by Mila McManus, MD
Coffee lovers and connoisseurs abound thanks to Starbucks and other similar West coast chains making coffee a work of art. In America, at least 6 out of 10 people start their day with a cup or two. There is research which suggests health benefits such as protection from type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, liver, and Parkinson’s disease – that is, if your coffee is not toxic.
Here’s what you need to know to make good choices:
- There are no maximum pesticide residue limits set by governments despite the fact that coffee is the NUMBER ONE pesticide-sprayed crop in the world. It is estimated that there are at least 40 different pesticides and chemicals used on coffee crops around the world with little or no regulation to limit their use.
- Mycotoxins are another common problem. These toxic compounds are produced by mold or fungus, and are formed on the beans before or after harvest, during storage, and during transport where there are damp, warm, humid conditions. Mycotoxins are a cause of many health issues. Some are known carcinogens (Aflatoxin B1 for example) while others cause kidney, liver, and brain damage. In one sample of 66 different coffees, 33% of them had at least one mycotoxin on them.
- Acrylamide is a potentially harmful chemical that is formed when the beans are roasted. There is no way to avoid them all together, however avoiding lighter roasts and instant coffee eliminate the highest levels.
- Decaf is not necessarily any better and can be worse. Chemicals are used to remove caffeine. If you do choose decaf, make sure a cold or Swiss water process is used to remove the caffeine.
Here’s how to reduce exposure to the harmful toxins and chemicals in your coffee:
- To reduce Acrylamide, choose dark roasted coffee.
- Purchase certified organic coffee where pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, and other potentially harmful chemicals cannot be used.
- Seek out coffees that are stored in temperature-controlled areas and packaging to avoid humidity where mold and fungus can grow on the beans. Natural Force and Bulletproof coffees pride themselves in preventing mold growth on their beans. Avoid purchasing coffee beans from bulk containers.
- You might want to consider reducing your coffee intake to lower you exposure to harmful molds and chemicals.
- Other ways to improve the quality and healthfulness is to use filtered water and a pour over or unbleached paper filter rather than plastic pods which add plastics and vinyl to your coffee. These are known hormone disrupters that can lead to hormone imbalances, weight gain, and fertility issues, to name a few.
- Support organizations like the Environmental Working Group who work for you, the consumer, to ban the use of harmful chemicals in our food, soil, air, and water.
Enjoy a good cup of coffee by starting with the cleanest resources, organic coffee and pure filtered water.