National Coffee Day: Can Paleo Peeps Partake?

Ah… there’s just nothing like the perfectly pulled ristretto… that lush head of crema, so thick you can scoop it up with a spoon, the beautifully combined balance of just a hint of bitter and a twist of rich earthiness that simply envelopes your every last taste-bud as you devour what is, essentially, pure nectar.

Yes, I love coffee. And yes, I am, indeed a coffee snob.

And, I’m not alone. An estimated 54 percent of Americans over 18 drink coffee everyday!

But wait! Coffee + Paleo? How can this be?

Did our paleolithic ancestors start their day of with a cuppa java?


But as today is National Coffee Day, I thought it fitting to explore this, just a little.

Let’s start with the benefits:

  • Australian researchers looked at 18 studies of nearly 458,000 people and found a 7% drop in the odds of having type 2 diabetes for every additional cup of coffee drunk daily. Coffee contains minerals such as magnesium and chromium, which help the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar (glucose)[1].
  • ScienceDaily reported in 2012 that drinking coffee may help people with Parkinson’s disease control their movement[2].
  • A study done by the National Institute of Health found that those who drink four or more cups of coffee were about 10 percent less likely to be depressed than those who had never touched the java[3].
  • Coffee has been linked to lower risks for heart rhythm disturbances (another heart attack and stroke risk factor) in men and women, and lower risk for strokes in women.
  • Coffee can make you a better athlete. “Scientists and many athletes have known for years, of course, that a cup of coffee before a workout jolts athletic performance, especially in endurance sports like distance running and cycling.” Caffeine increases the number of fatty acids in the bloodstream, which allows athletes’ muscles to absorb and burn those fats for fuel, therefore saving the body’s small reserves of carbohydrates for later on in the exercise[4].

So go ahead? Brew a cup? Or two?

Not so fast.

There are downsides, too.

  • Heavy daily caffeine use, more than 500 to 600 mg a day, may cause side effects such as[5]:
  1. Insomnia
  2. Nervousness
  3. Restlessness
  4. Irritability
  5. Stomach upset
  6. Fast heartbeat
  7. Muscle tremors
  • Coffee is cross-reactive with wheat as it contains proteins so similar to gluten that your body confuses them for gluten. When you eat these foods your body and immune system react as if you just ate a bowl of whole-wheat pasta[6].
  • It’s contraindicated for anyone with an autoimmune or thyroid condition.
  • It’s not actually Paleo. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we know from Dr. Cordain’s website[7] that, “because the key to the paleo diet is to focus on nutrient dense, naturally occurring, anti inflammatory foods that promote overall wellness and sustained levels of energy.”

So what am I doing drinking coffee, or suggesting that someone in good health might enjoy a cup as well?

Here’s my anecdotal conclusion: If the entire remainder of what I take in is alkaline and I stay hydrated, balance my electrolytes and enjoy a single espresso in the morning prior to a workout, I feel it’s a far cry from abusing caffeine (such as overdoing it to compensate for not sleeping enough or to try to avoid eating).

Call it my 1% of not being completely true Paleo if you like, but over the years, I have found that being able to have this morning drink of café is probably the single biggest deal maker for clients new to trying this eating regime. If this one thing is what will allow someone to test the paleo waters, and it’s taken black, even if it’s something they’ll eventually transition out of, I don’t see a huge problem for most healthy, active people to raise a demitasse cup to celebrate National Coffee Day today.

[1] “Health Benefits of Coffee – WebMD.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2015

[2] A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms.” A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms. American Academy of Neurology, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2015

[3] Jacques, Renee. “11 Reasons You Should Drink Coffee Every Day.” The Huffington Post., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2015

[4] “How Coffee Can Galvanize Your Workout.” Well How Coffee Can Galvanize Your Workout Comments. The New York Times, 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2015

[5] “Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much? The Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2015


[7] Cordain, Loren, PhD. “Is Coffee Permissible on The Paleo Diet? | Dr. Loren Cordain.” The Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet, 11 July 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.