Coffee: Friend or Foe? + Iced Coffee Recipe (dairy, soy & refined sugar-free)

coffee cupAh coffee! There are few smells in this world that make me happier.

I remember waking up at my grandmother’s house in Jordan during the summers we spent there and smelling Turkish coffee. I would find her and my mother sitting in the veranda, sipping coffee and chatting. After every lunch, we had a coffee ritual where we would brew a pot of coffee, set out my grandmother’s little cups and choose something sweet to go with the coffee.

For me, there are few foods or drinks more imbued with memories and sensuality than coffee.

Which brings up this question I hear a lot: What about coffee? Is it healthy? How many cups can I drink?

My usual response to that question with any food or drink is ‘it depends…’ and it is no different with coffee.

Coffee is a great illustration of how nutritional research reveals both sides of a food or drink.

On the plus side…

Coffee has been shown to increase alertness, improve mood and energy, concentration and even athletic performance. It is also a great source of antioxidants and has even been shown to help prevent disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

On the not so sunny side…

Coffee has been shown to increase blood pressure, increases stress response in the body, spike blood sugar levels, can exacerbate gastro-intestinal problems, inhibits the absorption of nutrients, increases the risk of urinary and prostate problems in men and hormone-related problems with women such as PMS.

My own relationship to coffee:

I used to be a real coffee addict, downing 4 cups a day.

I was the typical office employee, heading to the Nespresso machine as soon as I got in, then taking a few more coffee-infused breaks during the day.

I then started noticing some hormonal issues and decided to experiment with cutting down on my coffee consumption.

I started small, simply replacing my morning coffee with a herbal tea.

Once this became a habit, I replaced another of my daily cups with a herbal tea. I actually bought a whole bunch of cool herbal teas to make this new habit more exciting.

I kept going until there were days when I no longer drank coffee in the office and kept it only for when I went to see clients (they had better coffee) or for weekends.

I also made a special condition: Drinking coffee had to be a moment of absolute pleasure – not just a habit or something I did to get a caffeine hit. I didn’t like the idea of being addicted to anything, so I wanted to turn my coffee addiction into a coffee love affair.

This was a few years ago, and I can safely say that I am no longer addicted to coffee…and I still love it. I have about one coffee a day but will sometimes go for a few days without if I am not in a context that offers great coffee. I also upgraded on quality – if you are in Geneva, the best coffee in my opinion is Boréal!

As the research above shows, coffee is neither black nor white. As always, your body is the only true authority on the subject, so why not try experimenting with reducing your coffee consumption to see how you feel? Experiment with how much coffee works for you

Moving from Coffee Addiction to a Coffee Love Affair

♥ Do not quit cold turkey. Start by reducing your intake very slowly, otherwise you can have caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headaches. Caffeine addiction is real!

Focus on what you are replacing your coffee with instead of the coffee you are removing. This could be herbal tea or green tea (which still has caffeine but less than coffee) or even a chicory-based drink that smells and tastes quite similar to coffee.

♥ When you are tempted to have a coffee, ask yourself: Do I really feel like having a coffee right now or is it just a habit or an excuse to take a break? Try to have coffee only when it is pure pleasure.

Upgrade on quality. If you are making it at home, buy the best quality coffee you can find. You can even buy whole coffee beans and grind them yourself. If you are having coffee away from home, only drink the best quality you can find.

Try to avoid overly sugary, milky coffee drinks à la Starbucks Caramel Macchiato or Frappucino. A tall soy milk Caramel Macchiato (the smallest size) which sounds harmless enough actually has 24g of sugar – the equivalent of 8 cubes of sugar! If you need your sweet coffee kick, try my recipe for iced coffee below.

♥ If you add sugar to your coffee, use real sugar, not aspartame which is even worse. Even better, try adding half a teaspoon less of sugar until you can have your coffee without sugar.

♥ It is better to avoid drinking coffee first thing in the morning on an empty stomach as this stresses the body and spikes blood sugar levels. If you need your morning coffee, have breakfast first.

