Drinking coffee on a low carb diet has never been so controversial. There’s a long list of science-backed health benefits of coffee. But is fighting disease and living longer worth the risks of caffeine?
- Best coffee for low carb diets
- Caffeine reactions on low carb
- Benefits, health studies and research
- When to kick the coffee habit
Some low carbers have no problems with coffee, while others release unhealthy levels of cortisol – a stress hormone. These low carbers become over-stimulated and easily dependent on the caffeine in coffee.
Everyone reacts differently to coffee and caffeine. If your low carb diet is stable with minimal cravings for sugar, drinking a few cups of coffee per day is safe – and enough to gain some major health benefits.
One cup of coffee adds only a carb or two to your daily total, and is a fast way to add healthy fats to your low carb diet.
Best Coffee for Low Carb
Espresso and black coffee are almost zero carb, perfect for your low carb diet. Use heavy cream or half-and-half, and sugar substitutes.
Feeling adventurous? Drink bulletproof coffee, a healthy high fat coffee made with butter.
Reasons to Add Coffee
It is well-known that small amounts of caffeine are good for attention, clarity and brain function. But coffee also improves our health, extending our lifespan.
Some studies show both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have the same positive health effects. These studies suggest something other than caffeine in the coffee is responsible for the results.
Health Benefits of Coffee
- Coffee stimulates peristalsis, helping relieve constipation.
- Coffee has beneficial antioxidants.
- Drinking coffee lowers the risk of depression among women.
- Coffee with heavy cream is an acceptable low carb treat and an excellent substitute when you’re craving something sweet.
- Frothed cream designs turn coffee into art in 30 seconds.
- Caffeine improves cognitive performance, reaction time and short-term memory.
- Coffee lowers the risk of lethal prostate cancer in men.
- Coffee lowers the risk of stroke in both men and women.
Harvard Coffee Research Study
Harvard studies show coffee offers protection against everything from Parkinson’s disease to diabetes, and even some types of cancer.
A 25-year research study completed in 2012 at Harvard University is reporting many new health benefits of coffee.
The study shows moderate coffee consumption offers health benefits and protection against several diseases:
Effects on insulin and blood sugar levels that would promote diabetes are temporary.
Regular coffee drinking lowers the risk for diabetes and high intake (3–6 cups a day) seems to have an even greater effect.
Protection may come from increases in the hormone adiponectin, and other factors that affect insulin and blood sugar levels.
It is important to note that these same effects were also measured in decaffeinated coffee.
Studies suggest a lower risk for some cancers (endometrial, aggressive prostate, estrogen-negative breast), but not others (esophageal).
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients could be responsible for possible anticancer activity.
Although coffee drinking increases some factors (homocysteine) associated with a higher risk of having a heart attack, moderate consumption (1–3 cups a day) is linked to a decrease in risk.
The evidence for this protective effect is stronger for women.
Drinking moderate amounts of coffee (3–4 cups a day) lowers the risk of stroke.
However, the risk of having a stroke may increase immediately after intake, particularly among infrequent coffee drinkers and those who are sensitive to caffeine.
Coffee is anti-inflammatory. Coffee drinkers have lower levels of the enzymes that indicate liver damage and inflammation.
Coffee also improves the body’s response to some treatments for Hepatitis C.
Early findings also suggest some protection against liver cancer. Cafestol and kahweol, substances found in unfiltered coffee, might be responsible for these liver benefits.
Studies show a moderate (25%) decrease in the risk for Parkinson’s among coffee drinkers. Women experience less of this effect.
Human and animal studies show hints of protection against Alzheimer’s.
Preliminary evidence suggests activity against beta-amyloid plaque build-up, a main symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reasons NOT to Drink Coffee
Caffeine can trigger the release of unhealthy levels of cortisol in some people.
Chronically high cortisol levels are known to cause weight gain, disturbed sleep patterns and a depressed immune system.
Coffee hinders iron absorption due to its tannin content, adding to iron deficiency. If your low carb diet is rich in red meat or spinach, low iron is typically not a problem.
Coffee irritates the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract and can exacerbate those with ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastritis or other similar gastrointestinal disorders.
Fortunately, low acidity coffee options are available.
Drinking coffee only occasionally produces a diuretic effect: the body loses water and becomes dehydrated, often with electrolyte imbalances.
However, studies show coffee does not have a diuretic effect after you’ve become a regular drinker and built a tolerance to caffeine.
Drinking decaffeinated coffee removes this concern.
When to Kick Coffee
If coffee is affecting your diet in a negative way, it is time to consider kicking the habit for good.
You’re Having Cravings
Caffeine does cause a drop in blood sugar, which triggers sugar cravings and binge eating.
Artificial sweeteners have few carbs, but some low carbers experience a weight loss plateau when using them.
If you have frequent carb cravings or you are not seeing results from your diet, try eliminating artificial sweeteners for a few weeks. Or eliminate coffee completely.
- Replace coffee with herbal tea
- Try seltzer water with a twist of lemon or lime
Caffeine and Appetite
Caffeine in coffee is an appetite suppressant and has a thermogenic effect, meaning you burn slightly more calories.
Some dieters report little or no change in appetite after drinking coffee. Others report feeling hungry.
Coffee and Metabolism Crashes
Caffeine is a stimulant that speeds up your heart rate and your metabolism, helping you burn more calories, even at rest.
Unfortunately, the effect is short-lived and lasts only while the caffeine is in your system – no more than five hours after drinking the coffee.
Like sugar, caffeine often causes a “crash” that leaves dieters craving more coffee or another stimulant like sugar. If you experience cravings after drinking coffee, cut it out.
Coffee affects everyone differently. If you are very sensitive to caffeine, remove coffee entirely from your low carb diet.
If you’re not ready to give up coffee completely, try drinking coffee after a meal when blood sugar is more stable (or switching to decaf).
Weighing Your Options
Drinking coffee on a low carb diet is possible if practiced routinely – in a moderate way. A cup or two most mornings with heavy cream or half-and-half is perfectly acceptable.
Coffee is a healthy, quick source of energy. But if you experience any negative side effects, such as cravings, crashes or diet stalls … it’s time to kick that habit.
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Keep Calm and Low Carb