Do you enjoy coffee? For me, awakening to the aroma of brewing coffee is a welcome way to start the day. The bitter taste awakens my taste buds and the caffeine enlivens my energy. But the conflicting rumors about whether coffee is good for us or not has interfered with my full enjoyment of every delicious sip – until now. Here’s the truth about coffee.
Unless we drink an entire pot at a time, add a huge amount of sugar, artificial sweeteners, or top it with whipped cream, the boost we get from coffee is more than just a pick-me-up. Studies from around the world document that coffee has many health benefits:
Protects your heart
People who drink 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day have the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease. The conclusion is based on loads of data, a “meta-analysis” of 21 studies and it's true for women and men. And if you have high cholesterol and you don't want your coffee adding to the problem, use a paper filter to trap the cafestol, a compound in coffee that raises LDL cholesterol levels.
Keeps your mind sharp
Italian researchers studied their subjects for many years. The data show that older folks who enjoy a cup or two a day have lower rates of cognitive decline than those who don’t drink coffee.
Manages blood sugar
More than 15 published studies show that coffee reduces the risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and that’s true even if you drink decaf. The magnesium and chromium in coffee help our bodies use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar. If you prefer green tea, it has the same effect.
People who drink coffee are less likely to be depressed. Caffeine's stimulant effect acts as a mood booster. That's true when we drink alone, and especially true when we get together with friends for coffee. A Harvard study found that when we drink 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day, the risk of suicide is cut by 45 percent.
Moves your bowels
You may notice that your morning coffee ritual is often accompanied by a timely bowel movement. Coffee stimulates peristalsis – a series of muscle contractions and relaxations along the intestinal tract that pushes food and waste products through. On mornings when I'm constipated, that first cup of coffee saves the day.
Interrupts a headache
Coffee stimulates blood flow to the brain. When the body releases a chemical that inflames blood vessels, a headache happens causing throbbing pain. Caffeine helps constrict blood vessels. So if I wake up with a morning headache, I reach for coffee rather than a pain pill which contains caffeine to increase its effectiveness. Works for me!
Lowers cancer risk
Adults who drink four or more 8-ounce cups of regular coffee daily are half as
likely to die of mouth and upper throat cancer. Decaf had a weaker effect, while no protection was found with tea.
Beats back Parkinson’s
Anything that lowers the chance of getting Parkinson's disease has my vote. The Journal of American Medical Association published a study that followed 8000 coffee drinking men over 30 years. The conclusion is that drinking coffee significantly lowers the risk of getting Parkinson's.
Is someone telling you that coffee isn’t healthy? They’re wrong.
Coffee is a good example of the adage that food is medicine – sometimes good medicine, sometimes bad. I’ve shared the good news about coffee, but no food or drink is completely risk free because each of us has a unique reaction to what we consume. For some, heartburn can be an uncomfortable side effect of the acidity of coffee, too much caffeine can make us jittery and keep us awake, and caffeine can interact poorly with some medications. But studies show that drinking reasonable amounts of coffee — three eight-ounce cups a day — cuts our risk of dying from heart disease, lung disease, stroke, and cancer. And drinking coffee minimizes the likelihood of getting Alzheimer's, Diabetes, and Parkinson's.
Finally – something we enjoy that's actually good for us!
Sources: Mayoclinic, JAMA, Webmd, J Regan, Dr. Rob van Dam.