Coffee Side Effects and Benefits

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 01/02/23 •  12 min read

What are coffee benefits and side effects? Is coffee vegan? Gluten free? Acidic or alkaline? Low fodmap? Good for you? Healthy? Sustainable? Here are coffee pros and cons: all the info on coffee that every ethical consumer wants to know…

coffee benefits and side effects

Food is something we consume every day. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on coffee benefits and side effects.

After learning if coffee is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about coffee benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Coffee Benefits and Side Effects

Health

Coffee benefits may include:

Coffee side effects may include:

Additionally, coffee is…

Environment

Water footprint: high, it takes 18,925 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of roasted coffee / 2,268 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of roasted coffee

Carbon footprint: high, 10.1 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of coffee, a car driving equivalent of 23.35 miles or 37.5 kilometers

Destruction: high, coffee production is relatively destructive, heavy deforestation, coffee grown by “traditional means” is cultivated under a shaded canopy of trees, a valuable habitat for indigenous animals and insects, these trees prevent topsoil erosion and there is no need for chemical fertilizers BUT due to demand, it is more popular for farmers to use ‘sun cultivation’ with no forested canopy, resulting in necessary fertilizers and a negative effect on biodiversity

Coffee is…

Animals

Kills: none, coffee production does not require any animals to die

Harms: none, coffee production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: Asian palm civets (a small mammal) if “civet coffee” also known as Kopi luwak and sanctuary elephants in Thailand if Black Ivory Coffee, civet animals in Indonesia are fed coffee beans, the excreted beans are used for consumption, its rarity and status (the most expensive coffee in the world) has led to intensive animal farming of civets, who are confined in cages and force-fed coffee beans, many of these creatures have no clean drinking water, no interaction with other civets and live in cages in their own waste, many civets must stand, sleep, and sit on wire floors in pain and discomfort and get sores and abrasions from it, they are stressed being in captivity

elephants in Thailand are also fed coffee beans, which they will excrete to make Black Ivory Coffee, there are currently no reports of severe harm yet but they are still exploited, no other animals are indirectly killed or harmed from coffee production as long as toxic chemicals have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Coffee is…

Laborers

Health and safety: hazardous, adults and children experience dangerous levels of sun exposure, injuries, and poisoning from contact with agrochemicals, due to low wages worker’s children are often underweight and malnourished, families live with no power and have little or no access to safe, clean drinking water and no money for necessary medications in countries like Nicaragua, in Kenya some women and their daughters are sexually abused by their employers and supervisors, more than 90% of study respondents said they experienced or observed sexual abuse within their workplaces

Living conditions: poor, there are reports of child labor for coffee plantations in at least 14 countries around the world, many parents in regions of Brazil take their children out of school to work on coffee farms which creates a cycle because they are denied education for better jobs, women who report sexual abuse are often fired or demoted

Wages: low, some coffee workers earn less than one dollar per day, coffee farmers typically only 7–10% of coffee’s retail price, in Brazil workers can earn less than 2% of the retail price, in Kenya, for instance seasonal workers make around 12 dollars per month, in Guatemala most coffee workers do not get overtime pay or employee benefits required by law, many are paid less than the minimum wage

Coffee has…

Where does most coffee come from?

The world’s top coffee producing country is Ivory Coast, followed by Ghana and Indonesia. The world’s top coffee exporting country is Switzerland, followed by Brazil, Germany, Columbia, Vietnam, USA, Italy, Guatemala, Honduras and France.

Is coffee nutritious?

Coffee is high in antioxidants, Riboflavin, and caffeine.

Is coffee alkaline or acidic?

Is coffee alkaline or acidic?

Coffee is acidic.

What is the pH level of coffee?

Most coffee has a 4.5 pH level, once digested.

When you eat food it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

Is coffee gluten free?

Is coffee gluten free?

Yes, coffee is gluten free. Black, unflavored coffee with nothing added does not contain gluten.

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

Is coffee a common food allergen?

Is coffee a common food allergen?

No, coffee is not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to coffee but it is uncommon.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

Is coffee low fodmap?

Is coffee low fodmap?

Yes, coffee is low fodmap, and ok to drink if on a low fodmap diet. However, coffee may cause digestive issues unrelated to fodmaps. Therefore, you may want to avoid drinking coffee if you have IBS.

A low FODMAP diet may help those with bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

It’s all about knowing your body. Observe what works and what doesn’t. You body might even react negatively to a low-FODMAP food simply due to intolerance. Everyone is different! Be mindful and patient. Take time to get to know what’s best for your physical health and overall wellbeing.

See this High FODMAP and Low FODMAP List of Foods

Water footprint of coffee?

Water footprint of coffee?

Coffee has a relatively high water footprint compared to other foods and beverages.

It takes 18,925 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of roasted coffee / 2,268 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of roasted coffee.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of “water footprints”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

Carbon footprint of coffee?

Carbon footprint of coffee?

Coffee has a relatively high carbon footprint.

It takes around 10.1 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of coffee, a car driving equivalent of 23.35 miles or 37.5 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

Is coffee sustainable?

Is coffee sustainable?

No, coffee production is unsustainable.

Coffee production not only has a high water footprint and high carbon footprint but also involves heavy deforestation. If coffee is grown by “traditional means” it is cultivated under a shaded canopy of trees, which serves as a valuable habitat for indigenous animals and insects. These types of trees prevent topsoil erosion and there is no need for chemical fertilizers. However, due to extremely high worldwide demand for coffee, it is much more popular for farmers to use ‘sun cultivation’ with no forested canopy, which results in habitat loss and many necessary but toxic fertilizers are used.

Read more about ‘What Makes Food Sustainable Or Unsustainable?’ 

Is coffee vegan?

Is coffee vegan?

Yes, coffee is vegan. Coffee is made from coffee beans from the coffee tree and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. However, it should be noted that some rare coffees use elephants or civets are to digest coffee beans.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List

Does coffee have human rights issues?

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Yes, there are reports of worker mistreatment regarding coffee bean farming.

Adults and children experience dangerous levels of sun exposure, injuries, and poisoning from contact with agrochemicals used when farming coffee. Due to low wages coffee worker’s children are often underweight and malnourished. Families live with no power and have little or no access to safe, clean drinking water and no money for necessary medications in countries like Nicaragua. In Kenya, there are reports of women and their daughters that are sexually abused by their employers and supervisors. More than 90% of coffee laborer respondents said they experienced or observed sexual abuse within their workplaces.

There are reports of child labor for coffee plantations in at least 14 countries around the world. Many parents in regions of Brazil take their children out of school to work on coffee farms which creates a cycle because they are denied education for better jobs. Women who report sexual abuse are often fired or demoted.

Some coffee workers earn less than one dollar per day! Coffee farmers typically only earn 7–10% of coffee’s retail price. In Brazil workers can earn less than 2% of the retail price. Seasonal workers in Kenya make around 12 dollars per month. In Guatemala most coffee workers do not get overtime pay or the employee benefits that are required by law. Many coffee workers around the world earn less than the minimum wage.

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade.

Be sure to read up on this list of ‘Foods You Should Always Buy Fair Trade

This post was all about coffee benefits and side effects.

Sources:

Harvard, The Nutrition Source, Coffee

Beverages, coffee, brewed, prepared with tap water

Coffee | USDA Foreign Agricultural Service

Caffeine – MedlinePlus

Civets Suffering for Cruel Coffee | PETA

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.

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