International Coffee Day – how do you take yours?!


Every year on 1st October, the world comes together on International Coffee Day to celebrate the liquid nectar and recognise the millions of people across the globe - from farmers, to roasters, baristas, coffee shop owners and more - who work hard to create and serve the beverage we all love.

While it originated in Yemen in the 15th century, and the image of a Parisian cafe or a Roman espresso bar are often the first thought when it comes to the "home" of coffee drinkers, none of these nations break the top ten in terms of how much coffee each citizen consumes.

"I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon!"

- Ronald Reagan

What springs to mind when you think of coffee? Does it bring to mind your trusty morning 'pick-me-up-and-get-me-going'? Maybe thoughts of coffee transport you to chilled-out café conversations with friends? Or does ‘drug’ and ‘stimulant’ pop up, alongside visions of messed-up sleep, withdrawal headaches and the 'jitters'?

Caffeine is well known as a very powerful stimulant and is commonly excluded from 'healthy lifestyle' advice. But is this fair? Is coffee misunderstood?  As you read on, you'll learn that coffee is poorly understood and that coffee - used as a food, and used wisely - can make a valuable addition to your natural health toolbox.

TIP: Why not download my free eBook - Get Healthy with these Demonised Drinks - to discover more about how three everyday drinks have become unfairly scapegoated.

Longevity world record

Did you know, the Guinness World Record holder for “Oldest Cat Ever”- a 38-year-old kitty named Creme Puff - drank coffee every morning of her furry little life (as well as a breakfast of bacon, eggs and broccoli)?

Before you dismiss it as a happy coincidence, consider this: the cat that Creme Puff beat for the record (a 34-year-old cat, appropriately named Grandpa Rex Allen) had the same owner and was fed the exact same diet!


This International Coffee Day is shining a spotlight on the plight of millions of coffee farmers around the world, who deserve to receive a living wage. Shot in the setting of beautiful Kibuye, Rwanda, watch 'An Anthem for International Coffee Day' and listen to the life and sounds of coffee to see what it takes to create the beans that go into every cup we drink each day.

Sign a Pledge to help the growers...

With an estimated 3 billion cups (and rising) consumed everyday coffee has never been more popular.  It has become vital ingredient in our daily life... and especially so to the farmers who harvest the beans that make our favourite cup of coffee possible.

Part of the focus of International Coffee Day is to shine a light onto the plight of coffee farmers around the world. Coffee production is a highly involved and labour-intensive process. But due to a dramatic decline in prices - which are at their the lowest in 15 years - millions of farmers struggle to make enough to live on or to support their families. Independent research shows that from a US$3 cup of coffee the vast majority of small growers receive as little as the equivalent of one cent. This has to change!

Imagine going to work every day and not earning enough to eat and cover basic needs? Please, if you can, take a moment to show your commitment by signing the #coffeepledge in support of a living income for farmers and pass it on.

Caffeine is a potent metabolic stimulant

The caffeine in coffee is a potent metabolic stimulant and it can increase our metabolic rate and the oxidation of glucose (our body’s preferred energy source) – making it a health-protective food. But it’s only protective if we consume it with the right intake of other nutrients.

In fact, coffee’s action is very similar to thyroid hormone in the body. For those of us with sub-par metabolism (and that’s MOST of us!) coffee can act as a 'proxy' thyroid hormone, giving us an energy boost. In fact, I’ve noticed many clients with low metabolism have already developed a bit of a coffee ‘habit’ because it makes them feel better. My job is to help them take it and time it right for healthful results.

Is this a good thing?

To answer this, we need to ask where the advice to cut out the caffeine comes from. The negative press comes from poorly designed research studies which lack ‘real-life’ validity and yield invalid data - studies where large doses of coffee were given, over short periods of time AND on an empty stomach.

So, for these research findings to apply to you, you’d have to be drinking gallons of the stuff, in minutes, without eating first!

espresso coffee

Provenance and pesticides matter

As one of the most absorbent crops on the planet, coffee absorbs pesticides. Most shop-bought coffee (unless it is certified organic) is grown using pesticides. Although the pesticide DDT has long been banned, growers are still using pesticides like Carbofuran and Endosulfan, which both the World Health Organisation and the US Environmental Protection Agency consider to be cancer-causing.

Café culture

The culture around how we drink coffee is important. This is the usual scenario: we meet up at coffee shops, buy (several?) huge bowls of trendily named coffee (of unknown provenance), drink them black (or worse still with soya milk), with no sugar, too quickly and then wonder why we feel wired.

