn near free’, that you can have every single morning. A lot of the indulgences or extravagances in life are tied to strongly negative side effects – eating triple chocolate cake every morning will make you fat, buying a new boat every summer will make you poor, boozing every night will require a spare liver. Whereas, “indulging” in coffee – none of those negatives. Grind, brew, drink up.
Coffee can get complicated. A “double mocha froth choco chip frapalicious quad pump”, or whatever, from Starbucks is complicated. And, at $5 and with a silly amount of sugar, it’s a less positive kind of indulgence. Like triple chocolate cake – partake occasionally, not daily.
You can make some stellar coffee variations at home, though, that retain and add to the positives of coffee.
Bulletproof Coffee – Pour coffee. Add ½ to 1 tablespoon each of good, real butter and coconut oil. Mix with blender or frother. Enjoy a rich taste and hours of sustained energy. Zero effect on your blood sugar, and a nice way to extend a ‘fasting state’ a few additional hours into the morning/afternoon.
Egg Coffee – Crack an egg in a glass. Mix. While continuing to mix, pour in wicked hot coffee. Keep stirring – you want incorporated fats and proteins, not mixed bits of cooked egg.
Go ahead and add 300 calories of butter, coconut oil or eggs to your coffee. That way, you get all three macros in one glass – fat, protein, and caffeine. (Jokes). Seriously, though – adding these to your coffee will provide steady energy and suppress the appetite. And it’s not just for “people like Luke that need more calories because they work out 4 hours a day”. It’s for everyone – eating (drinking) healthy fats will automatically cause you to eat less of other calories throughout the day.
Thanks for reading. Take a few minutes this Saturday or Easter morning for that coffee ‘indulgence’. Or do it everyday. It’s one of the small (or big) enjoyments of life.