Health Benefits of Coffee
We have been talking quite a bit about tea here recently. And now it’s time for the coffee lovers to get their turn. Today we are taking a look at… the health benefits of coffee! Exciting stuff for all of us java junkies.
If you are an avid coffee drinker, then you have probably been enjoying your caffeine kicks while suppressing the nagging ‘fact’ that coffee is not good for you. Of course this is not something that will stop a converted coffee head. But it does take some of the enjoyment away from your daily habit.
Thankfully the science is now in that coffee is not nearly as bad as it has been believed to be. In fact, it actually has a range of health benefits.
Just to get up to speed, before we dive into which areas coffee is of benefit to your health, let’s take a look at the reasons behind why coffee drinking has up unto now been thought of as an unhealthy habit.
Why Does Coffee Have Such a Bad Rap?
Coffee has long been thought of as something which is of detriment to one’s health. The new findings showing coffee to possess a list of health benefits is throwing this notion right out the window. So why the big discrepancy between the old and the info?
Many Previous Studies on Coffee Intake Did Not Take into Account What Went with the Coffee
Previous studies done on coffee intake and its effect on health did not take into account what people were taking in along with their coffee. First off, most smokers are in the habit of combining a cigarette and a cup of coffee. Most smokers are also coffee drinkers. And so, many of the studies done included participants who smoked as well as drank coffee.
Coffee has long been thought to be a carcinogen. Which is probably the biggest basis for it being considered harmful. Recent studies which eliminated smokers from the test groups have indicated that coffee is not carcinogenic. And because of these new findings coffee has been removed from the list of carcinogens and harmful foods.
Not all Cups of Coffee are Equal
People take their coffee in all sorts of ways. And these ways often include milk and varying amounts of sugar. Drinking four cups of coffee a day, each containing 2-3 teaspoons of sugar will add into your daily intake 8-12 teaspoons of additional sugar. Which is by no means a healthy habit if it is white and highly refined.
To avoid this, many people turn to artificial sweeteners in replacement. Unfortunately the boat has sailed on that one, and most of us are now aware that artificial sweeteners are arguably more damaging to the body than refined sugar.
Why the Change of Tune Around Coffee’s Impact on the Body
Newer and more refined studies on coffee are taking into consideration these above mentioned variables. And they are finding that pure coffee, in and of itself is not a health hazard, and actually boasts a list of positive impacts on one’s health.
Why the Long Wait?
Coffee lovers the world over are probably wondering what in the world took so long. Why did it take up until now for these health benefits to be discovered? The reason for this is that clinical / scientific studies of this kind take many years to play out. This is because the effect that a food or drink has on the body is often only displayed or measurable after many years of consumption. This is particularly so for chronic diseases such as cancer.
Thankfully no one gets cancer from eating or drinking something for a few months only – so these studies often take many years to complete.
With coffee becoming one of the world’s most consumed beverages, the amount of research being done on it has been ramped up. Some of these findings are now coming in, and boy are they making coffee lovers the world over celebrate!
14 Areas Where Coffee Can Benefit Your Health
So, without more ado, let’s check out these newly discovered health benefits of coffee shall we? Grab a cup, and let’s jump in.
Coffee is a Big Source of Antioxidants
Yes. You know those things that everybody is raging about at the moment? Those things that make your skin glow, slow the aging process, assist detoxification, boost your immune system and guard against cancer? Yep, coffee is full of them. So full, that research (1) has concluded that it is one of the largest source of antioxidants in the human diet today.
There has been some concern raised, regarding the bioavailability of the antioxidants in coffee. Just because coffee contains a plethora of antioxidants does not necessarily mean that they are in a bioavailable form. However findings (2) on the subject indicate that the antioxidants in coffee are readily bioavailable. In are in fact, 1.7 times more bioavailable that those found in green tea. Which is touted regularly in health and wellness circles for its high complement of antioxidants.
