Coffee – Your New Favorite Health Food?
If there is one thing that most of can’t begin our day without, it’s coffee. Coffee is the most loved beverage in the world, coming in second only to water in terms of worldwide consumption. We have come to rely on coffee as a magical morning elixir and as a mid-day pick up, however coffee has an amazing amount of health benefits that you might never have expected.
Coffee is packed full of antioxidants and nutrients, so if you have been feeling guilty for favoring your morning coffee over that fruit smoothie, you can now safely put your guilt away. Coffee is actually the number one source of antioxidants in the average American diet. Antioxidants are important for so many reasons. The daily toxins that your body is exposed to through your environment, food and certain lifestyle habits can cause an increase in the number of free radicals found in your body. Free radicals are molecules that have lost an electron and then go on a hunt to replace that lost electron by stealing one from a healthy, complete molecule. Simply put, free radicals damage healthy cells by causing structural breakdown and mutations. Antioxidants are the agents that fight against free radicals and their damaging effects. Coffee, which is bursting with antioxidants, provides your body with defense against harmful free radicals.
Nutritionally speaking, your morning cup of coffee can give a nice boost to a healthy breakfast. In addition to antioxidants, coffee is surprisingly high in some nutrients. Take a look at what just one cup of coffee can provide:
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 11% of the recommended daily allowance
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) 6% of the recommended daily allowance
- Potassium 3% of the recommended daily allowance
- Manganese 3% of the recommended daily allowance
- Magnesium 2% of the recommended daily allowance
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) 2% of the recommended daily allowance
All of this from just one cup. Now, take into consideration that the average coffee drinker doesn’t stop at just one cup during the day and you can see how quickly the nutritional benefits of coffee can add up.
In the past many thought that coffee could be detrimental to health, especially when consumed in larger amounts. However, the antioxidant and nutritional components of coffee have caused researchers to take a closer look at exactly how coffee affects the body. In recent years, advanced research has been conducted looking more closely at the healthy benefits of coffee and the many ways that it can actually improve health rather than destroy it. The results of most of these studies have been very positive and great news for coffee lovers everywhere. Pour yourself a fresh cup and take a minute to read some of the incredible ways that coffee benefits your health.
Coffee Kicks Up Brain Power
It’s no secret that many of us reach for a cup of coffee when we are feeling sluggish or are suffering from mental fog. The caffeine found in coffee increases energy and helps you focus. Again, this is no secret. However, you might be interested in knowing the science behind the stimulating effect. Caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine. Once adenosine is blocked, your body can produce more dopamine and norepinephrine, which helps to increase the firing of neurons in your brain. The result is that you almost instantly begin to feel better and experience greater cognitive function, more energy, improved memory, better focus and improved reaction times.
While coffee offers plenty to boost your brain power right now, it is also worth noting that the European Journal of Neurology found a positive relationship between regular coffee drinkers and a decreased chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Enjoying your regular coffee protects your brain now and well into the future.
Reduction in Generalized Pain
Many people experience chronic pain from just going about their daily lives. We sleep on mattresses that aren’t best suited for our bodies, we bend and lift repeatedly without much thought to proper form, we sit all day at our desks with poor posture and we wear shoes that add stress to our backs -- just to name a few examples. Did you know that drinking coffee can help to reduce some of this daily pain?
A Norwegian study looked at office workers and had them measure their level of pain on a scale of 0 to 100. While the average non coffee drinker reported a pain level of 55, those who drank coffee regularly reported a score of only 41, coming in almost fifteen points lower than their coffee abstaining peers. This could be for several reasons. First, the dopamine and norepinephrine might have an effect on the perception of pain. Additionally, coffee is an anti-inflammatory which could soothe some sources of pain. When you drink coffee, you are also likely to get up and move more often, which could contribute to less overall pain, especially in the back and neck area.
Coffee Can Help Deflate That “Spare Tire”
If you have ever considered a dietary supplement to help you lose weight, then you have probably noticed that practically all of them contain some amount of caffeine. The most logical reason for this is that caffeine, like that found in coffee, gives you more energy so that you get up and move. If you are active instead of slouching around on the sofa, you are more likely to lose weight, right? This is correct, but it turns out there is another reason that caffeine is used as weight loss stimulant.
Caffeine sends signals to the nervous system that then sends out a signal to break down fat cells at a faster than normal rate. Since coffee is a major source of dietary caffeine, researchers have looked at just how much coffee consumption can help people with their weight loss efforts. The results are that coffee can boost your metabolic rate by 10% or more. Additionally, coffee consumption has been shown to increase fat burning rates from 10-30% depending upon your body type. If you are looking to lose weight, skip the sketchy supplement, eat a healthy diet and enjoy a couple cups of coffee instead.
