Is it Really Good for You?
Some say coffee is good; some say not to drink it. But what does science say?
After significant research, here is the overwhelming conclusion: coffee is more than just a delightful beverage to kickstart your day; it offers many health benefits that go far beyond the temporary energy boost after a sleepless night. Sadly, you may be doing things that make all the health benefits disappear.
Let’s explore how this popular drink can positively impact your health, from enhancing brain function to aiding in weight management.
A study examining mortality rates related to coffee consumption revealed an intriguing trend: individuals who drink coffee tend to have longer lifespans than those who don’t. Researchers attribute this phenomenon to several health benefits associated with coffee. Chief among these are its positive effects on inflammation, lung function, insulin sensitivity, and depression.
Coffee contains several potent antioxidants, including hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenol phytonutrients known as chlorogenic acids in coffee beans. Studies have shown their acute blood pressure-lowering effects, evident in a reduction of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
This effect leads to the question: which coffee is healthiest? It is beneficial to consider the chlorogenic acid content, which contributes significantly to coffee’s overall health advantages.
1. Longer Life: In an extensive study spanning nearly sixteen years across ten European countries, researchers investigated the relationship between coffee consumption and longevity, tracking the habits of over 750,000 individuals. The study’s conclusion that up to three cups of coffee a day is associated with health benefits should come as good news to coffee drinkers.
The findings were quite revealing. Coffee consumption appeared to have a favorable impact on longevity. As reported by Reuters, male coffee drinkers had a 12% lower risk of dying during the study period compared to non-drinkers. For women, death during the study was 7% lower among those who drank coffee. These results suggest that while coffee may not be the elixir of life, it could influence the timing of mortality.
2. Brain Activity: Coffee’s ability to boost energy and brain performance, alertness, and energy level is well documented. The caffeine travels to the brain after being absorbed into the bloodstream, where it blocks adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
This blockade leads to increased neuron activity and the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, enhancing brain function. Research indicates that coffee can improve brain functions, including memory, mood, and cognitive abilities. It has also been linked to a reduced risk of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Fat Burning: Coffee naturally aids fat burning. Caffeine, its active ingredient, enhances thermogenesis—the body’s way of generating heat and energy from food. This process can increase metabolic rate by 3 to 11%, supporting weight loss or maintenance efforts.
Notably, these effects might be less pronounced in long-term coffee drinkers. Remember, a healthy diet and lifestyle (as taught in the 7 Systems Plan) are critical for fat-burning and a healthy weight; you cannot simply rely on your morning coffee.
4. Heart Care: Recent European Society of Cardiology research has shed light on the relationship between coffee consumption and cardiovascular health. The study, involving 449,563 adults over 12.5 years, focused on the effects of different types of coffee on the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), arrhythmias, and mortality.
The findings indicated that drinking 4-5 cups of ground coffee is linked to a lower risk of arrhythmia. However, this benefit didn’t appear in decaffeinated coffee drinkers. All coffee types, including decaf, were associated with a reduced risk of CVD and decreased mortality, particularly at 2-3 cups per day.
These results challenge the belief that coffee consumption might lead to cardiac arrhythmias and instead suggest its protective role in cardiovascular health. The study highlights the ‘sweet spot’ of coffee consumption, advocating 2-3 cups daily as part of a healthy lifestyle, preferably organic and medium roast for higher chlorogenic acid content (more on this in a minute).
5. Blood Sugar: Managing blood sugar levels is crucial for reducing the risk of diabetes, a condition marked by high blood sugar levels and insulin dysfunction. Studies suggest that regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This protective effect could be due to the ability of coffee to influence factors like insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
6. Autophagy: Autophagy is a cellular process where cells degrade and recycle components, promoting cellular health and renewal. Coffee stimulates this process, contributing to healthier cells and reducing the risk of certain diseases. The polyphenols in coffee can induce autophagy and reduce protein acetylation levels, thereby supporting the body’s ability to generate new and healthier cells.
7. Bowel Movements: For those dealing with constipation, coffee might offer relief. It stimulates colon muscles and aids peristalsis, which moves food through the Digestive System. This effect is not solely due to caffeine, as studies have shown similar benefits with decaffeinated coffee. The beverage’s acidity can increase stomach acid production and stimulate bowel movements.