Just in case you were not already aware. The benefits that antioxidants have in our diets are really enormous and profound. Antioxidants have are linked to so many processes in the body, that science is having trouble keeping up with them all. What we do know so far is that antioxidants play a major role in protecting the body from free radical damage.
This in turn guards against cancers, accelerates the aging process, slows the breakdown of cell function, and assists the body in detoxification and the maintenance of healthy organs. The skin being one of these.
So, if antioxidants are so important for a healthy body, and coffee is most people’s main source of antioxidants… Then quitting coffee just might be the most unhealthy thing you could do for your body!
Coffee Can be Beneficial to the Heart
There has long been a generally held idea that coffee increases the risk of heart disease and strokes. A cumulative look at all of the findings shows that this is incorrect.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published findings (3) that indicate ‘habitual coffee consumption is neutral to beneficial regarding the risks of a variety of adverse CV outcomes including coronary heart disease (4), congestive heart failure, arrhythmias (5), and stroke’.
Coffee Promotes Good Circulation
Another positive effect of coffee consumption is that is can promote blood circulation. This is due to the fact that caffeine intake causes the heart rate of the body to increase. Which creates a period of increased blood flow through the body.
Blood circulation is vital to the body. It impacts the functioning of the skin and organs and assists to prevent heart disease.
This is another health area which was previously thought to be detrimentally impacted by coffee intake. However recent findings(6) have indicated that coffee can increase blood flow by 30% in a 75 minute period.
Coffee Can be a Fat Burner
Copious amounts of coffee should not replace the value of a good diet when it comes to weight loss and the burning of fat. However, thanks to its caffeine content, coffee can be used in such a way as to boost fat burning activity in the body.
The way it does this is linked to the effect that caffeine has on the body’s metabolic rate and how it makes available and burns fats cells. Upon ingestion, caffeine stimulates and speeds up the rate of your metabolism. You know those darn skinny people who are always eating? They are blessed with a permanently fast metabolism. Fortunately for the rest of us, coffee may be able to help us sluggish ones to keep up on the fat burning side of things.
A study (7) done in 1995 proved that caffeine in coffee, boosts fat burning by speeding up the body’s metabolic rate. By as much as 11% over up to a 3 hour period after consumption. Another study(8) found that after ingesting caffeine, the rate at which fat is made available to burn is increased.
What’s more, a further study(9) on the topic found that caffeine ingestion also caused the fat made available, to be used or burnt by the body at an increased rate of 44%. Hola!
I don’t know about you, but would someone pass the java?
Coffee Can be a Source of Energy
This one is pretty obvious, but always worth a mention in this fast paced world. Coffee has been proved(10) to enhance mental performance by increasing the metabolic rate of the brain itself. It speeds up, produces more brain chemicals and starts to work at an increased pace.
Coffee is not only a source of mental energy, but also of physical energy. One study(11) showed that coffee can improve physical energy levels and boost endurance by up to 12%.
These two factors are probably the main reason we are all downing the coffee!
Take note however that the energy produced by coffee is temporary. Once the caffeine wears off you can be left more tired than before, so use the extra energy wisely.
Coffee is a Mood Booster
Yay! Coffee is a mood booster – but again we all knew that right?
Science has now gotten on board with this, and published findings which show there is a possible link between coffee drinking and a lessened risk of depression. The Harvard School of Public Health released a new study(12) indicating that the consumption of up to 4 cups of coffee per day could decrease the chance of depression in women by up to 20%.
The reasons why coffee keeps depression away are not clear. Perhaps all the caffeine fueled energy gets us up in the morning and busy with the joys of life?
Caffeine Can Maximize Your Workout
As mentioned in the previous section, caffeine can boost physical energy levels dramatically. This is an ideal state to be in during one’s workout.
There are numerous studies (13, 14, 15) documenting that caffeine consumption can increase energy levels, and physical performance and strength. Time this stamina injection with your workout and you are onto a killer combo.