Coffee Ups Your Game
So far, we have talked about how coffee increases your focus, gives you more energy, blocks pain and helps burn fat. If you add all of these benefits up, you end up with a performance enhancing miracle worker. Your body burns fat as a source of fuel. The more fat you burn, the more fuel you will have. Coffee provides a fuel resource by increasing the rate at which you burn fat. Research has shown that physical and athletic performance is increased by as much as 12% on average in people who regularly drink coffee.
Coffee May Reduce Your Risk of Certain Cancers
Some of the most promising research regarding the healthy benefits of coffee has been related to a reduction in risk for certain types of cancer, one of which is the deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma. Studies show that people who drink 3-4 cups of coffee a day have up to a 20% less risk of developing skin cancer. This is likely because of the antioxidant power of coffee. Antioxidants are essential for preventing, repairing and healing the damage caused by exposure to the sun. UV rays cause an increase in free radicals, which then mutate skin cells. Mutated cells are the first seeds of cancer and if you can reduce or eliminate them, you automatically decrease your risks.
Coffee has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing liver and colorectal cancer. Coffee seems to have a protective effect on the liver. Regular coffee drinkers are less likely to develop Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and a more serious liver condition known as cirrhosis. Those who drink four to five cups of coffee a day have up to an 80% less chance of developing cirrhosis. This is significant because most cases of liver cancer occur in people who suffer from cirrhosis of the liver. The overall cancer risk reduction in rates in coffee drinkers is 40% for liver cancer and 15% for colorectal cancer.
Coffee Protects Your Heart
This seems counterintuitive to what many of us thought we knew. The stimulating effect of caffeine can cause a slight increase in blood pressure, which is now known to be short term, and a temporary increase in heart rate. Of course, if you suffer from a known cardiac condition you should follow your doctor’s orders regarding caffeine consumption. However, for the general population, coffee actually acts in a protective way towards your heart. Studies on the subject have not been able to support an increase in heart disease risk for coffee drinkers. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. A Japanese study noted that women who drank at least 2 cups of coffee a day had a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and almost a 40% less chance of dying form cardiovascular related conditions.
This is especially important for post menopausal women who are at an increased risk of heart disease. Daily coffee consumption can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory conditions. Additionally, a recent study found that regular coffee drinkers were less likely to suffer from a stroke. For women, the decrease in risk of stroke was 20%.
Coffee Reduces the Chance of Developing Type II Diabetes
A Harvard study noted that increased coffee consumption over a period of four years resulted in a reduced risk of developing type II diabetes in people that were predisposed to the condition. The decreased risk noted was as much as 11%. Other studies have looked at the relationship between type II diabetes and coffee consumption and found that each additional cup of coffee drank per day, up to five cups, can result in as much as a 7% reduced risk. Additionally, other studies suggest that four cups of coffee per day can reduce the average risk by as much as 50-67%. Coffee should be considered an important dietary component for people at risk of developing the disease.
Lose the Blues
Approximately 4% of the American Population suffers from clinical depression. Some say that this number is actually quite conservative because so many people suffer undiagnosed. One reason that some people are hesitant to see someone about their depression is because they dislike the idea of taking medications to treat the condition. It is extremely important that you seek medical advice if you feel as though you are suffering from depression. However, if you are feeling more blue than usual and are looking for a natural way to lose the blues, coffee might be part of the answer.
Just the smell of coffee has been shown to reduce stress levels in people that suffer from sleep disturbances, which are a common symptom of depression. Studies have shown that four cups of coffee a day can reduce suffering from depression by as much as 20%. Even more notable is the research that shows that four cups of coffee a day can decrease suicide risk by as much as 53%. Again, if you are feeling depressed please speak with your health care provider, but adding a couple of cups of coffee a day might just be what the doctor orders.
This is all great news, but it is important to note that you also should be careful when it comes to coffee consumption. United States dietary guidelines approve up to five cups of coffee per day. Keep in mind that this amount isn’t right for everyone and you should take your own personal health into consideration when deciding how much coffee to drink. Decaffeinated coffee offers some benefits, but not quite as much as the fully caffeinated version. Green and black teas also offer protective benefits similar to those found in coffee. Avoid sabotaging your coffee with lots of cream, sugar and flavored syrups, and drink it in a moderate amount that feels right for you. Now, sit back and enjoy that cup of coffee while knowing all of the wonderful ways it is helping to protect your health.