Wait a minute, is coffee healthier than green tea?

Dr Tim Spector, writer, epidemiologist and Zoe app co-founder, has been explaining that coffee is possibly one of the healthiest drinks out there – even beating green tea.  

In my mind, green tea is at the top of the health pyramid. It’s the kind of drink you have when you’re trying to be super healthy. It’s the kind of thing you get at a retreat or drink more of after a weekend spent hammering down martinis. Coffee? Well, that’s more of an indulgence. 

But that mindset is all wrong, according to Dr Tim Spector. For years now, research has suggested that coffee can extend our lifespans, improve heart health and boost gut health. Many of us, however, are still cautious about how much caffeine we drink and probably wouldn’t go so far as to describe coffee as a health drink – especially when virtuous green tea is about. 

Dr Spector, however, believes that coffee really is a “health drink”. Speaking on Radio 4’s Saturday Live, he’s been explaining that its health benefits come from the fact that coffee is made using a fermented plant that is full of polyphenols – defence chemicals.  

You may also like

Benefits of caffeine: does tea have more caffeine than coffee?

“If you have three cups [of coffee], that’s actually about a third of your fibre intake,” he says. It doesn’t have to be freshly ground, either.

“What we thought was a nasty thing that gives you heart flutters… new science is telling us that coffee is actually one of the things that we should be prioritising. We should kick orange juice out of the health range… it’s just sugar like Coca Cola, whereas coffee is right up there, even above green tea as health drink.” 

But what about those of us who do struggle with the side effects of caffeine, or who have been told by our GP to cut down?

“Everything is a bit personalised,” Dr Spector says – meaning that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to nutrition. After three strong coffees, some people might experience heart flutters. “It doesn’t mean this is for everyone, but for a vast majority of people, [coffee] should be preferable to sugary fruit drinks or smoothies.” 

Coffee is packed with fibre and polyphenols, which is why Dr Spector says we should start thinking of it as a health drink.

Dr Spector’s own story is a good reminder that nutrition is hugely personal, and that even when we’re doing everything ‘right’, it can still not work for us. On the programme, he says that doctors “are taught very little about nutrition at medical school or as junior doctors” and that he was one of those doctors who used to think that they knew all the there was to know about health and nutrition. And then, 12 years ago, he suffered a mini stroke at the top of a mountain in Austria.

Spector’s father died at 57 from a heart attack while seemingly fit and healthy. Worried about following him down a similar path, he reevaluated his diet and looked on the internet for advice. “And the majority [of information on official websites] was wrong. That’s how I realised that what I’d been eating for breakfast – posh museli, orange juice, low fat milk, the occasional low fat yoghurt, tea and porridge oats was not actually good for me. I was horrified.” 

Four hacks for eating healthier, according to Dr Tim Spector

The moral of that story is that we all have our unique nutritional needs, and what might work for some people might be dangerous for others. But Dr Spector still believes in universal nutitrional goals that we should all be aiming for if we’re after a healthier body and gut. 

Red wine

“Wine is a plant… with red wine, it’s all about grape skin,” he explains. Wine is made from grapes and for red wine, the polyphenols of those grapes are still present. Spirits like vodka, on the other hand, are distilled to the point where there’s no plant left. Not all alcohols are made equal (although the benefits of red wine are nullified if you don’t drink in moderation).

3o different plants a week

“The first thing to do is try to eat 30 different plants a week.” That means not just relying on eating the same boring kale salad every day, but adding different nuts, seeds, herbs and spices to our meals.

Fermented foods

“Eat fermented foods every day – cheese is a fermented food, as is your high-fat yoghurt, kombucha and kimchi.”

Try intermittent fasting

It’s definitely not for everyone, but Dr Spector says that just resting our guts overnight can have benefits. The easiest thing to do is to leave 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. That means, for example, having your last bite to eat at 9pm and waiting until 9am to have your breakfast.

Images: Getty

Source: Read Full Article