Of late your stomach feels crampy, your head aches, and you are irritable after a cup of your favorite beverage; coffee. Most probably you are asking yourself, “why does coffee make me sick?”
Coffee contains caffeine and other compounds that can negatively affect your health. There are so many other foods that can make you ill and probably they are on the list of your favorites. A healthy diet is the basis of good health. Hippocrates, the founder of medicine, stated that, “food is medicine.” He believed that the primary cause of illness is bad eating habits and if people adopt healthy eating habits, there would be no need for prescriptions.
Current trends in food consumption
Research has shown that globally, dietary changes seem to shift towards high intake of animal and hydrogenated oils and minimal intake of fiber. The United States (US) Dietary Guidelines 2015-2010 state that;
- 71% of adults take food high in saturated fats
- 75% of adults eat food that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and fiber
- More than two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that adults consume about 145 calories from sugar sweetened-beverages such as coffee, yet, fats and sugar are the greatest contributors to obesity.
The US dietary guidelines recommend that on average, an adult should take 2000 calories daily. These calories should come from healthy and nutritious food groups.
Some of the food groups that are good for your health
Soy is one of the most farmed and used legumes globally. The beans have found their way to our plates in the form of soy sauce, sauce powder, soy milk, soybean oil, and soy flour. They are high in proteins, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Soybeans are considered to be superior to other beans as they contain twice as much protein and have all the eight essential amino acids hence can be used as a sole source of protein.
If you are trying to lose weight, soy beans are a good choice of food. One serving of soy beans (half a cup) has 149 calories. They have little starch, and due to their high protein and dietary fiber content, soy beans make you feel full for longer, therefore fewer hunger pangs and cravings. Therefore you will end up indulging less in unhealthy snacks and cravings.
Other benefits of soy include
- Soy contains Isoflavone, a compound that has a structure similar to that of estrogen. Due to its estrogen-like effects, the compound prevents bone loss by increasing bone density. Isoflavone also helps in reducing post-menopausal symptoms hence recommended for women at menopause age.
- Soy contains unsaturated fats which assist in lowering “bad” cholesterol by 3%. For this reason, they reduce the risk of heart diseases. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 25 grams of soybeans daily, to have this effect.
- It’s plays a protective role against certain cancers. According to the United Soy Bean Board, case-control studies have shown that eating at least two servings of soy per day reduces the risk of prostate cancer by preventing spread and advancement of the tumor.
2. Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are considered one of the healthiest vegetables. They include kales, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, arugula, swiss chard, etc. Nutritionists suggest that you should add a serving of green vegetables in every meal. You can eat them as part of a main meal, salad or in smoothies. One serving (30 grams) of these vegetables has only seven calories, so you don’t have to worry about weight gain. In fact, they are essential for weight loss.
Green leafy vegetables are high in vitamin K which is important for bone health. Vitamin K is actively involved in synthesis of osteocalcin which is essential for bone formation. The vegetables are also high in calcium which is necessary for strengthening bones.
They also have beta-carotenes which are converted to vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for skin and hair growth, immunity and healthy eye vision. Beta-carotenes are also antioxidants. They ward off free radicals thus lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer. Studies have suggested that eating at least four servings of green leafy vegetables each day decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 11%.
First, berries are sweet, and you can’t resist them. One cup of berries (148 grams) has about 85 calories. They are high in sugar, but their sugar is “good” sugar. They are also loaded with Vitamin C and dietary fiber. You can enjoy berries in a smoothie, with cereals or as a salad. Dietary guidelines recommend at least two servings of fruits daily.
The dense color in berries is due to a pigment known as anthocyanin. According to an article published in Today’s Dietitian journal, the anthocyanin is an antioxidant that fights cell-damaging molecules known as “free radicals,” therefore protecting the body against heart disease, cancer, and enhancing memory.
Berries, in particular blueberries and cranberries, have the ability to prevent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). A study conducted on randomized patients who had frequent UTIs showed that there is evidence that berries may help to ward off UTIs by preventing bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract.
Fish is uniquely high in protein, Vitamins A and D, and omega 3 fats. Most probably, you have heard about Omega 3 fats and its benefits.
In children, docosexanoeic acid (DHA) a compound of omega-3 fats, helps in brain development and good vision. In adults, it slows down degeneration of the brain. According to the Havard School of Public Health, DHA accounts for about 9-12% of the total weight of the brain. Therefore, if the level of DHA falls, it results to slow cognitive development in children and degeneration of the brain in adults.
