The Great Coffee Debate

In light of National Coffee Day on Sept. 29, I think we all deserve to know exactly what this widely-celebrated beverage is doing for our health. We already know what it can do to help our mental state: waking us up in the morning, preparing us to be on our academic A-game if we were up late finishing a huge assignment (Not that we would EVER put off our homework until 10 p.m. the night before it’s due), or warming us up as we walk to class on a cold morning. We also know the telltale signs of all the caffeine in coffee: the much-appreciated “morning jolt,” the occasional jittery feeling, and even the rumbly stomach after consuming way too much coffee and not enough substantial food. These things are common knowledge; they are the surface-level effects of coffee. However, there are a lot of other effects of coffee that we aren’t even aware of. These effects lead to the great coffee debate: how healthy is coffee?

As a recent coffee convert and now-avid consumer, I’m going to start with the cons and end with the pros. That’s fair, right? Coffee can’t be perfect, after all. This first list includes the things that make me slightly heartbroken because I love coffee so much. But I can’t be biased — coffee can definitely get a bad rap. The biggest reason? Coffee is addictive. The more we drink, the more tolerant we become to the effects of the caffeine, and the more we need to drink to feel the same effects. We all know the morning monsters who should never see another human being before they have been adequately caffeinated. This dependence is definitely not ideal, and many people point to this as the primary reason that we should avoid coffee. The reason that people are told to avoid coffee is the exact reason why many people drink it: the caffeine. Caffeine works by putting your body in a state of stress, releasing the stress hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. Increased levels of cortisol lead to a decreased immune system, an increased appetite, weight gain, and disrupted sleep patterns. All great reasons to give up the coffee habit, right?

Okay, now that the negative stuff is out of the way, we can get onto the pros of coffee. First of all, it’s full of antioxidants. Like, really full. Full to the point that the average person who follows a typical Western diet gets more of their daily antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and vegetables. Critics can point to this and say we’re obviously not eating enough fruits and veggies. I disagree. I think it’s just that coffee has a LOT of good stuff in it. Studies also show that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. So not only is coffee good for our college-age brains when we study, but also for our time-tested, elderly brains. And as a rebuttal to the coffee cons, many of the negatives of coffee can be avoided. For example, if you drink your daily coffee before 2 p.m., it generally will not affect your sleep cycle. As for the decreased immune system, just make sure you’re taking in an adequate amount of Vitamin C every day, and your immune system will be in tip-top shape. The antioxidants in coffee are worth it. Plus, numerous studies have shown that caffeine consumption helps athletic performance. And with all the athletes we have here at Loras College, who wouldn’t want to excel in their sport?

So the real question is: Are we overindulging in a beverage that is detrimental to our health? I would say no. We may be overindulging, but only because it’s so delicious and the caffeine jolt is incredibly helpful on a day-to-day basis. The main point is that coffee can get a bad rap for its caffeine content, but its benefits definitely outweigh its negatives.

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