Do I Need to Give Up Drinking Coffee?

Pink coffee cups on pink saucers sit on a windowsill surrounded by vanilla macarons and next to a vase full of big white flowers.

Dear Ruthy, I can’t give up coffee – just love it too much – but I hear that it makes your body quite acidic. Is there anything I can do to counter that acidifying effect?

I hear you — the aroma, the flavour… I look forward to my morning coffee routine every day! But you’re right, if not consumed in moderation coffee can be harsh on the gut, acidifying to the body and potentially quite the load on the liver, which is tasked with metabolizing the caffeine. Not being smart about the way you consume coffee can also be taxing on the adrenals, thereby actually contributing to the “burned out” feeling many of us try to battle by drinking coffee and compromising your body’s ability to manage stress.

Here are a few of my favourite tips for helping manage those undesirable effects:

1/ Alkalize

Make sure you’re getting plenty of alkalizing foods in your diet. Starting your day with a large glass of warm lemon water (using the juice from half a lemon) or 1 teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar diluted in water is always a great idea, coffee drinker or not!

2/ Superfoods

Try adding superfood powders to your coffee, particularly those that are known for their adaptogenic and antioxidant properties such as Ashwagandha, Astragalus, medicinal mushrooms (such as Chaga, Reishi, Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane), Pine Pollen, Tocos (which will actually add a nice creaminess as well) and even a bit of raw honey (which is super-rich in enzymes and antioxidants as is also alkalizing). Aerial view of eight coffee cups on a round table filled with coffee and each with a different amount of milk added to create varying coffee colors.
(Photo by Nathan Dumlao)

3/ Quality

Be picky about the type of coffee you consume — not all coffee is created equal! And I’m not just referring to the taste. Good quality coffee actually has several health benefits, including being anti-inflammatory, a high source of antioxidants and providing increased energy and improved physical performance. But coffee is also one of the most contaminated crops in the world. Conventionally grown coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals, and it’s highly susceptible to mold toxins. Your best bet is to look for coffee beans that are either certified fair trade, certified to be “clean” (tested and typically kept very dry after washing to reduce opportunities for mold to grow), organic or shade-grown (which often requires fewer chemicals). It’s always a great idea to talk to your local roaster or coffee shop about where they source their beans. In any event, stay away from most beans sold at mainstream grocery stores and the cheap stuff served at larger coffee shop chains and most restaurants.

4/ Quantity

Finally, consume in moderation. One cup a day is best, two is ok, anything more on a regular basis is a load on your body!

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