Beauty Is Wellness: Is Coffee a Beauty Food?
Welcome to Beauty Is Wellness, a column about the link between nutrition, lifestyle and beauty based on my health coaching practice of the same name. I’m thrilled to share information about my favorite beauty foods, original recipes for beautiful skin, hair and nails and nutritional tips for beautifying from the inside out in the months to come. If you have specific questions about the beauty and nutrition connection that you’d like to have answered in this column, contact me at email@example.com.
Browsing a popular beauty site, I did a double take at the headline “7 Surprising Beauty Benefits of Coffee.” Coffee— a beauty food? I instantly clicked, wanting to get to the bottom of the claims. You see, coffee— caffeine specifically— is one of the “Beauty Betrayers” named in my book Eat Pretty; it may have well-documented health benefits, but it’s not exactly the beverage that you should be gulping for beauty.
“Is coffee good for me?” is one of the questions that I’m asked most often; so many of my readers and clients are confused about whether they should be drinking it every day or banning it from their travel mugs. I think it’s fair to drink small amounts of coffee, as long as you understand the pros and cons of your choice, and don’t falsely believe that it’s an anti-aging elixir. Let’s take a closer look at why I say that coffee, despite its benefits, does not support your glow.
First, the good sides of coffee: It offers an antioxidant boost, and it’s actually one of the biggest sources of antioxidants in the American diet[i] (this is kind of sad though— why aren’t we getting more of our antioxidants from fresh, colorful, nutrient-dense foods?). Coffee also boosts exercise performance as well as cognitive performance. Of course, in order to reap those benefits, you have to make sure you don’t drink too much— if you do, all bets are off! Coffee may reduce your chance of getting type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Just smelling it lifts your mood, and it has UV protective benefits for your skin— but so do lots of other foods that have bigger beauty benefits!
Now the reasons why coffee is not a great choice for your beauty:
• Coffee can disrupt your hormonal balance by raising your levels of the stress hormone cortisol (a factor in belly fat storage), overstimulating the adrenal glands and altering blood sugar.
• It impedes your absorption of important beauty minerals like zinc (essential for clear skin!) and iron by up to 50 percent. And it can compromise bone strength by limiting your absorption of calcium.
• It dehydrates your body—and few of us remember to re-hydrate after we drink it! Hydration is a beauty essential.
• The caffeine in coffee can disrupt your beauty sleep, even if you drink it in the a.m., since it affects your body up to 12 hours.
• Caffeine inhibits the natural production of serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter you want for a good mood) in the body.[ii]
• Coffee is acidic to the body. Too many acidic foods in the diet take away from your gorgeous glow!
• The caffeine in coffee stresses the liver, which must run efficiently to cleanse and detox our bodies. When our liver is stressed, our skin takes on more of the waste-removal burden, and skin issues like rashes and blemishes can arise.
• Unless you buy organic beans, your coffee is likely to be heavily sprayed with pesticides. And the decaffeination process for coffee and other drinks isn’t very healthy either.
Like other sweets and processed foods, coffee is really a treat, not a health drink to sip daily.
What about other caffeine-containing drinks like tea? Tea has less than half the caffeine of coffee, but it can still add up, so I skip black tea, moderate my green tea intake, and drink primarily rooibos, white and herbal blends.
So, maybe you’ll cut back just a little? When you do sip coffee, enjoy the taste and the ritual—but don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a beauty booster. If you’re looking for antioxidants, whip yourself up a more colorful brew—like a green smoothie!
[i] Glassman, Keri. Slim Calm Sexy Diet. 2012, Rodale.
[ii] Junger, Alejandro. Clean. 2009, HarperOne.
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