Let’s look at what makes organic coffee a HEALTHFUL drink choice:

  • Coffee has nutrients of its own. Coffee provides very significant quantities of magnesium, as well as other nutrients including vitamin B1 (which diabetics tend to be very short on.)
  • Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the Western diet! Crazy or what? It means that coffee, not berries or some other fruit or veg, best protects us from free radical and cell damage!
  • It can help you burn fat and increase physical performance (that would be the metabolism-boosting effect!)
  • Coffee drinking reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • It protects your liver from damage. Caffeine protects the liver from alcohol and other toxins, so coffee drinkers are less likely to have liver damage.
  • It protects against cancer-causing agents. Caffeine helps protect against cancer caused by radiation, chemical carcinogens, viruses and oestrogens.
  • A variety of studies show that coffee, tea, and caffeine are protective against breast cancer.
  • Coffee drinkers have a low incidence of suicide. Caffeine supports serotonin uptake in nerves, which plays a role in elevating mood and appetite regulation.
  • It prevents unhealthy iron accumulation. It inhibits iron absorption if taken with meals, helping to prevent iron overload (haemochromatosis) which is one of the most common genetic (inherited) conditions in England, affecting up to 1 in 200 people.
  • Coffee drinkers may live longer. In two very large studies, drinking it was associated with a 20% lower risk of death in men and a 26% lower risk of death in women, over a period of 18-24 years.

Some VERY powerful reasons why coffee can be a deliciously healthful inclusion to your everyday diet? You bet they are! But let’s be cautious.

There is a right and wrong way to drink it

  • Firstly, do not drink coffee on an empty stomach. Put simply, you wouldn’t accelerate the car without any petrol in the tank! If you must start the day with coffee, have a shot of quality fruit juice with a little honey first.
  • It is best taken at the end of a meal to aid digestion - in fact, in this is how espresso is taken across much of Europe.
  • At other times, take it with cream and sugar. This makes it into a ‘mini-meal’ and replaces the blood sugar that will be used to metabolise the caffeine. I like to add a teaspoon or two of gelatine (collagen hydrolysate, which doesn’t gel) for some added, easily digestible protein.
  • If caffeine affects your sleep, then ensure you drink it in the morning only and not excessively; start with one small cup a day after breakfast.
  • However: those in poor health might not tolerate coffee well, so you may need to work on your general diet and health and take things slowly to be able to benefit. But it’s well worth it.

My favourite way to drink coffee is my own recipe - a luscious ‘anytime’ Vanilla Maple Latté.

I like a coffee straight after breakfast or lunch (or both!) to aid digestion, to give me a boost before the next meal. I sip it slowly, to keep my blood sugar regulated, but enjoy it while it’s still lovely and hot. Nothing’s worse than lukewarm coffee!

"I was taken by the power that savouring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community."

- Howard Schultz

If you’re new to drinking coffee, then begin with small amounts (maybe add a LOT of organic - ideally raw - milk) and increase it over time. Always have coffee with a meal containing carbohydrate and fat - or add both (milk, cream, butter, coconut oil, for example) to the coffee - see my recipe above.

Consider choosing quality organic, Arabica-roasted beans. As one of the world’s favourite commodity exports, coffee can be a major source of mycotoxins (toxic chemicals made by moulds) and pesticide residue, so you’ll want to avoid poor quality for this reason as well as for taste!

You can have too much of a good thing!

Too much, taken without enough nutritional co-factors - basically a highly-processed diet - will merely lower your blood sugar, increase adrenaline and leave you feeling jittery and wired. Hello ‘coffee shop syndrome’!

A note on decaf: For me, the jury’s still out on whether it’s caffeine that confers most the benefits, or whether other nutrients in the coffee are involved. But if you prefer decaf, then just make sure it’s organic and made by the Swiss Water method and go for it!

How do you like yours?

So as we can see, coffee is an amazingly versatile product, arguably more of a food than a beverage. There are myriad ways you can take it - how do you enjoy yours? Leave a comment below, or get involved on social media - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

And if you’ve been abstaining up until now, do you feel moved to give it a try? Let me know how you get on!

Izabella Natrins

I'm here to inspire and support women at midlife and beyond to re-ignite purpose and meaning to take back control of their health and create the radical, resilient heath they want and deserve. As a whole-health expert with over 30 years experience in the field, a qualified Health and Wellness Coach and Ballymaloe-trained nutritional chef, my real food nutrition and lifestyle medicine programmes support women fighting fatigue, struggling with overwhelm, weight gain, sleep, energy and niggling or multiple diagnosed health issues. As an advocate for real food nutrition, regenerative agriculture and whole-health, my book 'The Real Food Solution' is an evidence-based treasury wisdom for energy, vitality and better health for people and planet and a call to action to change the way we grown, source and cook our food. As the CEO at The UK Health Coaches Association, I'm proud to continue the task of leading the first professional association for Health and Wellness Coaches in the world and the gold standard for the UK and Ireland.

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