Sustainable Coffee Consumption: Why coffee can be considered a superfood and sustainable ways to consume it
Most of us rely on it to get us through the day, but how much do you really know about the health implications of this beloved beverage? Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world daily! One of the hottest topics of conversation in recent years has been regarding ways in which we can maintain the lifestyles we are so accustomed to living whilst being as sustainable as possible. It may, therefore, surprise you to find out that through changing just a few factors in how you consume coffee, you can begin the long road to a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle.
Coffee, for me, had been something that I had avoided in the past due to its bitter taste when brewed incorrectly. Also as a sufferer of migraines I had been warned against consuming copious amounts of caffeine since I was told that this could bring on migrainous attacks. However, since being put in a third lockdown my taste for coffee has slowly developed into a deep-rooted love. I now consider myself a coffee convert and can not get enough of its rich nutty taste! The smell, flavour and social aspect of going to get a coffee are amongst my favourite things about the delicious drink. Going to a coffee shop drive through and sitting in cars at distances talking through windows is now one of the only social outreaches I get to experience and it was this shared social enjoyment of coffee that prompted me to research further about the health benefits of the drink as well as ways to consume it in the most sustainable way.
1. Coffee supports happiness!
Coffee is literally happy juice. Researchers have found that drinking coffee is linked to positive emotions such as: pleasure, kindness, affection, satisfaction, friendship, calmness and happiness. The findings also noted that no negative emotions were ever found to be tied to coffee consumption. Furthermore, a Harvard study of 50,000 women found that the risk of depression decreased as caffeinated coffee consumption increased.
2. It contains lots of antioxidants
The beans which we use to make coffee are actually seeds which are found in the coffee fruit! The coffee fruit is packed full of antioxidants which are also found in the beans. A study found the coffee beans are the single greatest contributor to total antioxidant intake, and these antioxidants have been further linked to health protection which is something I think we are all looking for, especially at the moment. Chlorogenic acid, which is a polyphenol abundant in coffee, has been shown to reduce inflammation! It may also play a key role in protection against chronic diseases, including obesity.
3. Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
A 2018 meta-analysis of 30 studies concluded that coffee consumption is inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. It was shown that the chance of developing the disease decreased by 6% for each cup of coffee increased per day. Scientists also say that the possible reasons for the link include coffee’s antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects, its ability to boost calorie burning, and its impact on the content and diversity of healthy-protective gut microbes.
4. Coffee is also tied to lower rates of diseases
Studies have shown that coffee consumption may protect against certain cancers. This includes: breast, colorectal, endometrial, and prostate. Not to mention its protection against heart disease and Parkinson’s disease. It has been shown that lifelong coffee or caffeine consumption is also associated with the prevention of cognitive decline and reduced stroke risk.
5. It can give you a workout boost
Several studies have shown that in moderation, caffeine enhances athletic performance, which is something that we can all strive for. The effects include improved circulation, increases in muscular strength, endurance and power, plus reduced pain. This apparent superpower which caffeine can give you may help to push you just a little bit harder during workouts, resulting in better improvements in muscle strength and endurance. The Journal of Applied Physiologyhas found that muscle carbohydrate stores are replenished more rapidly when athletes have consumed both carbohydrates and caffeine following exhaustive exercise. There was an observed 66% increase in muscle glycogen four hours after intense exercise. This surge in energy reserves boosts your ability to exercise harder and longer the next time you are ready for a workout, almost like a little cheerleader pushing you forward to obtain your goals sooner.
6. Coffee isn’t dehydrating if you’re consistent with it
Although coffee has been criticised in the past as being dehydrating due to its diuretic effect which triggers fluid loss, consistently drinking coffee allows the body to adapt and overcome this. Research indicated that after about four days of consistent caffeine intake, your body adjusts to the diuretic effect which negates the dehydrating nature of caffeine. The trick here is to be consistent.
7. Decaf can also offer huge benefits!
As well as being able to sleep better it has been shown that decaffeinated coffee can up your energy throughout the day into a more natural arc shape. Decaf will allow you to be more tuned into your true energy levels through the day as it is unmasked by the stimulating effect of caffeine. Not only this, but decaf still has all the antioxidants, disease protection, and even increased alertness that can be found in drinking normal caffeinated coffee. So you definitely shouldn’t feel as though you are missing out on anything if you prefer to drink decaffeinated coffee.
So now that you know and understand all the different health benefits of regular coffee consumption, the question falls to how this can be done in a sustainable way to help protect the planet for future generations. Well, listed below are a few vital steps which can be taken from today to help you begin your journey to sustainable coffee consumption, helping to keep you and the planet healthy.
1. Avoid single serve coffee
The pod and capsule system which most of us use in our homes is one of the least eco friendly and unsustainable options. The pods are difficult to recycle, and in many cases not recyclable at all. Not to mention that the machines are powered constantly throughout the day. Keeping the machine in standby causes electricity to be slowly wasted throughout the day as they are consuming vital energy all of the time.
If you'd like to reduce your impact with the pod and capsule system, however, then one of our restaurants on the app, Grind, sell their own sustainably made coffee pods which can be bought here.
2. Use reusable coffee cups
Single use cups are horrible for the environment, with their plastic lids and plastic-lined insides. Since they often cannot be recycled they inevitably end up on a landfill sight which poses a multitude of different environmental problems.
By using a reusable cup you can minimise the amount of single use cups which end up in landfill. Here are some examples of some great cups to get your hands on:
Fair trade beans come from farmers who are genuinely interested not only in improving their own quality of life but also in improving farming practices and the quality of the coffee. As this practice grows, the environment benefits enormously. So, keep an eye out for the fairtrade logo on the bags of coffee that you purchase, and consider spending a little more in order to make a better choice for the farmers and the planet.
Here are some options for fairtrade coffees which can be purchased from Tesco, Ocado and Waitrose:
It is important to not only think about the farmers who make the beans but also about the packaging which the beans arrive in. Many of the packaging which the coffee beans come in are plastic-based which may be impossible to recycle. Don’t worry though, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are a growing number of producers who are utilising biodegradable coffee bags; these can break down in as little as 90 days if composted properly.
Here are a selection of some of the most sustainably packaged coffee brands in the UK:
As mentioned in tip number one, coffee pod and capsule machines are one of the worst ways to brew coffee from an environmental perspective. To avoid using the large amounts of electricity which these machines require to brew, you could consider switching to a cafetiere or another form of coffee brewing that doesn’t use electricity.
6. Always remember to compost the coffee grounds
By simply putting the grounds in the bin you are simply sending them off to landfill. Coffee grounds can actually be composted! This is definitely something that you can start doing today if you aren’t currently. Coffee can even be used as a fertilizer in small amounts so if you have a garden this is also something you can consider.
I think from all these points it is very evident not only the wonderful health benefits coffee can provide us but also the fantastic ways changing simple things in the way we consume coffee can help the bigger picture. After all we want to be able to enjoy the glorious taste of coffee for as long as possible so by choosing to do so in a sustainable way it will ensure that this is possible.
Answer to quiz question: c) Made from coffee beans eaten and excreted by a civet cat. The beans are only partially digested and then stripped of their outer layer and thoroughly cleaned before being brewed. Those who have tried it say the flavor is very smooth, sweet, and earthy with a slight chocolate taste.