Coffee: Is it Paleo?

Caffiene | The Paleo Diet

Many people who switch to The Paleo Diet often find themselves questioning their ritual morning cup of coffee. With roughly 90% of the North American population consuming coffee on a daily basis you’re left wondering if coffee is an acceptable drink to include in your Paleo menu.

What is Coffee?

Coffee is created by brewing the roasted seed or “bean” of one of the numerous species of Coffee trees (coffea). The trees tend to thrive in high elevation, tropical climates with fertile soil. Because the tree can often grow up to 30 feet in height, it is typically pruned at much shorter heights to ensure an easy harvest. The majority of the world’s coffee producers originate from countries located near the equator.

What Effect Does Coffee Have on the Human Body?

Caffeine is the main stimulant found in coffee. The consumption stimulates the central nervous system in humans and tends to ward off drowsiness. It also tends to act as a diuretic. Many heavy coffee drinkers report that their morning cup of Joe no longer gives them the same burst of energy that they experienced when they first developed their habit. In fact, many habitual coffee drinkers report suffering from sleep disturbances, headaches, and general “sluggish” behavior. This is often due to the fact that long term consumption has an exhaustion effect on the adrenal glands. It also hinders insulin sensitivity, which can lead to fatigue and headaches.

Should Coffee be a Part of a The Paleo Diet?

Coffee should be excluded by anyone seeking to achieve the most out of their Paleo lifestyle. The Paleo Diet focuses on eating nutrient dense, naturally occurring, anti-inflammatory foods that promote overall wellness and sustained levels of energy. Many people who switch to The Paleo Diet discover that their morning cup of black gold becomes a habit of the past. If you find yourself having a hard time quitting the coffee ritual, it might be helpful to incorporate moderate amounts of green tea which is slightly higher in antioxidants, and contains lower levels of caffeine.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“37” Comments

  1. Thanks for the post Loren, so many charismatic diet bloggers include coffee in their plans and that is my reason to ignore them.

    If anyone wants a thorough read on the harmful effects of caffeine/coffee, please check out Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske.

  2. I have only one cup a day of organic fair trade coffee, low acid with cream. I try to never go over this. Life has to have a few pleasures and coffee is one of mine. I tried to give it up – did for 6 weeks only.

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  4. Someone asked if it was the caffeine that was a problem for the adrenals or the coffee itself (I am assuming it is the caffeine), so why, as they ask, should a cup of good quality decaf be a problem in the morning. I truly want to do what is best for my health, but there is so much conflicting information going around about the benefits and side effects of drinking coffee. I read somewhere that we would need to drink at least 6 cups of green tea to even begin to get any benefit, but that would raise our caffeine intake considerably as well. Very frustrating to read about the many benefits, then turn around and read that it is not good for us 🙁

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  7. Am presently under the care of a gastroenterologist since July 2014. Last summer I went through a colonscopy and endoscopy and was diagnosed with the following: Acid Reflux. Was put on omeprozale and am feeling better. cut out acid foods and coffee feel somewhat better, but the bloating is still there. Noticed that when I cut out coffee a lot of the bloating stopped. Not a drinker so that was not a problem. Overweight 30 pounds but not obese. Can the Paleo diet help me? Have an appointment with my gastroenterologist next week. thank you for any help that you can give me.


  8. I have read this and it says coffee is no good for you because it affects sleep habits. But as a person who oily has a coffee in the morning I don’t see the harm. And also if you’re a person who has coffee at work, I think don’t have too much and have your last at lunch time, it should get you through the rest of the day.

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  12. Amazing blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you recommend starting with a free platform
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  14. Ok, I have read this for the first time for I am going to try Paleo due to health reasons. But, I travel A LOT and come back with GREAT coffees from around the world! What is a guy to do???!!!

  15. You’re so interesting! I do not think I’ve read a single thing like that before.

    So wonderful to find somebody with some unique thoughts
    on this subject matter. Seriously.. many thanks for
    starting this up. This website is one thing that is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!

  16. Coffee is very misunderstood. In Modern Society we automatically shun anything we crave as unhealthy. Coffee has too many health benefits to ignore and yes, it is better for you than green tea. I would maintain coffee in any diet.

    • Coffee is very addictive and can greatly interfere with sleep. I should know, I am the worlds greatest coffee lover. But i had to say goodbye. I feel like a different person off that crack. But if it works for you, then I am glad your body tolerates it well, and you are healthier because of it.