Not only will you be able to push new limits in terms of your workout intensity, but you will also be taking advantage of the increased fat burning capacity. Taken together this can have a compounding effect. So, next time, save that afternoon coffee for just before the gym, and you may just find yourself smashing it at your fitness routine.
Oh and did I forget to mention? A kick of coffee can go a long way to making sure you are motivated and primed to actually start your workout. The most important part with workouts, is starting.
Coffee Boosts the Liver
Hello party animal or refined wine lover. Did you know that coffee boosts and protects the liver. This is another area of health where it was previously thought that coffee had a negative effect.
However a study (16) published in 2006 revealed findings that coffee has a protective effect on the liver. So much so that it can play an active role in preventing the development of both alcoholic and nonalcoholic cirrhosis. This effect increases with time and the quantity drunk. So, if you drink reasonable amounts of coffee everyday for the larger portion of your life, you would effectively halve your risk of developing cirrhosis.
Take note however that the protecting effect of coffee on the liver is with in reason. 10 cups of coffee a day will probably not negate the effects of a further 10 units of alcohol per day! So for you to reap the benefit of coffee on your liver, you need to keep your consumption of alcohol within reasonable levels.
Also noteworthy, a further study(17) on the ability of coffee to prevent liver disease, found this protective effect on the liver is derived from the coffee itself as a whole, not from the caffeine compounds. So tea and other caffeinated beverages will not have the same effect.
Coffee Protects you from Certain Cancers
With cancer fast becoming the number one killer, including cancer fighting foods in ones diet is never a bad idea. However, many of these foods are often ‘special additions’. Things you do not eat often and have you wondering how to fit them into your diet.
Thankfully if you are a coffee drinker you will be happy to know that you already have a cancer fighter in your diet, and one that you probably consume without fail. And that is your coffee of course!
Thanks to its abundance of antioxidants, coffee has been placed on the list of cancer fighting foods. This is ironic, because previously it was considered to be a carcinogen, and was on the list of cancer causing / harmful foods. But, as mentioned earlier, earlier studies are thought to have been skewed by many participants being smokers. More recent studies where participants are all non-smokers reveal that coffee does not have carcinogenic properties.
To begin with, in 2016 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), having reviewed all available research on cancer and coffee, stated that they ‘found no clear association between coffee intake and cancer at any body site and, in some cases, found evidence that coffee drinking is associated with a reduced occurrence of certain cancers’ (18). Great news for coffee drinkers.
But. It gets better. Since then further research has been done showing that coffee consumption can dramatically reduce the risk of certain specific cancers.
A study (19) done in 2010 showed evidence that drinking five or more cups of coffee per day could lead to a 40% decreased risk of brain cancer.
In 2007 a study(20) came out which revealed that by drinking merely 2 cups of coffee per day, you could reduce your risk of developing liver cancer by up to 43%
In 2009 another study (21)was published which indicated that daily consumption of coffee could lead to a 20% reduced risk of endometrial cancer. With a further 7% decrease with each additional cup.
Also in 2010 a study (22) was published showing that by drinking a moderate amount of coffee per day you can decrease the risk of colon cancer (the second leading cause of deaths related to cancer) by 15%. And if you drink a high amount of coffee (4-6 cups) you could further reduce the risk by 26%.
It is noteworthy to mention that these benefits are of course enhanced by a healthy diet and lifestyle. But what is great to know is that coffee can definitely be a positive and beneficial part of such a lifestyle.
Coffee Enhances Short (and possibly long) Term Memory
Another area where coffee was thought to be of detriment was to do with the health of the brain and memory function. No one wants to lose their mind, even for coffee.
Fortunately science is proving these assumptions wrong once again. One study(23) concluded that caffeine improves short term memory as well as alertness and attentiveness. Another study(24) confirmed these findings that caffeine has a positive effect on short term memory.
