Description: While coffee provides the initial enjoyment of boosted energy and stimulation to the nervous system, the highly addictive nature of the caffeine it contains can have detrimental effects on the body. Drinking it regularly inhibits vitamins and minerals from being properly absorbed in the small intestine. The digestion of caffeine actually requires calcium for assimilation and can even leach calcium from the bones. Coffee is also a diuretic and causes the body to excrete calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and trace minerals through the urine. Regular use of the beverage depletes the system of Thiamin B-1 and can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, nervousness, and general aches, pains and headaches. These symptoms further inspire the desire to reach for a cup, and a vicious cycle ensues. For these reasons it is important to drink in in balance and moderation.

It is worth noting that not all coffee is created equal. Deadly pesticides are regularly used on coffee plants abroad. The coffee from such crops contains concentrations of toxins and possible carcinogens. Also, not all farmers and laborers are treated equally. Even though the market is abundant, many small coffee farmers do not receive a fair price for their product, and make less money in sales then was spent on production. This is not a viable economic equation and these farmers are thus trapped in a system of debt and poverty.

What to look for: It is vitally important that consumers purchase and ingest only organic coffee in order to avoid the toxins and carcinogenic by-products of harmful pesticides. Consider alternating coffee consumption with healthy coffee alternatives such as roasted grain beverages or hot tea.

Buying organic coffee also means supporting organic agriculture and safer working conditions for agricultural workers who are not exposed to harmful pesticides. Be sure to look for Fair Trade coffee. The Fair Trade label assures consumers that the coffee was purchased under fair conditions. In order to meet Fair Trade certification, an importer must meet international criteria. These include a requirement that importers pay a minimum price per pound for coffee as well as provide technical assistance to farmers such as helping them transition to organic farming.

Uses: Coffee is the largest American import after gasoline. As gasoline fuels our automobiles, many utilize coffee as a jump-start, high-octane fuel in the morning. In addition to this, coffee has long been utilized for medicinal purposes such as coffee enemas used for detoxification.

Where to find: Natural food stores, coffee shops with heart and online resources.

Avoid: Avoid over-consumption, non-organic coffee, and companies with unfair international policies by buying only Fair Trade certified coffee.