You probably love coffee so much that you can’t imagine going a day without it. In fact, skipping it for a day is enough to make you experience caffeine withdrawal already. But you’ve also heard people say that coffee is acidic, which means it’s bad for you — that it causes ulcers, upset stomach, heartburn, GERD, etc.
Now, you’re probably wondering, “Should I give up coffee because it’s acidic?” Not so fast. Let’s investigate and go through the facts first.
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The Caffeine Connection
The truth is that coffee, as with almost all the things you eat and drink, is acidic. It has a pH level of 5, which is the same as a banana. Those with a pH level of zero to less than seven are called bases, seven is the neutral level, and those with a pH level of more than seven are considered acids.
So, given that coffee is rated 5, that means it’s not as acidic as you feared. In fact, there are other beverages more acidic than coffee, such as soda, certain juices (e.g. apple, orange, etc.), wine, and beer.
Also, here’s a fun fact: Coffee contains plenty of different acids. Some are good ones, such as chlorogenic acids — they contain antioxidants that are beneficial to those with diabetes and heart disease and aid in weight loss. On the other hand, some acids can be bad. One such example is quinic acid, which is responsible for giving you that sour flavor and sensation in the stomach.
How Coffee Affects the Body
Aside from giving your brain a boost, coffee can impact your body in other ways:
- It can worsen heartburn in some individuals. A 2004 study concluded that coffee — regardless of the roasting process — can contribute to GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and stimulates the body to produce more gastric acid, which can be devastating for GERD sufferers. The same study also suggested that decaf coffee posed the same risk as regular coffee and linked coffee to ulcer susceptibility.
- It is both a painkiller and headache inducer. Studies have shown that coffee is effective in treating headaches, but on the flip side, experiencing headaches is a symptom of caffeine withdrawal.
- It causes your heartbeat to speed up. Since coffee is meant to give you a jolt of energy, don’t be surprised if you find yourself palpitating after drinking an especially strong brew. If you have a heart condition, consult your physician first on the right consumption of coffee for you.
- It’s a mood enhancer. Research suggests that the caffeine content of coffee can chase away depressive and suicidal thoughts.
- It can be good or bad for your digestive track. In some cases, coffee can help regulate bowel movement. However, too much of it can cause diarrhea and/or worsen IBS or irritable bowel syndrome.
- It increases the risk of osteoporosis. Since caffeine prevents calcium absorption in the body, consuming too much of it can negatively impact bone health.
- It can cause pregnancy issues. Over consumption of coffee can lead to miscarriage and developmental issues in newborn babies, which is why pregnant women and lactating moms are advised to stay away from coffee — or, if they really want to drink coffee, to consume a maximum of 200 mg of caffeine (equivalent to a 12-ounce cup) every day.
- It has other health benefits. Other studies have demonstrated the positive effects of coffee on the body, such as lowering the risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and oral and throat cancers.
Neutralizing the Acid in Coffee
If you’re not bothered by digestive, heart, and intestinal problems, you can get away with drinking strong black coffee (in moderation of course).
1. Go for low-acid brews.
If you suffer from hyperacidity or need to lower your caffeine intake to avoid stimulating your body to produce more gastric acid, here’s some good news for you: There is low-acid coffee! Thanks to modern technology and innovative farming methods, you now have the option to switch to alkaline, non-caffeinated, herbal coffee — which tastes just like regular coffee sans the acidic side effects.
How you prepare your coffee can also affect its acidity. It’s been found that cold brewing your beans produce less acid than normal hot brews, while coarsely ground coffee is less acidic than a fine grind.
And remember this rule of thumb: The more freshly brewed the coffee, the less acidic it is. Letting coffee sit for long periods of time only makes way for more acids to develop.
2. Choose your beans well.
Several studies have found that dark roast beans are way less acidic than light roasts, which explains why blonde roast coffee tastes sour and fruity (a.k.a acidic), whereas a dark brew often has a strong, bitter flavor.
Generally, Arabica beans are less acidic than Robusta, as well as beans that are grown in low altitude compared to those grown in high altitude, regardless of region.
3. Just add milk.
Calcium is a key ingredient in the antacids you take to counteract heartburn and neutralize stomach acid. Given that, adding milk to your cuppa will not only make it more flavorful, but less acidic as well. Go with low-fat milk, which is healthier and less heavy than half and half
However, avoid piling on the sugar.It can be converted into acid, so adding copious amounts of it will only defeat the purpose of neutralizing acid in coffee. Use artificial sweetener instead to balance out the bitterness of your brew.
So, is coffee acidic? Yes. Should you stop taking it? Well, it depends. If you have a sensitive stomach and/or suffer from problems with your upper GI (gastrointestinal) tract, health experts recommend that you seriously consider switching to low-acid brews or even herbal coffee.
Actually, doctors and nutrition experts strongly advise to make your coffee as low-acid as possible, in order to prevent digestive issues while maximizing its health benefits.
Overall, the most important thing to keep in mind is to drink coffee in moderation.