Tag Archives: coffee

Sweet Sugar Coconut Fat | The Paleo Diet
If you’ve popped into your local Starbucks lately, you’ve already seen it. The Christmas red cups are here!  As someone who is admittedly an absolute Christmas fanatic, I must say that the hint of the season’s festivities in the air brings a smile to my face and that happy, and coaxes the warm holiday aura.

But one thing that doesn’t sit quite right is thinking about the sizeable number of syrupy sweet holiday drinks we’re consuming as a whole, let alone the sheer size of each individual drink has gone from 12 oz to 16 oz to… a 31 oz!1

A ‘Grande,’ 2% milk, peppermint latte is a whopping 54g of sugar from Starbucks.2 Thinking about supersizing to the mega 31 oz? That’s a whole heck of a lot of sugar (nearly double)!

But what if we want to enjoy a taste of the season? Is there a way to do so without wreaking havoc to our blood sugar, our mood, and our guts? Yes.

And it’s not about finding a ‘more Paleo’ sweetener. Instead of focusing on sweet, do yourself a favor and instead focus on fat. Without sugar, you can forget about the blood sugar spike, ensuing crash, and craving pangs for another.

Long before we ever knew about putting butter in coffee, in the lofty Himalayan mountains a few cups of yak butter tea, or po cha, was a welcome respite from the cold, thin air.[3] Since neither butter nor coffee are part of a strict Paleo diet, why not put a spin on the Tibetan model and brew a hot cup with a healthy, Paleo approved fat?

Can you say let’s go nuts with coconuts? Tasty, warming, and a with a fantastic creamy texture to boot, the Paleo recipe below will satisfy your palate and leave you feeling energized and ready to face the hectic holiday season… without ever feeling like you’ve had to deprive yourself!

Paleoista’s Holiday Coconut Tea

(Serves 2)


  • Herbal tea, your preference; try peppermint, cinnamon or ginger to create the holiday flavor profile
  • ¼ cup coconut butter, at room temperature
  • Ground cinnamon, to taste


  1. Brew tea and let steep 3- 5 minutes.
  2. Remove tea leaves or bag and let cool slightly.
  3. Combine tea with coconut butter in blender and whiz to combine.
  4. Top with cinnamon and enjoy!


1. “Starbucks to Roll Out Biggest Drink Size Yet | Fox News.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 16 Jan. 2011. Web. 04 Nov. 2015.

2. “Peppermint Mocha.” Starbucks Coffee Company. Starbucks Coffee Company, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2015.

3. “Tea Tuesdays: Butter Up That Tea, Tibetan-Style.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2015.

Caffeine and the Brain: Part 1

Before switching to a Paleo Diet, many of us drank coffee on a regular basis.1 If not coffee, maybe an energy drink, espresso, or a diet or regular soda.2, 3 All of these beverages have one thing in common: caffeine. Caffeine is the world’s most popular psychoactive drug.4 Though a small amount (about 10%) of humans do not consume any of the stimulant, worldwide consumption is enough to make the average caffeine intake equivalent to about one drink, per person, per day.5, 6 With over 7 billion people in the world – that’s a LOT of caffeine.7

Caffeine is derived from plants, and acts as a pesticide.8, 9, 10 If that’s not disturbing enough, it’s also one of the most heavily sprayed crops, pesticide-wise, in the world.11, 12, 13, 14, 15, However, while pesticides can be destroyed in the roasting process, I would argue that anything sprayed heavily with pesticides, is not something worth consuming. Still feel comfortable nursing that cup next to you? Below, is a pest which burrows into and lays its eggs in coffee berries. It has genetically adapted from bacteria (via lateral gene transfer) which enables it to continue to invade coffee crops.16

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Mar 13, 2012; 109(11): 4197–4202. Published online Feb 27, 2012.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Mar 13, 2012; 109(11): 4197–4202.
Published online Feb 27, 2012.

Since caffeine is so widely consumed, it is in the public’s interest to know exactly it is doing to your brain.17 Caffeine, chemically, is a member of the xanthine and alkaloid family.18 Other members of these families include cocaine, nicotine, morphine, psilocin, and codeine, to name but a few.19 Starting to second-guess that cup of coffee yet?

