Fad diets come and go, but the paleo diet has stood the test of time thanks to its simple underlying philosophy, clear guidelines, and most of all, its effectiveness. The paleo diet has only one rule at its core: eat only food that early humans would have eaten. That’s it. If you’re a caffeine addict, ahem, coffee lover, then you might wonder if coffee violates the paleo principle since early humans didn’t have fancy coffee roasters and grinders.
While coffee technically isn’t allowed on a strict paleo diet, it is one of the lesser temptations to include and will have a minimal impact on your diet if you prepare it in a paleo-centric way. In this article, we’re going to help you bend the paleo rules a little bit and teach you how to make the most paleo-friendly coffee. Unless you are following a 100% by-the-book paleo diet, including coffee is fine and won’t have a negative impact on your health and diet.
Is Coffee Paleo?
We already mentioned this, but we want to make sure everyone is on the same page. The short answer is, no, coffee is not paleo. The paleo diet is all about consuming only the foods and beverages that early humans would have consumed. Grass-fed meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds make up the bulk of food for a paleo diet, and water, fruit juice, and vegetable juice are the preferred beverages since early humans had access to these foods and drinks.
Coffee is noticeably absent from the list of paleo beverages, and if you want to follow a pure, strict paleo diet, then that means giving up coffee. However, there are ways to have your coffee and diet, too, as long as you don’t mind bending the rules a tiny bit.
The spirit of the paleo diet is removing processed food and drink from your diet and consuming only things that our bodies evolved to use efficiently. While coffee was not something that early humans had access to, it is a naturally occurring substance. Coffee beans are actually the seeds of a cherry that grows on small, shrub-like trees. It is conceivable that some early humans might have eaten coffee tree cherries or their beans, and drinking coffee doesn’t violate the “no artificial ingredients” policy that is very much the spirit of paleo diets.
With that justification out of the way, here comes the bad news — the only way to drink coffee on a paleo diet is black. If you’re used to drinking your coffee with milk or sugar or both, it can be a daunting task to switch to black cold turkey. Our advice is to ease into drinking black coffee over a few weeks rather than try to change in one fell swoop. Gradually reducing how much milk and sugar you use will make the transition much more stomachable.
Another tip to help ease the changeover to black coffee is to make your coffee weaker than you would when you’re adding milk and sugar. Drinking coffee with milk is essentially watering down — milking down? — your coffee, so when you remove the milk, you need to remove some coffee too by brewing a weaker cup than you usually would. The easiest way to make a weaker cup of coffee is to use more water. If you usually brew 20 grams of coffee with 300 grams of water, try brewing 20 grams of coffee with 320 grams or 330 grams instead.
In addition to making slightly weaker coffee, you could also switch to a milder brewing method. Some methods — like the French press — naturally produce strong, bold coffee, while other methods — like the Chemex — make more mellow cups. If you normally use an unfiltered brewing method, switching to one with a paper filter can help.
Unfortunately, coffee is technically not paleo, but unless you hang out with some particularly strict cavemen, adding black coffee to a paleo diet won’t have a dramatic impact on your results. While brewed coffee isn’t paleo, coffee beans are seeds from a type of cherry tree, and eating those tree’s fruits would fall comfortably under the paleo diet umbrella. Adding black coffee to a paleo diet is a relatively small concession and is, in our opinion, an acceptable change to make.
If you’re accustomed to drinking coffee with milk and sugar, consider slowly weaning yourself off of both over a few weeks rather than quitting all at once. Additionally, brewing black coffee with a paper filter if you’re used to drinking unfiltered coffee can help ease the pain of switching to black coffee.
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