At this point the findings are not all in with regards to whether or not coffee is beneficial to long term memory. However, one study(25) published in Nature Neuroscience, indicates that caffeine consumption enhances what they call memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is the process by which the brain stores information for long term retention.
I don’t know about you, but this sounds better and better. Now where did I put my cup again…..
Coffee Can Help to Prevent Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic ailment commonly affecting those of 50 years and older. It is one of those diseases no one wants to face. Thankfully it is another area which your daily intake of coffee may be protecting against.
Because coffee can give you the shakes, and Parkinson’s disease is characterised by involuntary tremors, it seems odd that coffee can act as a partial preventative. However the are numerous studies outlining that fact that daily coffee consumption can reduce your odds of developing this chronic disease.
This study(26) concludes that a higher coffee and caffeine intake is associated with a significantly lower incidence of PD. Another study(27) reported a 58% reduced risk of the development of Parkinson’s with daily coffee intake. A third study found that a high consumption of 5 or more cups of coffee per day was associated with a 61% reduced rate of risk in men, and a 60% reduced risk rate in women.
Coffee can Prevent Diabetes
Another chronic disease that coffee can help to could guard against is diabetes. A systematic review(28) published in 2012 states that their findings indicated that ‘habitual coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of type 2 DM’.
Another study(29) published in the American Diabetes Association, concludes that ‘ current or past coffee drinkers who did not have diabetes had a 60% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes during the next 8 years, when compared with those who never drank coffee. Additionally, those without diabetes who had impaired glucose were similarly protected against incident diabetes. The quantity of coffee consumed daily did not predict diabetes risk in either those with normal or impaired glucose.’
So basically, if you drink coffee, on a daily basis, you are privy to a 60% reduced risk of developing diabetes. Which extends to an 8 year period into the future. If you are borderline diabetic, it is not too late, you can still enjoy a reduction in the risk of developing diabetes by picking up a coffee habit.
Of course, don’t go putting sugar in your coffee, as this is not going to help with stabilizing blood sugar levels. Also, like with alcohol consumption, just because you are drinking coffee daily, does not meant that you can go crazy on sugar in other areas of your diet.
Coffee Can Lower the Your Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s and Dementia
If you are worried about developing Alzheimer’s or dementia in later life then this ability of coffee will really make your day. Maybe your mom had it, or maybe you just have a horror of losing your memory. But either way it is uber comforting to know that coffee can keep you safe from both of these debilitating diseases.
Numerous studies have linked a daily consumption of coffee with a decreased risk of the development of Alzheimer’s or dementia. This is yet another benefit of coffee’s which almost seems contradictory. We all know that the caffeine in coffee can get your brain firing faster and increase alertness. There is also an insidious belief that this somehow ‘wears out’ the brain. Science has backed up the belief that coffee is the short term antidote to a mental fog. It is now also indicating the regular drinking of decent amounts of coffee can have a cumulative and long term protective effect from the dreaded mental fog common in old age.
To look at the numbers, one study(30) published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease concluded that people who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day from middle age on wards, could reduce their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s by up to 65%. That’s some crazy numbers people!
Another study(31) published in 2016 stated that women who consumed coffee are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. They also stated that “The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potential protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications.” I’ll say!
Accordly to a further study(32), the same holds true for men. The conclusion of their research is “Findings suggest that consuming coffee reduces cognitive decline in elderly men. An inverse and J-shaped association may exist between the number of cups of coffee consumed and cognitive decline, with the least cognitive decline for men consuming three cups of coffee per day.”
Which in plain English means, men who drink on average 3 cups of coffee per day can enjoy a significantly reduced chance of developing memory loss.
Coffee Can Increase Your Lifespan
While this sounds dramatic, it is not surprising that coffee can increase your lifespan. Think about it, we have already established that coffee can prevent major diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’, Alzheimer’s and dementia. It can protect you heart and reduce the chance of strokes, while keeping up your mood and energy levels. It can even help to keep weight off and supercharge you through your work out. All combined, it makes sense that coffee could extend the length of your life.