Caffeine, unfortunately, is one of the elements of “fast food America,” along with processed foods, added sugar, and television.20 A Paleo Diet is superior to this widespread way of living, in every single category.21 By taking time to savor your food, eating foods which make you healthier, and avoiding stimulants, you’ll maximize your own potential to be healthy.


Caffeine synthase and related methyltransferases in plants. Frontiers In Bioscience, Landmark, 9, 1833-1842, May 1, 2004

Here, we see the biosynthesis of caffeine. What we ultimately must understand from this process, is that theobromine is an important precursor to caffeine.22 Besides caffeine, theobromine itself has been studied to be the other psychopharmacologically active element in another, as-yet unnamed, caffeine-containing substance – chocolate.23 Beyond the psychopharmacological effects of theobromine, it also has been shown to be the main constituent that we come to crave when we eat chocolate.24 The other? Caffeine itself.

Caffeine Figure 3

Nutrients. Jan 2014; 6(1): 319–341.
Published online Jan 10, 2014.

Since we are all composed of different genetic and molecular material, our brains respond to caffeine differently.25, 26 In these diagrams, we see how different regions of the brain are affected and impacted by merely the sight of chocolate, which contains caffeine and theobromine.27 Some will immediately have activity in brain regions such as the pregenual cingulate cortex and medial orbitofrontal cortex.28 Others, will not.

Since chocolate is a multivariate compound, we must look at pure caffeine, to see what its effects are on your brain. Perhaps most alarmingly, caffeine restricts blood flow to the brain, by about 25%.29 This is not good. In the below two images, we can see the effects of reduced blood flow, graphically, in those who drink caffeine, and also the increase in blood flow, in those who are going through caffeine withdrawal.

Caffeine Figure 4

Hum Brain Mapp. Author manuscript; available in PMC Oct 1, 2010. Published in final edited form as:
Hum Brain Mapp. Oct 2009; 30(10): 3102–3114.

 Hum Brain Mapp. Author manuscript; available in PMC Oct 1, 2010. Published in final edited form as: Hum Brain Mapp. Oct 2009; 30(10): 3102–3114.

Hum Brain Mapp. Author manuscript; available in PMC Oct 1, 2010. Published in final edited form as:
Hum Brain Mapp. Oct 2009; 30(10): 3102–3114.

Besides these disturbing effects (cerebral blood flow is most definitely something you want more of, not less of), caffeine disrupts the ends of our DNA, causing aging.30 This process happens via telomeres, which normally protect the chromosome ends from degradation. Another suspect on this list? Alcohol, which shouldn’t be a surprise.31

A Paleo Diet removes these common vices, and instead offers healthy fats, nutrient-rich foods, and choices that help make you healthier. By taking time to savor your food, eating foods which make you healthier, and avoiding stimulants, you can reap the plethora of benefits offered by a Paleo lifestyle!


1. Gilbert RM. Caffeine consumption. Prog Clin Biol Res. 1984;158:185-213.

2. Heckman MA, Weil J, Gonzalez de mejia E. Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters. J Food Sci. 2010;75(3):R77-87.

3. Persad LA. Energy drinks and the neurophysiological impact of caffeine. Front Neurosci. 2011;5:116.

4. Daly JW, Holmén J, Fredholm BB. [Is caffeine addictive? The most widely used psychoactive substance in the world affects same parts of the brain as cocaine]. Lakartidningen. 1998;95(51-52):5878-83.

5. Lovett R. Coffee: The demon drink? New Scientist. 2005;24:2518–2522.

6. Available at: //www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/17/amp-up-america/. Accessed October 15, 2014.

7. Available at: //www.worldometers.info/world-population/. Accessed October 15, 2014.

8. Uefuji H, Tatsumi Y, Morimoto M, Kaothien-nakayama P, Ogita S, Sano H. Caffeine production in tobacco plants by simultaneous expression of three coffee N-methyltrasferases and its potential as a pest repellant. Plant Mol Biol. 2005;59(2):221-7.

9. Nathanson JA. Caffeine and related methylxanthines: possible naturally occurring pesticides. Science. 1984;226(4671):184-7.