The contribution of fish to a healthy heart is probably one of the most widely studied effects of its omega 3 fats. Studies have shown omega 3 fats reduce inflammation in the whole body. Inflammation can cause damage to blood vessels, putting you at risk of cardiovascular diseases. Also, omega 3 fats are unsaturated fats which lower cholesterol in the body hence reducing the probability cardiovascular diseases. The American Heart Association (AHA) advises one to eat at least two servings of fish per week.
Foods that can adversely affect your health
1. Gluten cereal grains
Affects the body
Cereals are one of the most important food sources in the world. It is undisputed that whole grains are essential for a healthy diet. For most people, grains contribute about 50% of total daily calories intake. However, research shows that certain diseases are caused by whole grains. According to Dr. Braly and Mr. Hoggan, authors of Dangerous Grains, wheat, and other related grains account for up to 10 million illnesses. For instance, wheat, rye, and barley contain a protein called gluten that causes celiac disease.
The Celiac Disease Foundation explains that when an individual with celiac disease eats gluten, the body induces an inflammatory reaction on the small intestines. The intestinal damage causes malabsorption of food, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain. Failure to treat celiac disease can lead to serious complications.The best approach to treating celiac disease is strictly maintaining a gluten-free diet.
Though it’s merely 1 in 100 people that are affected by celiac disease, you have a reason to worry about gluten. An article published in the Journal of American Nutrition Association reported that gluten significantly contributes to many other diseases. These diseases include cancer, autoimmune diseases, neurological diseases, chronic pain syndrome, and osteoporosis.
If you are losing weight, you may want to reconsider intake of bread and other wheat products. A study conducted by a Brazilian team concluded that gluten causes weight gain, as it alters metabolism in the direction of weight gain.
Let’s go back to the question: why does coffee make me sick?
When you wake up, most probably the first thing that you reach for is a cup of coffee. You are not alone. More than 80% of adults consume coffee every day, making it the second most consumed beverage in the world after water. Although coffee has its benefits, it has potential risks to your health too.
You don’t have to worry about totally cutting out coffee since there is a safe amount that you can consume. A study released in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings Journal established that 400mg of coffee per day is relatively safe. Therefore, more than four cups of coffee per day can be detrimental to your health.
Potential risks of consumption of coffee include:
Coffee stimulates the production of adrenaline by the pituitary glands. One of the effects of adrenaline is that it makes you stay awake and alert for up to six hours. Constant intake of more than 205mg of coffee per day causes interruption of sleep and may eventually lead to chronic insomnia. With chronic insomnia, you will not be able to fall asleep, or you may have sleep that is not refreshing.
Caffeine increases the amount of calcium excreted in the body the kidney therefore lowering serum levels of calcium. Calcium is responsible for strengthening bones. So, if you regularly consume excess coffee, your bones may be weak and more susceptible to fractures. If you already have osteoporosis, coffee makes your situation worse.
Caffeine increases the heart rate and blood pressure. It therefore overworks the heart in individuals who already have cardiovascular diseases, making the conditions worse.
Increases serum lipid concentration.
Other than caffeine, coffee also contains other compounds such as cafestol and kahweol, which causes a surge of Low-Density Lipoproteins(LDL). A research study released in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology confirmed that indeed, high consumption of boiled coffee leads to increase in the LDL. Research has shown that LDL raises your chances of a heart attack.
. Digestive problems
If you take coffee first thing in the morning, then it is time to reconsider this habit. Taking coffee on an empty stomach leads to production of hydrochloric acid (HCL). When the stomach is empty, HCL damages the lining of the stomach and makes it easy for Helicobacter Pylori to invade and cause ulcers.
Soon after you take a cup of coffee you may have experienced heartburn. Coffee causes relaxation of smooth muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter is responsible for preventing food and acid from going back to the esophagus once it is in the stomach. When the sphincter relaxes, food and acid go back to the esophagus causing heartburn.
Caffeine in pregnancy and breastfeeding
Caffeine crosses the placenta, and therefore, it may potentially cause harm to the fetus by increasing its heart rate and metabolism. Also, consumption of more than the recommended amount (200mg -300mg) may lead to miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature delivery, according to Mayo Clinic.
Fats are both beneficial and harmful to health. Uses of fat are;
- To provide the body with energy. Each gram of fat provides 9 kilocalories.
- Insulation of the body against extreme temperatures.
- Protect major organs such as the heart against shock.
- Enhance flavor and taste in food
- Prevent drying of the skin and hair by promoting of absorption of vitamins
On the other hand, fats can adversely affect your health depending on the amount and type of fats that you consume. The Dietitians of Canada recommend that fat intake should be 20%- 30% of all calories consumed per day. Therefore, an adult who takes 2000 calories per day should take about 65g of fats per day.