♥ Coffee spikes blood sugar, so in general, it is best to avoid having it on an empty stomach. The best time of day to have coffee seems to be after lunch.

♥ Some people are extremely sensitive to caffeine and having coffee or even chocolate late in the afternoon can affect sleep.

Better than Starbucks Iced Coffee (dairy, soy & refined sugar-free)

2 tbsp almond butter (made only of ground almonds)

3 dl water

1-3 tbsp maple syrup or honey (depending on how sweet you like it)

1 cup coffee – brewed, then left to cool in a bowl

Combine the almond butter and water in a blender and blend until smooth. This is actually a lazy version of almond milk which is better than store-bought almond milk as it has no additives. You can also use 3 dl almond milk instead – I use this recipe to make my own.

Add the coffee and maple syrup or honey. Serve in a glass with ice cubes.

Store leftovers in a jar in the fridge.

I would love to hear from you – what’s your relationship to coffee like? Would you like to make any changes?

Iced Coffee_Final



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“Caffeine – How much is too much?.” MayoClinic. N.p., 3 Nov 2010. Web. 22 Dec 2011.

“Caffeine – How much is too much?.” Rice University. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Dec 2011.

Jennifer, Warner. “Caffeine may ease workout pain and soreness.” WebMD. N.p., 17 Jan 2007. Web. 22 Dec 2011. <>

Boyles, Salynn. “Is Caffeine bad for your heart?.” WebMD. N.p., 01 Aug 2002. Web. 22 Dec 2011.

“Caffeine’s Effects are Long-Lasting and Compound Stress.” DukeHealth. Duke University Health Systems, 03 Nov 2004. Web. 22 Dec 2011.

Kassem, Noreen. “Emotional effects of caffeine.” Livestrong. N.p., 24 Nov 2010. Web. 22 Dec 2011.

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McLaughlin, August. “Caffeine and Gastrointestinal Problems.” Livestrong. N.p., 13 Jun 2011. Web. 22 Dec 2011.

“Coffee and Prostate Health: Is it Bad for You?.” Web BPH. N.p., 02 Mar 2011. Web. 22 Dec 2011.

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  • Nesrin on Jul 09, 2014 Reply

    I once quit cold Turkey for 40 days. I rarely get headaches, and on quitting had splitting headaches during the 1st 2 weeks and felt really weird and slightly out of it for a good 3 weeks. Finally I got used to no coffee. When I had my 1st cup after 40 days it shot straight to the bloodstream and I was wired for 8 hours afterwards and almost shaky. That really taught me about the strength of it.

    I still do enjoy coffee and it does make me feel good so I continue to drink coffee every day, but in much more moderation and keep it to the morning and after lunch. I mainly stick to good quality organic coffee (always Arabica) which I grind myself, which does not seem to affect my heart rate or blood pressure negatively and simply tastes great!

    So coffee is my friend as long as I treat and drink it with respect!

    • Hiba on Jul 09, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience Nesrin – I love how you write that coffee is your friend as long as you treat it with respect. So true!

      • Betty on Aug 08, 2016 Reply

        Am aged 28, stays in Nairobi and sat for KCSE in 2003 and scored C Plain,am from financially dintavdsaaged background, making it impossible to raise funds to college education,if assited would study Diploma in Electrical Engineering, Advise please.

      • on Oct 07, 2016 Reply

        That’s a smart way of looking at the world.

      • on Feb 14, 2017 Reply

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  • The Nia girl on Jul 07, 2014 Reply

    I love the lazy version of almond milk!

    • Hiba on Jul 07, 2014 Reply

      I often use it in recipes if I don’t have real almond milk at hand!

  • Vanessa on Jul 07, 2014 Reply

    Your recipe of iced-coffee sounds delicious! Can’t wait to try it.
    I like your way of seeing your coffee as an absolute moment of pleasure.
    Green tea was my addiction, more than coffee. It has been a few year since I slowly switched to herbal teas, but I still enjoy a good coffee or tea once in a while.

    • Hiba on Jul 07, 2014 Reply

      Thank you Vanessa! Enjoyment is so important, and in good company, even better :)

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