10. Hollingsworth RG, Armstrong JW, Campbell E. Caffeine as a repellent for slugs and snails. Nature. 2002;417(6892):915-6.

11. Ngowi AV, Maeda DN, Partanen TJ, Sanga MP, Mbise G. Acute health effects of organophosphorus pesticides on Tanzanian small-scale coffee growers. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2001;11(4):335-9.

12. Available at: //www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/0103/Organic-coffee-Why-Latin-America-s-farmers-are-abandoning-it. Accessed October 15, 2014.

13. Acuña R, Padilla BE, Flórez-ramos CP, et al. Adaptive horizontal transfer of a bacterial gene to an invasive insect pest of coffee. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109(11):4197-202.

14. Sakamoto K, Nishizawa H, Manabe N. Behavior of pesticides in coffee beans during the roasting process. Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2012;53(5):233-6.

15. Cetinkaya M, Von düszeln J, Thiemann W, Silwar R. [Organochlorine pesticide residues in raw and roasted coffee and their degradation during the roasting process]. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch. 1984;179(1):5-8.

16. Ioannidis P, Lu Y, Kumar N, et al. Rapid transcriptome sequencing of an invasive pest, the brown marmorated stink bug Halyomorpha halys. BMC Genomics. 2014;15:738.

17. Fredholm BB, Bättig K, Holmén J, Nehlig A, Zvartau EE. Actions of caffeine in the brain with special reference to factors that contribute to its widespread use. Pharmacol Rev. 1999;51(1):83-133.

18. Schimpl FC, Kiyota E, Mayer JL, Gonçalves JF, Da silva JF, Mazzafera P. Molecular and biochemical characterization of caffeine synthase and purine alkaloid concentration in guarana fruit. Phytochemistry. 2014;105:25-36.

19. Available at: //www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/15672/alkaloid. Accessed October 15, 2014.

20. Pereira MA, Kartashov AI, Ebbeling CB, et al. Fast-food habits, weight gain, and insulin resistance (the CARDIA study): 15-year prospective analysis. Lancet. 2005;365(9453):36-42.

21. Mellberg C, Sandberg S, Ryberg M, et al. Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014;68(3):350-7.

22. Judelson DA, Preston AG, Miller DL, Muñoz CX, Kellogg MD, Lieberman HR. Effects of theobromine and caffeine on mood and vigilance. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2013;33(4):499-506.

23. Smit HJ, Gaffan EA, Rogers PJ. Methylxanthines are the psycho-pharmacologically active constituents of chocolate. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2004;176(3-4):412-9.

24. Smit HJ, Blackburn RJ. Reinforcing effects of caffeine and theobromine as found in chocolate. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005;181(1):101-6.

25. Dager SR, Layton ME, Strauss W, et al. Human brain metabolic response to caffeine and the effects of tolerance. Am J Psychiatry. 1999;156(2):229-37.

26. Cornelis MC, Byrne EM, Esko T, et al. Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies six novel loci associated with habitual coffee consumption. Mol Psychiatry. 2014;

27. Asmaro D, Liotti M. High-caloric and chocolate stimuli processing in healthy humans: an integration of functional imaging and electrophysiological findings. Nutrients. 2014;6(1):319-41.

28. Rolls ET, Mccabe C. Enhanced affective brain representations of chocolate in cravers vs. non-cravers. Eur J Neurosci. 2007;26(4):1067-76.

29. Addicott MA, Yang LL, Peiffer AM, et al. The effect of daily caffeine use on cerebral blood flow: How much caffeine can we tolerate?. Hum Brain Mapp. 2009;30(10):3102-14.

30. Romano GH, Harari Y, Yehuda T, et al. Environmental stresses disrupt telomere length homeostasis. PLoS Genet. 2013;9(9):e1003721.

31. Strandberg TE, Strandberg AY, Saijonmaa O, Tilvis RS, Pitkälä KH, Fyhrquist F. Association between alcohol consumption in healthy midlife and telomere length in older men. The Helsinki Businessmen Study. Eur J Epidemiol. 2012;27(10):815-22.

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

Affiliates and Credentials