“We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life, but we see an association,” said study author Veronica W. Setiawan, of the University of Southern California, which conducted the research in collaboration with the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute. “If you like to drink coffee, drink up! If you’re not a coffee drinker, then you need to consider if you should start.”
Another study examined 520,000 people in 10 European countries over a 16-year period, and found that coffee consumption lowered the risk for mortality, especially from digestive and circulatory diseases. This effect was consistent in every country.
Yet evidence also suggests that coffee can affect women’s estrogen levels, raise blood pressure, and trigger an increased release of stress hormones. So how do you know if coffee’s right for you? Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, offers some interesting clues. For starters, Larissa Hall Carlson, Kripalu Schools faculty member and former Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, says “every type of food can be a poison or a medicine,” depending on what your individual constitution is—and how and when you consume it.
Kathryn Templeton, the founder of the Himalayan Institute’s Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist training program and a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, agrees. “Although Ayurveda would never recommend that you supersize your daily cup of coffee, under the right conditions, at the right time, you can drink it in moderation.” Here are five Ayurvedic guidelines for coffee drinkers.
Know your dosha. Different mind-body types react to coffee differently, says Larissa, so it’s important to determine your Ayurvedic constitution and make choices accordingly. According to Ayurveda, our constitution is comprised of three doshas, or subtle energies: vata, pitta, and kapha, although one is typically dominant. (Don’t know your dosha yet? Take our quiz.)
“Coffee can balance out folks who have a lot of kapha in their constitution”—the mind-body principle related to the elements of earth and water, says Larissa. Signs of excess kapha include water retention, weight gain, sinus congestion, a lack of motivation, and “a general feeling of being foggy-headed,” she says. If you fit the bill, drink one cup daily. Coffee’s hot, dry, stimulating qualities will counterbalance your dominant dosha’s heavy, wet, sluggish qualities.
People with high pitta (fire and water) or high vata (air and ether) in their constitutions, on the other hand, should be more cautious. “The rule in Ayurveda is that ‘like increases like,’” Larissa explains. “For example, if someone with high pitta is already overheating, emotionally or physically, the hot, pungent qualities of coffee will make them even hotter.”