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Is Coffee Good Or Bad For Our Health? And do We Really Still Need To Be Debating It?

coffee that looks like it is smiling scaled

There’s a tweet going viral right now and it ends with the words: ‘Be nice to yourself about coffee’.

The full thing, posted by Twitter user ‘Butt Praxis’, reads: ‘Coffee is good for you. Every study they’ve ever done to try to prove coffee is bad for you has instead shown it’s at worst neutral and at best good for you.

It’s like the only thing we’re allowed to enjoy. Be nice to yourself about coffee’ – and it’s striking a chord.

In fact, it’s just clocked up another few hundred likes and retweets in the time it’s taken me to boil my kettle (yes, to make my morning brew).

Like billions of people, I love coffee. The taste, the smell, the caffeine kick, the ritual. Which is why, while a good coffee shop can be great, I actually prefer making my own coffee at home.

I know it’s always going to be just to my liking, and I get to savour each step of the process: opening the packet and taking a good sniff; pottering around barefoot with a wake-up podcast or music on while it brews; taking those first few sips – a marker that I’m ready for the day.

It’s a simple pleasure, but says a lot: I’m choosing to start my day in a way that feels good.

So yes, Praxis makes a strong point. I’m not qualified to dismantle the science, or state with certainty whether coffee is indeed truly ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for our health – but the overall sentiment is one I, like many, am totally behind.

A recent review of evidence looking at the effects and health associations of coffee consumption, published in The New England Journal of Medicine (Coffee, Caffeine, and Health), turned up positive findings – linking coffee-drinking with reduced risks of a broad range of diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and certain cancers.

A quick Google will reveal that ‘coffee is good for you’ type headlines crop up pretty regularly. If you go digging, you’ll probably find research that suggests it has negative effects too.

But, let’s be real, is science really the deciding factor when you pop the kettle on, or make a coffee date with a friend?

Sometimes, science gives us clear health warnings: smoking is terrible, sunburn really is not great, and keep away from asbestos. Undisputable and vital.

But a lot of the time, health headlines are just that – headlines – and there’s a wider context that’s equally, or often, far more important. It’s a bit like the time a friend tried to tell me that if I wanted a healthy breakfast, I ‘should’ have a smoothie, like her. Half an hour later she pulled a cigarette from her bag and went out for a smoke.

When it comes to being healthy, we do love telling people what they ‘should’ do, don’t we? As though one little detail is the answer to everything.

As though we’re all experts on it. As though personal preferences, priorities and constitutions aren’t involved.

Smoothies might not agree with everyone – and the same’s true for coffee. If you’re trying to improve your sleep, you’re prone to anxiety and jitters, or you have a sensitive stomach, for example, cutting down (or cutting it entirely) might be best for you.

You’re the boss of your body and what you put in it, and only you know how things make you feel.

I’ve found two cups a day, and never later than midday, is my sweet spot. And that’s most of the time (I’ll avoid it for a bit when I feel the need – but that’s my business).

And unless researchers unearth something ground-breakingly relevant and important, health headlines really aren’t coming into it.

So, please stop sticking your nose into my beloved morning brew (unless it’s to have a sniff and praise its glorious aromas), and let me enjoy my coffee in peace.

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