Coffee is in many ways a very modern drink– as time has gone on and the modern day office job has evolved, humans have relied more and more on coffee to get them through the work day. Just look at this chart to get an idea of how much coffee consumption has increased worldwide since 1852 (source: unctad.info):
As you can see, we have really become a world of coffee consumption. In reality, coffee by itself isn’t extremely unhealthy. In fact, there have been studies done which show the health benefits of consumption of a small amount of coffee each week. What makes our modern coffee drinks so unhealthy is that we add chocolate, cinnamon, cream, sugar, and all kinds of other things to our coffee (read: empty calories).
So, is coffee paleo-approved?
The short answer to this question is yes; coffee is found in nature– it comes from a plant and, as such, is something that (theoretically) would have been available to our paleolithic ancestors. Now, they most likely would not have had the technology that we have which allowed them to brew coffee in the traditional sense, but since it’s a natural substance I say it’s ok for the paleo diet.
I will add this caveat: when you start to add all kinds of chocolate, cream, sugar, etc to your coffee, it becomes non-paleo due not only to the fact that our ancestors would not have eaten these substances, but also because these things are generally unhealthy for you anyway and should be avoided.
I’ll admit that I slip up and put a little sugar in my coffee on occasion– I think that this is acceptable, as long as you don’t overdo it (everyone is entitled to a treat here and there).
One final note on coffee: the caffeine in coffee receives mixed reactions from many health professionals. On the one hand, small amounts of caffeine have been proven to increase alertness and improve cognitive performance; on the other hand, large amounts of caffeine can cause heart, sleep, and weight problems. If you’ve noticed a common theme to my writing on the paleo diet it’s that I am a big believer in moderation. On the same note, I feel the same way about caffeinated coffee. On occasion it is fine, but make sure you educate yourself on the pros and cons of drinking caffeinated beverages, especially in relation to paleo living.