An Ayurvedic Look at Coffee
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
“America runs on Dunkin’” isn’t a widely known slogan for no reason; we LOVE coffee. It’s estimated that 50% or more of us in the US are coffee drinkers, and it’s no doubt a product of its delectable taste, widespread marketing, convenience of coffee shops on every corner, and our busy lifestyles that often leave us feeling like we can really use the caffeine and mood boosting effects coffee tends to provide. But, the big question is: is coffee healthy for us? According to Ayurveda, it depends. When looking at the ways coffee acts as food, medicine, or poison in our bodies, we have to take a few things into consideration.
First, there is a lot of incredible coffee research out there, and a wide range of findings like: coffee can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, liver disease and heart disease, as well as, support digestion and circulation, increase focus and memory, and have an uplifting effect; but also, that, on the negative side, it can increase anxiety, mess with hormone production (especially estrogen in women), and dehydrate you. You see, coffee contains caffeine—which has pros and cons depending on how much we ingest and what our constitution is, and it also contains antioxidants, essential oils, and other compounds that can potentially reduce inflammation and protect our bodies against heart, kidney, colon, and liver diseases. But even though research often tells us that coffee consumption is beneficial for our health, Ayurveda tells us that nothing is ever so black and white.
So, according to Ayurveda, if we want to know if something (like coffee) is good for us, we ought to do these things:
1. Get to know our bodies by checking in with how our body feels during and after we drink the coffee; take a moment to really experience what you’re putting into your system—what does it taste like/is it enjoyable? Do you feel healthy and grounded and clear after you eat/drink, or do you feel tired or anxious? Checking in gives us basic information to see if our body responds positively or negatively to what we’re putting in.
2. Understand our constitution; when we know what elements comprise our body, we have a better time knowing how to stay in balance. In Ayurveda, this means determining your dominant dosha (pitta—fire and water; kapha—water and earth; vata—air and ether) and the qualities, foods, aptitudes, tendencies that go along with it. The easiest way to take our dosha quiz on our website, or for a more extensive understanding, you can schedule a consultation with us.
3. Check in with our body overtime. Our bodies are always changing, and even though something might be great for us now, it doesn’t mean it always will be. Keeping an eye on how things feel in your body over time, and being mindful of when your constitution gets out of balance is really important. It also means that we have to have the willingness to adapt over time if we want to be healthy. That means, for example, that if we’ve had a great experience drinking coffee every day for several years it doesn’t necessarily mean that our bodies will respond positively to coffee for the rest of our lives. If we start to experience dehydration or acid reflux after drinking our morning cup, then it’s time to reevaluate —even if we don’t want to.
Coffee and the Doshas
People with Kapha constitutions tend to have an easier time drinking coffee regularly than those with Vata or Pitta dominant constitutions. That’s because Kapha tends towards sluggishness, and coffee (as a stimulant) can give the body and mind a nice boost. Black coffee is generally suggested for Kapha, as dairy and sweeteners can upset the already moist, mucus-prone system. If you’re Vata dominant (and not experiencing out-of-balance symptoms like constipation, restlessness, forgetfulness, insomnia, dehydration, dry hair and skin, anxiety) then coffee is great to have a few times each week, with some frothy milk and a little honey or maple syrup so that it’s creamy, sweet, and grounding for you. Black coffee might make you feel flighty, jittery, or spaced out—so just pay attention to how the different styles of coffee work for your body. If you’re Pitta dominant and not experiencing symptoms of imbalance (agitation, frustration, excess heat, indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, skin rashes), then having black coffee with a little maple syrup or honey a few times a week is generally fine.
Quality is Key
It’s really important to check on the quality of coffee you’re drinking. Be sure that your coffee is organic, and sourced well, as the essential oils in coffee beans will absorb any toxins/chemicals in the soil, and also because the industry isn’t always fair to labor workers. To make your coffee extra nourishing, you can add a little bit of ghee (clarified butter), cinnamon, and/or medicinal mushrooms like Chaga, Lions Mane, Cordyceps, Reishi, or Turkey Tail. Mushrooms are adaptogenic, which basically means they make it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients present in the coffee. They not only help your body absorb nutrients, but they also each have different added health benefits that can truly enhance your morning cup!
So, all that said, is coffee good for us?
It can be. How much is too much? We’d say no more than 1 cup/day, and make sure you’re checking in with your body, taking some breaks from coffee throughout the year, and keeping an eye on your body’s level of balance—if you notice yourself moving in the direction of your doshas imbalanced state, take a break from coffee and switch to tea.
If you want to know more about your body and its needs, scheduling a consultation with us is the best way to go. Our consultations take an in-depth look at your family health history, your health history, and your specific needs and goals to make sure you get the best support you can. Or, for extra support, you can register for our 6-Month Gut Healing Protocol that includes monthly consultations, yoga and meditation classes, breath-work classes, Ayurvedic education, and lifestyle/nutrition guidelines customized for you.