Do All Coffees Have the Same Health Benefits?
The role of chlorogenic acid as a contributor to the health benefits of coffee raises the question: Do all coffees have the same level of this beneficial compound? Surprisingly, the content of chlorogenic acid can vary significantly across different coffee brands.
An analysis of over a hundred coffee types found that while caffeine levels varied moderately, the levels of chlorogenic acid differed by more than 30 times. This finding suggests that the choice of coffee can significantly influence its health benefits.
A recent study found Starbucks coffee exceptionally low in chlorogenic acid—ten times lower than other brands, most likely due to its dark roasting process.
The longer and darker the roast, the lower the chlorogenic acid levels, with dark roasts potentially reducing up to 90% of this compound. However, the difference between a medium light and a medium roast seems negligible, as both provide a similar health boost.
Other factors like preparation and decaffeination do not impact the chlorogenic acid content much. Therefore, when considering the health benefits of coffee, take into account the type and roast of the coffee beans.
Add Milk to Your Coffee?
The impact of adding milk to coffee, particularly concerning its antioxidant properties, has been the subject of intriguing research. In laboratory settings, mixing milk with coffee substantially decreased the coffee’s antioxidant activity.
A mere splash of milk reduced this activity by over 50%, while in milk-heavy preparations like lattes, the reduction soared to 95%. However, remember that what occurs in a test tube may not always reflect what happens inside the human body. Thus, the real question is how this interaction affects the body.
Researchers conducted a study to observe the effects of milk on the absorption of chlorogenic acids within the human body. The results were telling. Participants who drank their coffee with milk had significantly lower chlorogenic acid levels in their bloodstream than those who drank black coffee.
The presence of milk cut down the absorption of these beneficial compounds by more than half. This finding is important for coffee drinkers interested in maximizing their brew’s health benefits, suggesting that forgoing milk could be a better option for enhancing the absorption of coffee’s antioxidants.
What about Soy Milk?
Regarding soymilk, while it does possess many advantages over cow’s milk, the question remains: does it similarly impede the absorption of coffee’s healthful compounds? The answer, as research indicates, is no. Studies have found no significant difference in the absorption of coffee phytonutrients whether the coffee is consumed black or with soymilk.
While it’s advisable to avoid dairy milk if you’re looking to maximize the health benefits of your coffee, adding soymilk does not appear to have the same nutrient-blocking effects and can be considered a suitable alternative.
What about other milks? Almond, rice, and coconut-based milk have so little protein that a blocking effect would not exist.
To Get the Maximum Benefits from Your Coffee:
- Drink it black.
- Purchase coffee in whole bean form and grind it yourself to prevent rancidity. Pre-ground coffee goes rancid and becomes harmful. You don’t know how long it sat on the shelf before you bought it.
- Purchase organic coffee. Coffee is a heavily pesticide-contaminated crop. Many brands contain harmful chemicals and mold. Mycotoxins, deriving from fungi and mold, are present in a significant proportion of coffee beans, with studies indicating up to 91% of green coffee beans and about half of commercially brewed coffees are affected. Consuming low-quality, moldy coffee can lead to various chronic health issues. Switching to a brand tested for toxins may minimize these symptoms. This coffee is a good one:
- Purchase light or medium roast beans rather than dark.
- Use an unbleached coffee filter. Filtering can remove harmful contents from coffee and water.
- Stop caffeine after 2 PM for those with sleep problems.
Coffee is a healthy, complex beverage with various bioactive compounds contributing to its health benefits. While it is well-known for its energizing effects, its perks extend to improving mental function, aiding in weight management, regulating blood sugar levels, enhancing cellular health, and supporting digestive regularity.
These benefits underscore the value of coffee as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, although it should be consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. Whether enjoying your morning cup for energy, mental clarity, or as a comforting ritual, coffee can be a valuable addition to your health regimen.
For Your Health,
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Teresa’s 7 Systems Kitchen
Enjoy a couple of cups of freshly ground, freshly brewed coffee.
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