Months ago, when planning content for this blog, I wrote down ‘coffee’ as a topic to cover. I had meant to talk about the ritual of morning coffee in line with mindfulness, taking the time to savour the moment as a way to reduce stress. But today I decided that I first needed to look at whether coffee is ok to drink if you’re diabetic. At one time I knew that diabetics (like me) need to stay away from caffeine because it is known to impair insulin sensitivity in the short term, but it was forgotten in the sea of information I consumed after my diagnosis. You want to be highly sensitive to insulin, otherwise your pancreas needs to produce more insulin to deal with the glucose in your blood and that strains the pancreas and leads to all kinds of trouble. You can read more about this here.
So, caffeine = bad. But it’s not good for anyone is it? (Note: Health professionals are at odds on whether it’s harmful in general; some say it’s fine in moderation while others say don’t have any ever, so I’m taking the safe route here because no one will ever tell me I’m suffering from not having enough caffeine in my diet.) We do know that caffeine raises the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Chronically high levels can trigger excess fat storage, which can lead to obesity. And especially bad for diabetics is that it can cause cravings for sugar and increases in appetite. (While writing this I did a search for full-bodied decaffeinated coffee beans that use natural decaffeination processes, as opposed to chemical ones, and I found one that I have high hopes for. I’ll report back when I’ve tried it. Update: Two I can recommend for a great cup of coffee: Spiller & Tait sparkling water decaffeinated, and Climpson & Sons Sol y Café, Peru, washed Swiss water decaffeination.)
I shuddered when I realised that I have caffeine every day, in diet pop (update: I’ve now cut it out for good!) and in my one or two cups of coffee, and it’s all been for nothing. I don’t use the stimulant caffeine to wake up or stay awake, in fact I find that artificially fighting the tireds makes me feel cracky and I feel worse, so I don’t do that. I’ve been consuming it simply because it happens to be in what I’m drinking – I just like coffee – for not even weakly justified benefits! Time to make better choices.
But is coffee in itself, sans caffeine, bad or good? Good news coffee lovers – it turns out that it’s good! Coffee contains polyphenols, a molecule that has anti-oxidant properties which are widely believed to help prevent inflammatory illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, and anticarcinogenic (anti-cancer) properties. As well as these beneficial polyphenols, coffee contains magnesium and chromium. Greater magnesium intake has been linked with lower rates of type 2 diabetes, and this combination of nutrients can be helpful in improving insulin sensitivity.
A study of healthcare professionals in the US and UK, published in 2014, showed that those that increased their consumption of coffee experienced an 11% decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes over the next 4 years.
You prefer your cuppa be tea, you say? Hurray for you too! According to diabetes.co.uk, a 2009 study of 40,000 participants noted that consumption of 3 cups of tea or coffee a day lead to a 40% lower risk of type 2 diabetes developing.
Ok, so do these numbers really mean anything? Not really, there are so many factors at play that determine the health of any individual. I’m pretty sure that had I been drinking more coffee or tea every day that I’d still have developed diabetes. Positive. But the take away is that you are not hurting yourself by drinking decaf coffee and black tea (sans sugar and easy on the milk – or better yet, a dairy alternative) and who knows, the habit just may do you some good.
Photos are from Swedish brand Sosgrene Grene’s new SS17 home collection