Next to water, coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world. Many people look to the caffeinated drink first thing in the morning, but then feel bad about it. How many times have you heard someone swear to quit drinking coffee? How many times have you said it?
Like many things in nutrition, coffee has gained a bad rep, and wrongly so. If taken in excess, it can cause restlessness, which leads to a slew of other complications. All the junk people put into their Cup of Joe doesn’t help either. But the real problem with coffee goes a little bit deeper. Let’s address that first.
The Bad Reputation
Coffee received its bad name from studies that showed correlation to risk of cancer or heart disease. However, those studies usually didn’t take into account that people who drank a lot of coffee were also likely to be smokers or physically inactive, two big independent contributors. More recent controlled studies have found no correlation between coffee consumption and heart disease or cancer. Also, adding milk, cream, and sugar to your coffee makes it less like coffee and more like a calorie-laden soft drink.
With that cleared up, let’s look at why coffee is so awesome.
Coffee is making a full 360. Instead of causing cancer, studies suggest that it may help prevent the fatal disease.
- Coffee may lower the risk of liver cancer by around 40 percent.
- Over a 25-year time frame, drinking four or more cups of coffee a day could lower risk of oral cancer by 50 percent.
- For men, consuming at least six cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 20 percent.
- Women who drink more than four cups of coffee a day may have a 25 percent lower risk of endometrial cancer.
- The caffeine in coffee may lower the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer).
Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It blocks the effects of an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, allowing for increased activity. Studies have shown that caffeine can improve mood, reaction time, memory, vigilance and general cognitive function. Dave Asprey (aka The Bulletproof Executive) talks about some of the mental benefits he receives from coffee here.
When it comes to the brain, coffee can also help prevent degenerative diseases. It has been found to lower the risk of Parkinson’s by 32-60 percent and is associated with a much lower risk of dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
You are probably already aware of caffeine’s effects on mental alertness, but did you know that it can also help with your fitness goals? Caffeine has been shown to raise the metabolism and increase the oxidation of fatty acids. It can give you that boost of energy needed to perform your best in the gym, meaning better workouts and better results.
Coffee has also been associated with a lower risk of Type II Diabetes, a prevalent disease amongst obese individuals. Different studies (here, here, here, and here) have shown reduction in risk ranging from 23-67 percent!
If that’s not enough, a study in the journal Cell Metabolism found that caffeine can have similar effects on DNA molecules as physical exercise. Though this in no way means you should skip the gym for a trip to Starbucks, coffee can be a great supplement to your muscle-building regimen.
Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the western diet (yep, more-so than fruits and vegetables!). A cup of coffee contains Vitamins B5, B2, B3, and B1 in addition to Potassium and Manganese.
Given all of the benefits listed above, the following shouldn’t come as a surprise: coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of death by all causes. The benefit to longevity of life seems to be especially poignant for people with certain chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
The Bottom Line
Like most healthy foods, coffee can be easily transformed into a death-drink by bombarding it with the wrong materials: sugar, cream, whip cream, milk, and more sugar. And also like most foods, processed is bad! There are different kinds of coffee out there and different ways to make them. A little bit of research goes a long way!
So the next time you think about quitting coffee, ask yourself if what you really need to do is start drinking the right type of coffee.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you a coffee drinker? Do you believe in its health benefits? Tell us below!