Do you drink the most popular beverage in America? No, we’re not talking about bottled water—we mean coffee. According to the International Coffee Organization, 151.3 million bags of coffee are consumed each year globally. And 64 percent of adults report drinking at least one cup of coffee on an average day, says a Gallup poll. But there’s a dark side to coffee that many people don’t know. Coffee is the world’s most sprayed crop that humans consume, and the third-most sprayed agricultural crop, behind cotton and tobacco. Exposure to synthetic pesticides and herbicides sprayed on non-organic coffee have harmful effects on your health—both in the short-term and long-term. So, what does this mean for the millions of people consuming coffee every day? Let’s take a closer look.
The dark side of non-organic coffee
Coffee offers a variety of health benefits, such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Yet, the adverse effects of drinking non-organic coffee—namely those caused by synthetic pesticides—outweigh the health benefits. The Pesticide Action Network, a UK-based charity focused on promoting safe and sustainable alternatives to pesticides, reports that acute exposure to pesticides can be toxic to humans and can manifest as skin rashes, headaches, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, or allergic reaction. Long term pesticide exposure and consumption have been linked to Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety, asthma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, decreased fertility, diabetes, and obesity.
Non-organic coffee wreaks havoc even before it reaches consumers. Coffee farms that spray pesticides also put their employees and local communities at risk. Farmers themselves have exposure to the harmful chemicals that linger in the air. Meanwhile, chemicals run into local water sources, polluting nearby communities’ drinking water. The takeaway here, non-organic coffee isn’t good for those who drink it, farm it, or live near it. But you won’t find that on any food label.
Why you should switch to organic coffee
Organic coffee, on the other hand, is grown and produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers or chemicals. Instead, it’s treated with organic fertilizers—like coffee pulp, chicken manure, or compost—and organic pesticides. Unlike non-organic coffee, most organic coffee is grown in the shade of lush forests. Forested coffee farms sustain soil fertility, keep regional ecosystems alive, and handle unusual weather patterns better, making them a safer investment for farmers.
From a health perspective, organic coffee is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, such as riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin, as well as other nutrients like potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Coffee boosts the immune system and helps the body guard against disease. Moderate amounts of caffeine can also provide a natural energy boost. Organic coffee typically tastes better, too; growing in higher altitudes where it takes longer to develop results in a richer flavor, many coffee drinkers can distinguish. By choosing organic coffee, you’re supporting the environment, sustainable farming methods, and a healthier you.
Start your morning off right
If you plan to take your first sip of organic coffee black, go right ahead. If you take your coffee with the customary milk and sugar, there are a few more things you should know. When it comes to milk, we recommend skipping dairy and choosing alternative nut milk like almond, coconut, or cashew—but be sure to select one without large amounts of added sugar. Speaking of sugar, your best alternative for sweetening your coffee is monk fruit extract or coconut sugar. If you think you’ll have difficulty remembering what to avoid as you brew your organic coffee each morning, use these two acronyms as your guide—no GPS: gluten, processed foods, and sugar, as well as no DNA: dairy, nicotine, and artificial sweeteners.
For those organic coffee drinkers who love the taste but would rather avoid the caffeine, note that some decaf coffee—even in organic form—may increase your LDL cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that the Robusta coffee bean is to blame, so when ordering decaf, be sure you’re drinking coffee made from Arabica beans.
As a coffee drinker, you have a tremendous amount of choice. To better your health, the health of those in the coffee farming industry, and the environment, choose organic. It’s a win-win-win.