The “good” and “bad” fats are
. Saturated Fats
These kind of fats are usually solid at room temperature. They are mostly from animals and tropical oils. Sources of saturated fats include red meat, ghee, lard, butter, cheese, chocolate, whole milk, red palm oil, and coconut oil.
. Monounsaturated Fats
Oils from peanuts, sesame seeds, olives, almonds, cashews, and avocados are primary sources of monounsaturated fats.
. Polyunsaturated fats
They are derived from safflower, soybean, sunflower, corn, cotton seed, and fish oils
. Trans fats
Trans fats are as a result of hydrogenation of unsaturated fats, to make them solid. Trans fats are easy and cheap to use hence mostly used for commercial foods. They are likely to be found in your indulgent foods such as margarine, fast-fried foods, cookies, doughnuts, cakes, and pizza.
The American Heart Association advocates that trans fats and saturated fats should each contribute to 5-6% of total calories per day, i.e., 13g of saturated fats and 13g of trans fats. However, the US Dietary Guidelines state that only 29% of adults take fats below 10% of total calories per day. The primary source of fat for an average American is saturated fats such as pizza, hot dogs, sausages, bacon, cheese, and ribs.
Saturated and Trans fats are considered to be the “bad fats.” These fats are the ones that are mostly responsible for causing illness. Some of the diseases that are associated with fats include:
Eating a meal high in saturated fats is known to elevate the level of Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL). When LDL accumulates in the body, it is deposited in the lumen of the blood vessels causing a condition known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes narrowing of blood vessels thus limiting blood flow. It can lead to a heart attack, stroke or even death.
Fats do not initiate cancer development, but they may promote progression, once it has arisen. According to the Cancer Research UK, excess fats cause the production of hormones and growth factors that affect the mechanism of cells. A study in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology showed that there is a moderate link between dietary fats and breast cancer. In another research released in the American Journal of Epidemiology, intake of deep fried foods has been associated with colorectal cancer.
Obesity is as a result of excess consumption of food more than the required amount. Although dietary fats are not the only cause of obesity, they are a significant contributor. Accumulation of fats in adipose tissue leads to weight gain and in the long run if not corrected, cause obesity.
Obesity predisposes you to conditions such as:
- Breast and colon cancer
- Polycystic Ovarian cancer
- Infertility in both men and women
- Low self-esteem
- Chronic back pain
It is therefore important to be choosy and limit the type and amount of fats that you eat. The ways to limit fat in your diet is to strike a balance between healthy and unhealthy fats and incorporate exercise into your schedule.
Sugar-sweetened beverages such as coffee, artificial fruit juices, soda, and sports drinks are the leading source of added sugar in our diet. For instance, one can of soda has sugar equivalent to 9 table spoons, which are about 160 calories. Other sources include brown sugar, corn sweeteners, raw sugar, corn syrup, cookies, chocolate, doughnuts, desserts, cakes, ice cream, and candy. These sugars add no essential nutrients to the body and hence are referred to as “empty” calories.
The amount of sugar supplied to the body
Naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruits contain no added sugars and are healthy for you.
The American Heart Association recommends that females should consume about 100 calories of added sugar, and males less than 150 calories per day. However, studies show that on average, adults consume about 500 calories of sugar per day.
Dr. Malotra, the director of Action on Sugar, states that “our bodies do not need calories from sugar added to foods. Too much sugar consumption may decrease the capability of the body to influence caloric intake. Intake of sugar results to eating more, and eventually leading to weight gain.”
Research has proved that a high-sugar diet is likely to cause heart disease even if you are not overweight. Other studies have confirmed that excess intake of sugar has a link to obesity, diabetes, and dental cavities. Scientific studies have shown that a reduction in 20-35% of sugar added in processed food can eventually reverse the epidemic of obesity. It is therefore important to reduce your sugar intake.
Ways to cut back on sugar include:
- Choose plain water over soft drinks and coffee
- Take fruits and vegetables for snacks
- Study nutrition labels on food before purchasing
- Make your meals
It is clear that bad diets are one of the greatest contributors to the global disease burden. If your diet consists of unhealthy foods, it is important that you think of making the necessary changes. Your body needs adequate nutrition to function optimally. Eat food that is nourishing, satisfying and improves your overall well-being. Aim at eating at least three well-balanced main meals and two snacks in between. Carefully choose your food and include whole foods that are high in fiber, low in fat, and low in sugar. Most importantly, spare some time for exercise.