Raise a mug on National Coffee Day: Your favorite morning habit may offer more benefits than just a jolt of caffeine. Coffee has been consumed for hundreds of years and blamed for several ills such as causing heart disease and stunting your growth. However, a growing body of research shows that your morning cup of Joe may have several health benefits when consumed in moderation. These are some big ones.
Coffee improves energy and can keep you sharp.
Let’s start with the benefit most people love about coffee. The caffeine in coffee is the most frequently consumed psychoactive substance in the world. Caffeine helps people feel less tired with increased energy.
The reason is because caffeine blocks adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. When this stimulant effect happens, other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine increase as neuron firing increases.
A number of controlled human trials suggest that coffee improves various areas of brain function like mood, reaction times, memory, and general cognitive function.
Coffee contains essential nutrients and antioxidants.
The main essential nutrients in a cup of black coffee are:
- Hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols: Antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress.
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B12) – 11% RDA for adults
- Vitamin B5 – 6% RDA for adults
Coffee may reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Caffeine’s role in reducing the risk of dementia has been studied many times. Most studies indicate that moderate coffee consumption may lower the risk for common neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Scientists are unsure exactly why coffee seems to slow the onset of dementia but believe it could be mediated by the caffeine in coffee, coffee’s antioxidant capacity, and/or increased insulin sensitivity in coffee drinkers.
In the future, experts may recommend drinking coffee to delay age-related mental conditions, but more research is needed in this area. For now, coffee drinkers can toast to protecting their brains.
Coffee may lower your risk of Type II diabetes.
Affecting about 300 million people in the US, type II diabetes is a major health problem. But studies suggest that people who drink 3 cups of coffee (or tea) per day have a 23-50% lower risk of developing the disease.
One study published in Diabetologia found that “Total daily consumption of at least three cups of coffee and/or tea reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by approximately 42%. Adjusting for blood pressure, magnesium, potassium and caffeine did not attenuate the associations.”
Coffee helps burn fat.
Due to its stimulant effect on the nervous system, the caffeine in coffee both raises metabolism and increases the oxidation of fatty acids. Caffeine has also been shown to improve your exercise performance by 11-12%–leading to more fat loss. It’s no wonder why people opt for a shot of espresso or a cup of coffee prior to exercising.
How much is too much?
Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems. The caffeine in coffee can raise blood pressure and blood levels of the fight-or-flight chemical epinephrine (also called adrenaline) causing anxiety. Sensitive individuals should be mindful of the caffeine levels in their diet and listen to their body especially during stressful periods in life. Coffee has also been linked to digestive issues in some people due to its high acidity.
The takeaway is to enjoy your coffee—in moderation. Drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe for most healthy adults. Cheers!