Media reports in the recent times may have you believing that if you drink enough coffee you don’t have to be concerned about eating fruits and vegetables. After all coffee has the same antioxidants that prevent cancer and heart disease as fruit and vegetables do. No doubt, the coffee industry loves this free publicity.
Not so fast. I have long been concerned that coffee, unlike fruits and vegetables, is not a natural food for us. We need all the nutrients in fruits and vegetables to remain healthy. These nutrients commonly classified as antioxidants, vitamins or minerals may all be present in coffee. But does our gut recognize and utilize these similar looking chemicals in coffee in the same fashion as the real nutrients in fruits and vegetable?
A recent study, led by Elizabeth Devore at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and published in the Feb. 20 issue of Neurology confirms my suspicions. Researchers observed more than 5,400 people age 55 and up for 14 years to gauge the benefits of an antioxidant-rich diet derived mostly from coffee and tea. Nearly 600 people developed dementia and about 600 had a stroke during the course of study. The participants in this group who got most their antioxidants from coffee and tea did not show any benefit from these antioxidants.
We don’t yet have a full understanding of the all the vital nutrients present in fruits and vegetables. For sure these nutrients are present in a chemical form that our gut naturally accepts. You cannot get these nutrients in a supplement pill or a cup of coffee.
Whether coffee drinking overall is good or bad for you is still up for debate. But don’t make the mistake of substituting coffee for a fruit—or for that matter a French fry for a vegetable.