Health Benefits of Coffee

You've undoubtedly heard about many health studies performed on coffee—some tout its health benefits while others warn against the looming dangers of consuming it. Despite ever-evolving science, this much is true: there are proven benefits to consuming up to a few cups of coffee per day. There are downsides, too, for certain populations.

Let's cover the health benefits of coffee, its nutrition, and when certain people should avoid consuming it.

Benefits

When people think of coffee, caffeine is usually the first ingredient that comes to mind. Depending on who you talk to, caffeine has a good or bad reputation. However, few people realize that coffee has a good source of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect you from cancer and other diseases since they block free radicals from forming in your body.

Researchers have run countless studies on coffee, and the conclusion is clear: your cup of joe has health benefits, like reducing your risk of heart failure. Below are the most significant highlights from a study performed at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Longer Lifespan

Coffee prevents early death from heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The study found that women, in particular, received the biggest disease-fighting benefit compared to men. Other research agrees that coffee can improve a person's lifespan, citing that drinking two to four cups per day reduces the risk of various diseases.

Improved Glucose Processing

Coffee drinkers have a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes since it's believed that coffee can improve how glucose processes in the body. Of course, dumping sugar into your coffee will likely counteract any benefits of this glucose benefit.

Increases Mobility

It's believed that Parkinson's disease and people who have trouble controlling their movements may benefit by drinking coffee. In fact, the study shows that coffee drinkers have less of a chance of developing Parkinson's disease than non-coffee drinkers.

Healthier Liver

If too many late nights out on the town have you worried about the condition of your liver, coffee can help. Scientists discovered that frequent coffee drinkers—regular and decaf drinkers alike—have healthier enzyme levels in their liver.

Strengthens DNA

It may sound like a big claim, but the research is in: coffee can help repair damaged DNA strands, preventing diseases such as cancer. There's a catch, though—dark roast coffee is the only roast variety that appears to offer this benefit.

Decreases Colon Cancer Risk

According to John Hopkins' study, 26% fewer coffee-drinking women get colon cancer than non-coffee drinking women. Other studies show that drinking six cups of coffee per day lessened the risk of different cancer types. As the saying goes, though, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Drinking excessive amounts of coffee has risks, which we'll cover shortly.

Improves memory

Study after study has shown a strong link between drinking coffee and memory improvement. It's believed that two cups worth of caffeinated coffee reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Health professionals have varying opinions on how much coffee you should drink to receive its benefits. Generally speaking, it's believed that drinking three to four cups of coffee per day is a safe amount.

That said, the impact of coffee on reducing hypertension requires drinking excessive amounts of coffee, according to many studies. People who consume seven cups per day have a 9% lower risk of developing hypertension.

However, drinking as little as three cups of coffee over the long term can reduce the chances of experiencing hypertension. It's believed that anyone who drinks less than three cups of coffee per day does not receive any anti-hypertension benefits.

The effect of coffee on mental health is still up for debate. Shorter-term research indicates that coffee can help reduce depression. However, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom believes that eliminating coffee from one's diet could decrease anxiety. In either case, longer-term studies will shed more light on the benefits—or lack thereof—of coffee on mental health.

Nutrition

There's more to coffee than caffeine, but since that's the ingredient that tends to interest people the most, let's begin there. Any given cup of coffee ranges in how much caffeine it contains since it depends on the type of roast and how you brew it.

As a general rule, an 8-ounce cup of coffee brewed from coffee grounds has approximately 95 milligrams of caffeine. On the other hand, a mere 25 milliliters of espresso contains about 53 milligrams of caffeine.

You already know that the darker the roast, the less caffeine coffee beans have per gram since the beans expand during the heating process. However, the caffeine content in different coffee roasts doesn't necessarily translate to your cup of coffee. Why is that, you ask? It comes down to the brewing method used.

Machines such as the French press take out more caffeine from dark roasted coffee beans. On the other hand, they've designed espresso machines to extract caffeine from lightly roasted coffee beans. For this reason, if you want to maximize the amount of caffeine you get in your cup of coffee, it's important to pair the coffee bean roast with the appropriate coffee machine.

Now, let's take a closer look at coffee nutrition aside from caffeine. Some of the most significant components in coffee include:

These micronutrients can add up to substantial quantities if you drink a few mugs of coffee per day. Coffee contains traces of sodium, so people on low-sodium diets won't have to worry about reducing their coffee intake.

That said, the type of water you use can have small impacts on the micronutrients in your cup of coffee. For instance, soft and hard water tends to vary in the amount of calcium and magnesium they contain.

