“The best part of my morning is sitting and sipping my coffee. It’s part of my ritual.”

-Rose Caiola

We hear so often, “Coffee is bad! Coffee is bad!” Coffee is one of the most highly consumed beverages in North America. It’s no wonder there is literally a coffee shop on every street corner, and if it’s not classified as a coffee shop, you can bet it serves coffee. Still, controversy looms over coffee’s health risks – specifically the side effects of caffeine.

The average amount of caffeine in one cup of joe is about 95 milligrams (mg). Health Canada recommends a daily consumption of caffeine no more than 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, which for an average 150 pound person equals 170.5mg per day, or 1.8 cups per day.

Well there’s now research that says that consumption over the recommended limit is actually beneficial! Now, that is not to say that you can go and have as many double-doubles as you want or high fat lattes; black coffee was predominantly what was tested.

Health Components of Coffee

Coffee, comes predominantly from the Coffea Arabica plant. These trees produce red fruits called “cherries” that contain the coffee bean, which is technically a seed. These beans offer tremendous health benefits. The most important is their high antioxidant component. Antioxidants help the body scavenge free radicals, like little Pac-Men chasing their ghosts. In doing so, antioxidants are incredibly protective against chronic illness. One study found that roasting the beans can actually enhance the antioxidant potential.


One antioxidant, in particular, carried by the coffee bean is called chlorogenic acid (CGA) – the most abundant antioxidant in the bean. It is this component that researchers in a Pharmaceutical Research study find helps prevent diet-induced weight gain, blood sugar irregularity and insulin resistance. This study and another published in Hepatology also finds significant evidence of coffee acting as protection against liver disease. The Hepatology study of over 27,000 people, age 20 years or older, finds those who drank three or more cups have lower levels of liver enzymes to those who drank none.

Choosing the Right Bean

Not all beans are grown the same, so choosing the right bean is of utmost importance. The one thing to watch out for with any coffee bean is fungal compounds called mycotoxins, such as Aspergillus or Fusarium. The University of Valencia tested 103 samples of commercially available coffee and found traces, some significant, of fumonisins, aflatoxins, trichothecenes and mycotoxins. These substances can be carcinogenic, hepatotoxic and significantly affect the immune system.

Choose the Right Machine, Clean Often

How you brew your coffee will also change the health benefits it provides. Research published in Food Additives and Contaminants studied the effects of the chemicals from the coffee filter leaching into the coffee, rendering it more toxic to the consumer.  In the study, the eight coffee machines show alarmingly high levels of lead, nickel, manganese and zinc that significantly exceeds the recommended limit of daily intake. Among the portafilter machines, pod machines and capsule machines used in the study, findings show the portafilter machines release these highest amount of toxic chemicals. How can you decrease the exposure? The authors recommend carefully rinsing these machines often, especially if you notice decalcification.


Decalcification refers to the calcium deposits that form over time on the metal parts of your coffee machine. This will occur depending on the hardness of you water and how often you use the coffee machine.  It is best to review the recommendations of your coffee maker and see what the companies recommend for best results.  If you’re not too sure, decalcifying your machine once per month – if you’re a daily user – is a great starting point.

Decalcifying the machine requires nothing more than your run-of-the-mill white vinegar.  Fill the water reserve with one-third vinegar and two-thirds water. Run the coffee maker through its regular brewing cycle, then repeat again with just regular water.  If you still notice the vinegar smell or taste, run fresh water through the brewing cycle again until that dissipates.  Repeat every month.

So go on and enjoy your cup of joe – black, and from a clean bean and a clean machine!


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