Dear Lifehacker, I’ve recently started the Paleo diet (which is great) and have also given up caffeine. I’ve seen a lot of information recently to suggest that caffeine can reduce the likelihood of some cancers among other things, so should I start drinking coffee again? (I’m thinking black, no milk . . . go paleo!) Thanks, Paleo Man
For anyone who isn’t aware of it, the “paleo diet” is based around the notion that you should only eat foods accessible to our cave people ancestors. In the most widely popular version, that means no processed foods and relatively few carbohydrates. (It should be pointed out that our knowledge of what ancient humans actually ate is limited, and that diet was likely to vary considerably by region.)
We’re not massive fans really: the actual evidence for the benefits of a paleo diet is very slight. That’s not to say that it’s an utterly terrible idea, provided you ensure the right mix of proteins and vegetables, but any benefits are just as likely to come from carefully monitoring your diet rather than the specific mixture. There’s also a significant risk that you’ll miss out on the evident benefits of dairy and carb-heavy plant foods and may not have enough fibre in your diet.
So from that perspective we can’t see any particular drama with adding coffee taken in moderation to the mix, especially if you take milk with it as well, simply because the evidence for taking a stricter approach doesn’t actually exist. But are there additional health benefits to be had simply from adding coffee?
Caffeine has measurable and complex effects on your brain, and the reactions vary between individuals. We ran a post earlier this year covering in quite some detail the potential health benefits of coffee. It’s worth emphasising, though, that most studies only show a correlation between coffee consumption and improved health outcomes. That doesn’t necessarily mean that coffee is the cause of the improvement.
The bottom line? If you enjoy it, a cup or two of coffee a day isn’t going to ruin your health, and may offer some benefits. I’d spend more time reflecting on the virtues (or lack thereof) of the paleo diet and expanding the range of foods you eat.
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