Caffeine, or more accurately, tea and coffee, is perhaps one of the most hotly debated substances among Paleo diet followers. On paper, those substances are something that we should really avoid. It’s unlikely that cavemen sat around their camp fires drinking a morning cup of coffee, or paused their hunting for afternoon tea. So why should we be so dependent on those beverages?

If you’re following a pure Paleo diet, you should stick to water. However, coffee itself is not inherently harmful. In fact, there are a lot of health benefits associated with coffee. Before we explore those benefits, however, it’s worth noting that there are a few caveats. Firstly, coffee itself – as in ground pure beans with added hot water – is not harmful. A coffee-shop triple mochachino with caramel sauce, whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles is not a pure cup of coffee. Secondly, coffee is not compatible with an Auto Immune Plan and no one should be drinking several cups per day.

Why Coffee Can Be Good For You

Caffeine has been proven to have benefits for athletes. It is an ergogenic acid (the only legal ergogenic acid in the United States) and it is a powerful stimulant. Many people take caffeine to stimulate weight loss and it can also improve your energy levels, concentration and speed. Taken in moderation, these benefits can be quite powerful.

Freshly ground coffee beans are rich in anti-oxidants, so drinking real fresh coffee can have many health benefits. These benefits are lost if you drink instant coffee, however, which is further evidence of the truth of the principles of the Paleo diet. The further away from “natural” a food gets, the less nutritional value it has. Recent research suggests that moderate consumption of caffeine can help to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, prevent headaches and also reduce your risk of diabetes.

Why Moderation Matters

Excessive consumption of coffee can be dangerous. A study conducted in Toronto in the 1990s found links between heavy caffeine consumption and bipolar disorder and also found that reducing coffee consumption helped to alleviate the symptoms in many bipolar sufferers. Other studies have found that heavy coffee consumption may increase your risk of coronary heart disease, although those studies have yet to be verified. From what research has been done so far, however, it appears that the risk is only present in people who drink a lot of coffee and that moderate consumption offers sufficient benefits in terms of cognitive function, energy levels and sports performance to outweigh the risks.

It’s important to note that these health benefits all come from moderate tea or coffee consumption. The Paleo diet is generally an alkaline diet and coffee is an incredibly acidic drink, so you should stick to one cup per day (or less) if you want to follow a real Paleo diet. Take your coffee black and unsweetened (to avoid dairy products and cane sugar) for the purest Paleo form. Stay away from artificial sweeteners and flavourings too.