Coffee doesn't contain any substantial macronutrients such as fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Assuming you don't drink your coffee with milk or sugar, an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains a mere two calories. That makes it an excellent option for people on a diet, but the Mayo Clinic warns that coffee isn't likely going to have you shedding pounds.

Although some people tout caffeine as a shortcut for weight loss, with many weight loss pills containing it, there isn't concrete evidence that coffee supports weight loss. However, there are some theories that coffee can help with appetite suppression and small amounts of calorie-burning since caffeine makes you use up more energy even when you're resting.

Nevertheless, the impact is likely too minimal to make a significant difference in supporting your weight loss goals.

With almost 100% of coffee containing water, coffee is considered a hydrating drink. However, a side effect of caffeine includes frequent urination. So, it's best to supplement your coffee consumption with plenty of water.

Coffee also contains antioxidants, which help to repair damaged cells in your body. Aside from coffee, good sources of antioxidants include green tea, dark chocolate, and berries. However, numerous studies show that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in a Westerner's diet since they don't have a big tea culture.

Antioxidants come in various forms. Examples you'll likely recognize includes:

Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin that produces collagen, aids protein metabolism and wound healing.

Vitamin E: A fat-soluble vitamin that prevents reactive oxygen production in the body, thus reducing free-radical production.

Flavonoids: A phytonutrient found in nearly all plants that offer anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.

Risks

It'll come as no surprise to you that studies show there are risks with drinking coffee. However, the good news is that if you're a healthy adult, drinking a few cups of coffee per day will likely offer you more benefits than harm. Nevertheless, some people experience side effects from coffee, especially if they're new to drinking it or if they consume a greater quantity of coffee than usual.

Side effects of caffeinated coffee include:

These symptoms are classic signs of a caffeine overload. If you're experiencing any of them, reduce the amount of coffee you consume. Depending on how long you've been drinking coffee, you might go through a withdrawal period. However, if you stick with it, you should start to feel better soon.

Caffeine is a powerful substance in coffee that encourages the consumption of approximately two billion cups of coffee each day. However, over time the body can become accustomed to caffeine's impact, making it necessary for people to consume more coffee to receive the same stimulant benefits that they used to receive from less coffee.

Below are some situations in which people should avoid coffee as a result of caffeine.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Women

Generally speaking, doctors agree that it's safe for pregnant women to drink small amounts of coffee, being careful that it doesn't exceed 300 mg of caffeine. The reason being is that there's the possibility of caffeine cutting through the placenta and entering the baby's bloodstream. Since babies can't break down caffeine, it'll stay in their circulation.

Similarly, medical professionals typically say it's okay for women to drink coffee in moderation while breastfeeding. Similar reasoning applies during pregnancy since caffeine can enter the mother's milk.

Children

You've likely heard someone say that coffee will stunt a child's growth. That's a myth since how high a child grows corresponds with genes and good nutrition. However, it's discouraged for children under the age of twelve to consume caffeine. It's considered safe for children between 12 and 18 years old to consume up to 100 mg of caffeine per day. That's equivalent to approximately 8 ounces (one cup) of coffee.

Osteoporosis

Caffeine takes calcium out of the body via urination. Since calcium is critical for strong bones, drinking excessive amounts of caffeine over time can cause your bones to weaken and lead to osteoporosis. You can help counteract this impact by taking calcium supplements. However, it's best to keep your caffeine consumption to under 300 mg per day if you're concerned about osteoporosis.

Heart Disease

Unfiltered coffee can increase the amount of cholesterol and fat in your bloodstream. For this reason, people with heart disease should always drink filtered coffee. Some studies suggest that drinking coffee of any kind can increase the risk of heart disease for people with preexisting conditions. However, this is still mostly a theory.

Diabetes

People with diabetes will likely roll their eyes at what researchers say about coffee's caffeine and how it affects sugar levels. Of the many studies run, most scientists believe that caffeine changes the way diabetics process sugar. However, a handful of those studies found that caffeine increases blood sugar, while others found that it decreases blood sugar.

The bottom line? If you have diabetes, make sure to check your blood sugar regularly and watch how drinking coffee impacts your blood sugar levels, if any.

Diarrhea

Caffeine is good for constipation and terrible for diarrhea. Therefore, if you're experiencing diarrhea, you should stop consuming coffee until it passes.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the result of too much pressure on the eye and can lead to blindness. Since caffeine increases pressure on the eye for up to 90 minutes after drinking coffee, people with glaucoma should only consume decaf coffee.

As a final note, since coffee contains some natural oils, you might find that your cholesterol increases if you drink unfiltered coffee frequently. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease, although if you use coffee filters, the heart-healthy benefits from coffee outweigh the effects of cholesterol.

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