The Health Benefits of Coffee

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By: Sammy Cusimano

Famous 20th century poet, T.S. Eliot once wrote, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.”  Along with water and tea, coffee is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in cultures spanning the entire globe.  Coffee is an integral part of the daily ritual of so many individuals. Not only is it a soothing drink-of-choice for so many people, but it is also a great way to boost physical energy and increase concentration, at the start of the day.  Coffee is actually second only to oil as the most traded commodity in the world. While Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia are the top producers of coffee in the world, the top consumer countries are the United States, Germany and Italy. With over 2 billion cups of coffee being consumed worldwide each day, the popularity of the beverage is as notable as the list of health benefits directly related to it.

The main health benefits of coffee are rooted in the types of beans used in the processing of the drink. The two most commonly used coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. While Arabica is generally grown at higher altitudes and constitutes 70% of all coffee beans grown, the Robusta beans are typically grown at lower altitudes and are used for everyday instant coffees, due to the fact that they are easier to grow.  Robusta beans also possess a higher caffeine content and slightly bitter taste. Some coffee companies blend both Arabica and Robusta beans to create a smooth tasting drink that also has a higher caffeine content. Together both types of beans offer a host of nutritional benefits.  Ranging from preventing serious conditions such as heart disease to daily improvement of health and wellness, due to the content of antioxidants, Arabica and Robusta coffee beans can be a nutritious addition to a health-conscious daily routine.

Perhaps one of the most prominent of the health benefits associated with coffee is the positive effect that it may have on the brain.  The stimulating effect of caffeine in coffee leads to enhanced firing of neurons in the brain, due to the blocking of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, adenosine.  When adenosine is blocked, this allows an increase in “feel good” brain chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which leads to improved brain function. Drinking coffee regularly has been shown in studies to significantly improve memory, energy levels, alertness, reaction time and even mood.  Coffee has even been shown to decrease mild to moderate depression. The mood-elevating effect of coffee can be just the catalyst you need to help start the momentum for a positive and productive day.

In the realm of fitness and weight loss, coffee is a highly effective addition to any nutritional regimen. The caffeine content in coffee can help give your body the boost it needs to get the metabolism charged up while also energizing the muscles.   Many fat-burning supplements, as well as pre-workout supplements, on the market today contain caffeine. Its fat-burning ability is tried-and-true. Caffeine is actually one of the few natural substances that can boost a person’s metabolic rate while greatly improving physical performance.  By stimulating the nervous system, caffeine is able to increase adrenaline levels. This leads to the breaking down of body fat. As the body fat breaks down, free fatty acids become available as a fuel source for exercise. Coffee is still one of the most effective and healthy pre-workout drinks.

In addition to the positive health benefits that coffee has on the mind and body, it is also an excellent weapon in the prevention of certain diseases.  It has been shown in studies that drinking coffee regularly may help reduce the risk of type 2 Diabetes. This is largely due to the bioactive compound, cafestol, found in coffee that not only increases insulin secretion but also may reduce fasting glucose levels.

Drinking coffee may also lower the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s. Studies have shown that individuals who consume coffee regularly have up to a 65% lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and up to a 60% lower chance of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Coffee has been shown to also help prevent diseases of the liver, heart and even some cancers (mainly liver cancer and colorectal cancer).  Although coffee can increase blood pressure in some individuals, the effect is usually minimal and decreases if it is consumed regularly. In moderation, coffee consumption does not cause heart disease or stroke.  In fact, it can actually help reduce the risk of both heart disease and stroke when ingested in appropriate amounts.

The key to reaping the health benefits of coffee without experiencing any unpleasant side effects is moderation.
On average, a cup of coffee is about 100-150 mg of caffeine. Most individuals can consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day with little to no adverse side effects. Basically, drinking one to three cups of coffee per day is safe for most people. However, everyone’s body is different. Some people may be able to consume more caffeine than others with no side effects.  When you ingest too much caffeine, especially on a daily basis, the chances of negative effects do increase. Some of the changes you may feel in your body are anxiety, insomnia, weakened immune system, diarrhea, rapid heart rate and even headaches. Pregnant women and anyone with high blood pressure should consult with a physician before drinking coffee.
The advantages of drinking coffee every day apply to so many aspects of the human body.  Being such a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, coffee is one of the healthiest drinks in existence.  Plain coffee with no sugar, artificial sweeteners or creamer is the most nutritionally beneficial way of consuming the soothing beverage.  If you do add any flavoring to coffee, aim for healthy options such as skim milk and natural sweeteners. Starting each morning with a balanced breakfast, that includes coffee, is a daily ritual that will certainly set the tone for a positive day, for you to accomplish all that you wish on your journey to a life lived to the fullest.  Drink every day to the last drop!

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