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  19. hi!,I really like your writing very a lot! proportion we keep up
    a correspondence more approximately your post on AOL?
    I need an expert in this house to resolve my problem.
    May be that’s you! Having a look ahead to look you.

  20. Im a little confused. Is this article saying that coffee is bad or that the caffeinn in coffee is what makes it unhealthy? Ive been on the paleo for a few weeks and have been drinking decaf coffee in the morning just because I love the taste. is that ok?

  21. Wait you’re talking about roasted coffee.

    The Roasting procedure is what actually makes it become brown and increase the level of caffeine inside the coffee bean.

    But there’s green coffee, which is coffee at its natural state.

    You can make an infusion of green coffee, which is gonna be and taste somewhat like tea, which is fairly allowed in Paleo.

    Coffee is not created by roasting 😀 as the author says in the beginning. Coffee is created by mothernature.

      • I can’t live without coffee. I mean… I just do not WANT to live without coffee. I do not like to give up ANYTHING that I find satisfying…. this diet is going to be a problem for me. My son is allergic to legumes and dairy. But I think a test would make most people react to legumes because they are naturally rancid and have to be cooked a certain way to dilute the issues that eating beans possesses (like soaking and coking with fat and garlic). And the dairy??? well, it is very common in the western diet to eat too much dairy, but an occasional dairy snack? I mean like creamer in the coffee (which balances coffees effect on calcium absorption) and is in a small amount… I think that should be OK, but, I know… diets have “rules” and draw lines and I can see how they have become really helpful for people who are struggling, because food chemistry is insane and the tastes and feelings that each of us receive from different foods at different times is…. so difficult to explain… so I do like the guidelines but I think the things we really enjoy… we might really enjoy them for a reason. Now, once I start this diet, if I no linger desire coffee because I am naturally energetic and coffee starts making me not feel good.. then I think the actual taste of it will not be craved (like when I was pregnant). But until then… me personally.. I am not going to cut it out. I have read beneficial things for people with asthma (which I have) and I notice it does help me in the mornings to have coffee with my breathing. That is just one example. But perhaps when I try this diet and no longer have asthma as a result (hopefully 🙂 ) then I won’t desire coffee so much.

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  23. Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this informative article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  24. Dr. Cordain,
    What are your thoughts on the effects of a Paleo diet on adrenal exhaustion after 31 years of excessive habitual coffee drinking? We have just begun discussing a Paleo like diet and are wondering how to deal with decade old caffeine addictions.
    Kathy C.

    • Kathy, Im not the Doc here, but I hope you can totally quit Coffee. Man, I was the worst coffee addict! Oh boy, what a nightmare. But Im off ALL coffee and caffeine, and I can feel my body healing. My face has even changed. The best way to start healing your adrenals is stop causing more stress. Caffeine is alot of stress! If I can quit – Coffee Queen of the World – so can you and your loved ones.

  25. Should it be part of the Paleo diet plan? No. But can you drink coffee and still reap the benefits of Paleo? Yes. It really depends on what you want to gain from Paleo. If you are looking to get rid of inflammation or a particular disease or condtion, you would best follow it more strictly.

  26. Although coffee should be excluded from my Paleo diet, I can’t seem to break my coffee habit. I have cut down to a couple of cups a day and I cream it with coconut milk and coconut oil so I can get a sufficient intake of coconut nutrients. I buy mostly only organic coffee. I only drink it in the morning. I know people will “but you can do that with tea”. Truth is, to me, that tastes really horrible !! I do like tea but just plain, with nothing in it. I usually compliment my coffee intake with a couple strips of bacon and 2 eggs fried in the bacon grease. All this will keep me going until lunch very easily. I’ve lost 17 lbs so far and feel much better.

    • Kimberly, I stumbled upon your comment perusing the website. I just wanted to encourage you to still quit Coffee. Quitting Coffee (regular and decaf) was SO HARD. It was a painful awful grueling goodbye. However, I must tell you, that now – I am completely caffeine free. (Including teas.) I feel like a different person. That caffeine was slowly but surely messing with my body at a deep level. After some hell, you will feel great! Reminding yourself that Caffeine is a Drug, that might help your motivation since you are getting so healthy! Good Luck.

      • Jezzie,
        I decided to go on strict paleo diet couple of days ago (could not look at my horrible acne any longer).
        I’m coffee addict as bad as they come. If I don’t have my coffee in the morning I develop horrible headache. How did you manage to stop drinking coffee? Did you have any special “plan”? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

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