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Nobody loves a hot cup of coffee more than I do but when I weigh the pros and cons of my favorite morning beverage, I can't ignore some of the negative side effects that can begin to surface.

Hopefully, I don't have to explain that the caramel macchiato or the soymilk double latte from your favorite coffee shop is not a healthy option. But what about just plain old coffee? Well, upon doing some research this is what I have come up with:

· Coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. This heavily influences the nervous system and the cardiovascular system and when consumed in excess, can lead to irritability, insomnia, and some moderate habitual addiction traits.

· Regular intake of coffee can have an adverse effect on people with hypertension. This will lead to blockage of some important receptors and the inhibition of much needed enzymes.

· Coffee increases heart rate, blood pressure, urine production and basal metabolic rate.

· At least three cups a day can cause irregular heartbeats, nausea, muscle tension, ulcers, heartburn and headaches-just to name a few. (Just walk in Starbucks at 2:30 in the afternoon, you'll notice them!)

· Contains carcinogenic substances like aldehydes, sulfides and tannic acids. If you have liver issues, you need to consider this because of the harmful effects of these particular substances.

· Over a long period of time, coffee can create some stomach problems. The chemicals in coffee can irritate the lining of the stomach and colon leading to some digestive disorders (Just walk into a Starbuck's restroom at 2:30 in the afternoon)

· Women who take oral contraceptives increase their chances of breast cancer with excess consumption of coffee. Also, heavier and more severe PMS symptoms are linked with drinkers.

· Coffee should not be consumed when on prescription medication.

· Pregnant women should definitely stay away from coffee as it can directly affect the fetus. The risk of miscarriage is just as high with coffee consumption, if not more, than with alcohol or nicotine.

· Coffee has a substantial effect on the brain and interferes with chemicals that normally have a calming effect on the body.

· Over a period of time, coffee can result in the staining of your teeth. Also, cavities can occur especially when sugar products are used in your drink.

The myth that coffee gives you energy is completely untrue-in fact, it actually drains the body of energy and makes you more tired because of the vitamin and adrenal depletion that occurs.

Coffee basically contributes nothing to nutrition- there are no vitamins, minerals or enzymes included. For women, it completely exhausts the adrenals, uses up progesterone and promotes estrogen dominance.

If you are concerned about osteoporosis, maybe it runs in the family, one of the smartest choices that you can make is to give up coffee for the reason listed above: estrogen dominance. It also raises acidity levels in the blood. What does this mean? Calcium stores are pulled from the bones and teeth to prevent the blood from becoming too acidic.

If you are concerned about getting enough of your B complex vitamins, then you really should consider reducing coffee in your diet. Coffee depletes the absorption of these important vitamins. If you are B deficient, the body is drained of energy. Something to think about when your about to pour that 2nd or 3rd cup.

Now, there may be an argument that coffee does have some health benefits to it. For instance, coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated, has been found to lower the risk of liver cancer. And caffeinated coffee might give men and women some protection from gallstones. There is some evidence that coffee also lowers the risk of Parkinson's disease, but researchers don't know yet whether that's due to caffeine or to other compounds.

If you still plan on consuming coffee, then here are a few tips to keep in mind:

· Choose Brewed: Drip brewing uses a coarser grind than espresso and allows water to stay in extended contact with the coffee, extracting more healthy compounds. Paper coffee filters also filter out a substance called cafestol, which boosts LDL cholesterol.

· Go dark. You're better off with a darker roast. Roasting breaks down caffeine, so lighter roasts are actually more potent. On the other hand, coffee aficionados swear that lighter roasting does better justice to the bean's subtle, complex flavors.

· Pass on preground.  For maximum coffee flavor, grind beans at home. Look for whole beans with a full, smooth sheen on the surface; oily spots mean the bean is old.

· Divide and freeze. To prolong shelf life, divide coffee into small bags (each with enough beans to last several days) before freezing. Taking coffee in and out of the freezer causes freezer burn and flattens the flavor, so remove bags one at a time and store in the refrigerator. And make sure coffee is well wrapped, because beans easily absorb surrounding flavors and odors.

My overall feeling on coffee is that if you are completely healthy, meaning:

· you hardly ever get sick (allergies included)

· you don't suffer from any digestive disorders

· you are not chronically fatigued

· you are not hypertensive

· you don't have menstrual issues

· you don't have osteoporosis or at risk for it

· you don't suffer from regular headaches

· you are not diabetic

Then maybe it's ok to indulge in a good cup of coffee here and there.

Even if you are healthy, I would look to drop your amounts to maybe 3-5 cups per week. If you need it every day (for whatever reason), then just one cup should suffice and use a standard cup, not an oversized one that would equal 2 and a half cups anyways.

But if you do suffer from any of the above listed conditions, maybe it is time to give coffee a rest for the time being. Coffee may be that missing link to why you are not feeling good lately and it may be contributing to a depletion of some important vitamins and minerals in your system.

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