For many of us, mornings are just not complete without a cup of freshly brewed coffee. There’s no denying we live in a culture that loves coffee.
One of the first questions I often receive from women that I coach is “do I have to give up my coffee?”
The short answer is… no.
I’ll elaborate on this a little more. According to Ayurveda “every type of food can be a poison or a medicine” – depending on what your individual mind/body constitution is and how and when you consume it.
So, it’s not so much the coffee you drink – but how and when you drink it.
Coffee has immense health benefits. There are about 1000 active constituents in the coffee bean – only a few of them are understood. The coffee bean, the seed of the fruit, is loaded with antioxidants.
Although Ayurveda would never recommend that you supersize your daily cup(s) of coffee; under the right conditions, at the right time, you can drink it in moderation.
So how do I know if coffee’s right for me?
Despite how research on coffee has evolved, the plethora of contradictory facts still leave many confused when it comes to their daily brew.
Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, offers some interesting clues… (As you read these insights, notice how your body responds. Is there a resonance or resistance?)
Ayurvedically speaking, certain constitutions or body types will tolerate coffee better than others (don’t know your body type? Take this quizto find out). Our mind/body constitution is comprised of three doshas, or subtle energies: vata, pitta, and kapha, although one is typically dominant throughout our life.
Coffee tends to balance out kapha types. Kapha types are governed by water and earth elements and are more susceptible to weight gain and slower metabolism. If you are predominantly kapha, consider taking your coffee black – no dairy, no sugar. Both milk and cream can increase congestion which is often already common to kapha types.
People with body types high in pitta (fire and water elements) or high in vata (air and ether elements), on the other hand, need to tread more carefully with their coffee. The Ayurvedic Truth that “like increases like” speaks to this;
Coffee, being a stimulant, creates a heating effect in the body. If you are pitta type and tend to overheat emotionally (can show up as anger/ irritability/ agitated/ hypercritical/ judgemental) or physically (can show up as rashes/inflammation/indigestion/acid reflux); the hot, pungent qualities of coffee will make you even hotter (“like increases like”). If you regularly experience any of these signs of overheating, your body is giving you a clear sign to reconsider your coffee habit (at least until the symptoms have subsided). For pitta types, your coffee is best consumed by adding a high quality fat such as butter, ghee or coconut oil. Hence – the “bulletproof coffee” craze. Pitta types become more balanced with the taste of sweet so consider adding maple syrup or unrefined cane sugar and replace the milk/cream with a high quality fat.
If you are a vata type and tend to get easily over-stimulated or feel overwhelmed/ anxious/ scattered/ spacey/ frazzled; or you experience dehydration, constipation, dryness or insomnia; coffee will make these symptoms worse. If you are regularly experiencing any of these symptoms your body is giving you a clear sign it’s time to reconsider your coffee habit (at least until the symptoms have subsided). Like pitta types, the sweet taste also balances vata types so if this is you – go for a coffee that is both creamy and sweet – as these are grounding and balancing for vata types.
When you drink coffee matters.
Though Ayurveda wouldn’t suggest a coffee with every meal, in moderation and for the right body types, coffee appears to have some beneficial effects on digestion. However, that same cup of coffee (or any caffeinated beverage for that matter) on an empty stomach first thing in the morning will stimulate the adrenals into an emergency stress response. Regardless of your body type, if you use coffee as a stimulant to get energy, that in itself creates an imbalance. Using a stimulant to create energy that you do not naturally have can – over time – deplete the body’s reserves, sometimes referred to as adrenal exhaustion. While coffee may make you more focused, energised or have better bowel movements in the short term, it doesn’t come without a cost.
That said, if you are predominantly kapha, or you’re not currently experiencing any of the excess pitta or vata symptoms listed above – go ahead, savour your daily cup of coffee and it’s myriad of health benefits!