Two big studies were done with the focus on whether or not coffee can extend a person’s life.
The larger of the two studies(33) analyzed the data of 520,000 people from 10 European countries for an average of 16.4 years. The researchers found that the more coffee was consumed on a daily basis, the lower the chance of death! The uppermost quartile of the subjects drank more than 3 cups of coffee per day. The men of this group enjoyed a 12% decreased chance of mortality. The women showed a 7% decreased in chance of mortality.
The second study(34) analyzed the diet and health habits of 185 855 people in America. The study also lasted for 16 years. It concluded that people who drank 3 or more cups of coffee per day were 18% less likely to die early than those who drank none. Those who drank 1 cup of coffee enjoyed a 12% decreased chance of early death. The overall reason for the decreased chance of early deaths was directly linked to coffee’s ability to guard against chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease etc.
Great News For Coffee Drinkers
Wow, what an extensive, exciting and fascinating list of health benefits! All of from much beloved and hitherto misunderstood coffee. For any coffee drinker, this list of positive impacts that coffee can have is cause for celebration. What could be better than enjoying coffee for the rest of your days, knowing that it is doing you good, not harm. Life brings enough things to worry about, so let’s from here on out take coffee right off of that list!
Most of the studies which have revealed coffee’s surprising and impressive health benefits do not advocate that we all go out and start drinking 10 cups of coffee per day. This is largely because to make a recommendation of that nature to the world’s population is not wise given that more research may be needed to solidify these findings.
However for the average coffee drinker, these results are more than enough to set one’s mind at ease about one’s coffee drinking. These findings also give us reason to start appreciating coffee for the benefits it brings!
How to Make the Most of Coffee’s Health Benefits
I am guessing that you as excited about coffee’s latest list of beneficial attributes as I am by now. But before coffee drinking goes on with renewed vigor – let’s take a look at how we can maximise (and not minimize or erase) the health benefits of coffee.
Consider Drinking Your Coffee Black
Milk and dairy products have garnered a lot of bad press in recent years. Some of this may be a little exaggerated, as many people are able to drink milk and consume dairy products without problems. There are however many others who have intolerances to dairy. People who have an intolerance to dairy do not process it well. COnsuming it can have a long range of negative effects. So if this is the case with you then consider cutting the milk from your coffee. Or substituting it with a milk which you can more easily digest such as almond milk. This way each cup of coffee you drink will bring its positive benefits, without any of the negatives associated with consumption of milk which you cannot process properly.
Don’t Drink Instant
This may seem a little obvious, but it has to be said anyway. The studies done on coffee’s health benefits listed in this article, all refer to coffee made from ground coffee beans. Not instant versions of coffee. Instant coffee generally contains a veritable host of chemicals and harmful substances which are best avoided entirely.
Cut the Sugar
Adding refined sugar to your coffee will of course do nothing to enhance its health giving properties. The opposite, it will make each cup of coffee you drink insulin spiking and calorie laden. This may sound dramatic. But sugar in one’s coffee is one of the most insidious ways it wangles itself into our diets. But what if you cannot picture a world where coffee is not sweet? Then why not try out using a healthier sweetener such as honey instead!
Go For Organic
We all know that most vegetables grown commercially contain pesticide residues. But when it comes to coffee not many of us stop to think about whether it is pure or not. However, it may not come as any big surprise to you that coffee is one of the most chemical laden food products. It has been classed among the most heavily chemically treated foods in the world. And is steeped in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.
So are you are keen to drink coffee not only fors its kick, but also for its health benefits? Then really consider going organic. Organic coffees may be pricier than their sprayed counterparts, but it is well worth the price. And by choosing to buy organic coffee you will of course be withdrawing your financial support of the petrochemical agricultural system. And be supporting a more sustainable blueprint. With just the bang of your buying power.
Filter Rather than Boil Your Coffee
And if you were wondering which is the healthiest way to prepare your coffee, filtered coffee could be better for your health than boiled coffee.
One study(35) examining the whether or not coffee could cause prostate cancer showed that filtered coffee was not a risk factor, however boiled coffee was.
“An inverse relationship between number of cups per day and the risk of prostate cancer was present only for the boiled coffee type.”
Another study(36) investigating whether or not coffee had an adverse effect on cholesterol levels indicated that while filtered coffee did not have a negative effect on cholesterol levels, boiled coffee did. This is due to the fact that the coffee contains a substance called cafestol. Cafestol is a potent stimulator of LDL-cholesterol levels. And it is present in the oil compounds within coffee. Boiled coffee contains more of these oils than filtered coffee. Coffee that is filtered through a paper or cloth filter contains the least. French press coffee, Greek boiled coffee and Turkish coffee contain higher levels.
And Lastly, Listen to Your Body
From many of these studies mentioned here it would appear that what is often considered excessive coffee drinking, between 4-6 cups, could be beneficial in some areas.
However, do take into account that each study is focussed on a specific area of health in the body. Drinking multiple cups of coffee during the day may be beneficial to certain areas of the body. But it does not mean that it is the right thing for every person.
Tips for listening to your body:
Here are a couple tips for listening to your body when it comes to drinking coffee.
Observe your sleeping patterns
If you suffer from insomnia or light sleeping patterns, this could be caused by excessive coffee drinking or caffeine consumption. Trouble sleeping may be an indication that you need to either reduce the amount of cups you drink per day. Or it may mean that you are drinking coffee too late in the day, which is impacting your sleeping rhythms. Getting adequate sleep is vital to your well being. So no matter what the health benefits of coffee may be. If you are not getting enough sleep because of it, it would be a good idea to adjust your consumption accordingly.
Avoid Getting the Jitters
Most coffee drinkers know the feeling of caffeine induced jitters. If you have the jitters you have drunk too much coffee in too short a span of time and your body is having trouble metabolising the caffeine. This is technically referred to as caffeine toxicity. There is not much you can do to help your body with the burden excet wait for it to pass through.
So as a general rule of thumb, make sure that you you are consuming your coffee in a quantity and frequency that is not giving you the jitters.
Make Sure that You are Urinating Enough
Those of us who are drinking coffee all day often forget that we need to be filling up on water too. In fact, if you drink coffee, it is doubly important to drink enough water. The Southern Europeans in some areas have a habit of ordering tall glasses of water with their expressos. This has the effect of hydrating and rinsing the mouth out. As coffee stains the teeth, swirling down some pure water after finishing your coffee is a great idea. From the point of view that it rinses your teeth as well as hydrating!
A good way to make sure that you are drinking enough water is to keep tabs on how many times you go to the bathroom per day. You should urinating a decent amount, every couple of hours. Also, color counts. If your urine is dark yellow – you need water. If it is a light color, great. You are hydrating well.
Don’t Drink Coffee if You are Suffering from Anxiety
Coffee can increase the levels of adrenaline in the body. No wonder it gets us up the morning! If however you are suffering from high anxiety levels, then coffee will not be at all helpful.
Don’t Drink Coffee if You are Suffering from Adrenal Fatigue
Because coffee causes adrenaline to be secreted into the bloodstream, drinking coffee if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue is considered to be a bad idea.
Did I just hear a big sigh of relief from all of the coffee drinkers out there? Isn’t it wonderful to now know that your favorite beverage could be boosting your body! : )
We hope you enjoyed this article, and that you have an informed idea of how coffee could benefit your health, and how to drink to maximise these benefits. As well how to listen to your body to know when you have had too much, or shouldn’t be having any at all for certain reasons.
And now.. I am off to go get a cup of coffee.
Happy Brewing folks!