Coffee, one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, has been a staple in many cultures for centuries. It is not only appreciated for its taste and stimulating properties but also for its potential health benefits. This essay delves into the various health advantages of consuming coffee, exploring its impact on different aspects of human health, and debunking some common misconceptions.
Coffee has become one of the staple foods of our nation. Not having enough coffee makes us moody, tired, uncooperative, and unfiltered. So what is it about this brown substance that turns us into super-functional, effective, and friendly beings? And is it even good for us?
Well, fret not — if coffee is an important part of your day, it might be good to know that it has your best interests at heart. Read on to explore all how your daily cup (or three) of joe benefits you!
Coffee beans and their origins
Coffee beans are seeds of the Coffea plant, native to tropical regions of Africa. There are two main species of coffee beans: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora (commonly known as Robusta). Arabica is known for its mild, nuanced flavor, while Robusta is more bitter and higher in caffeine content. The differences in taste, aroma and chemical composition between these species result in varying health effects.
There have been many studies conducted since then and one particular study in 2017 found that those who frequently drank coffee had fewer health problems overall compared to those who drank no coffee at all.
Not everyone should be consuming coffee on a daily, though, as some conditions are still unclear. Overconsumption is a great concern and the safety of caffeine use during pregnancy is not clear enough yet.
The main ingredient in coffee, caffeine, acts as a stimulant. When caffeine reaches your brain through your bloodstream, it blocks adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can act as a central nervous system depressant.
This then causes other neurotransmitters to fire more, leaving dopamine and norepinephrine which makes you happier and more alert.
Other brain functions are also improved besides your energy levels and attention — your memory might perform better, your mood will be improved and even your reaction times might be quicker! This will help you make smarter decisions, quicker with fewer mistakes.
Can coffee help with weight loss
Good news – yes! Caffeine is absorbed so quickly into the bloodstream that it increases your heart rate. This, in turn, increases your metabolism and can lead to increased fat burning by 10% – 29%!
Regular caffeine consumption has been shown to enhance the metabolic rate between 3% and 11%, so make sure to always have a cup of coffee directly after a big meal to help you process your food faster!
Another thing you might have noticed is that caffeine can also make you feel full, which means that for a while after your break-time cup, you might be less hungry too!
Key bioactive compounds in coffee
Caffeine: The most well-known component of coffee, caffeine, is a central nervous system stimulant responsible for coffee’s energizing effects. It has been associated with improved cognitive function, physical performance, and mood enhancement.
Antioxidants: Coffee is rich in antioxidants, including chlorogenic acids, caffeic acid, and ferulic acid. These compounds neutralize free radicals, reduce oxidative stress, and may contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases.
Diterpenes: Cafestol and kahweol are diterpenes found in coffee. While they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, they can also raise cholesterol levels when consumed in large quantities, particularly in unfiltered coffee.
Niacin: Coffee contains small amounts of niacin (vitamin B3), which is essential for various bodily functions, including energy production and DNA repair.
Methods of preparation and their impact on health properties
Different coffee preparation methods, such as drip, espresso, or French press, can affect the composition and health benefits of the final beverage. For example, filtered coffee has lower amounts of diterpenes, reducing the risk of increased cholesterol levels. Conversely, unfiltered coffee methods like the French press retain more antioxidants and diterpenes.
Cognitive and Mental Health Benefits
Improved cognitive function
Enhanced alertness and attention: Caffeine in coffee temporarily blocks the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleepiness. This leads to increased alertness, attention, and wakefulness.
Improved memory and learning: Moderate coffee consumption has been linked to better short-term memory, faster reaction times, and improved learning capacity.
Reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases
Alzheimer’s disease: Research suggests that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, possibly due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Parkinson’s disease: Coffee consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, potentially due to the neuroprotective effects of caffeine and other bioactive compounds.
Mood enhancement and stress reduction
Antidepressant properties: Caffeine and other compounds in coffee can increase the release of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, helping alleviate symptoms of depression.
Social aspects of coffee consumption: The act of sharing coffee with friends and family can foster social connections, contributing to overall emotional well-being.
Physical Health Benefits
Reduced risk of heart disease: Moderate coffee consumption may lower the risk of heart disease by improving endothelial function and reducing inflammation.
Positive effects on endothelial function: The antioxidants in coffee can protect blood vessels from oxidative damage, promoting better blood flow and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Cholesterol management: Filtered coffee has minimal impact on cholesterol levels. However, consuming unfiltered coffee in moderation can help maintain a healthy cholesterol balance, as it contains compounds that may mildly increase “good” HDL cholesterol.
Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes: Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, likely due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its effects on insulin sensitivity.
Weight management and appetite control: Caffeine can increase metabolism and fat oxidation, potentially aiding in weight management. Additionally, it may help suppress appetite, reducing overall caloric intake.
Reduced risk of liver cirrhosis: Studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a decreased risk of liver cirrhosis, a condition characterized by scarring and loss of liver function.
Lower risk of liver cancer: Coffee drinkers may have a reduced risk of liver cancer, possibly due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying properties.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties: The antioxidants in coffee can protect cells from DNA damage and reduce inflammation, which may contribute to a lower risk of cancer development.
Specific cancer types: Research has linked coffee consumption to a reduced risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer.
Longevity and overall mortality
Coffee consumption and life expectancy: Moderate coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, suggesting that it may contribute to a longer life.
Potential underlying mechanisms: The reduced risk of chronic diseases, improved cognitive function, and enhanced mood associated with coffee consumption could be factors contributing to increased longevity.
Potential Risks and Drawbacks
Caffeine dependence and withdrawal symptoms
Excessive coffee consumption can lead to caffeine dependence, resulting in withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, irritability, and fatigue when caffeine intake is reduced.
Drinking coffee, especially close to bedtime, can interfere with sleep quality and duration due to its stimulant effects.
Some individuals may experience stomach discomfort or acid reflux after consuming coffee, particularly if they have a sensitive digestive system.
Individual variability in response to coffee
Genetic factors, tolerance, and individual sensitivity to caffeine can influence how a person responds to coffee, making it essential to consider personal preferences and reactions.
Moderation and recommended daily intake
Generally, it is recommended to consume no more than 3-4 cups of coffee per day for most adults to avoid potential risks and maximize health benefits.
Debunking Common Misconceptions
Coffee and dehydration
Contrary to popular belief, moderate coffee consumption does not cause significant dehydration. Although caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, the fluid intake from coffee compensates for any potential fluid loss.
Coffee and bone health
While excessive caffeine intake may have a slight negative impact on calcium absorption, moderate coffee consumption does not pose a significant risk to bone health when combined with a balanced diet and adequate calcium intake.
Coffee and heart palpitations
While some individuals may experience heart palpitations after consuming caffeine, moderate coffee consumption is generally safe and does not increase the risk of heart rhythm disturbances in healthy individuals.
Coffee as a diuretic
Caffeine can have a mild diuretic effect, but moderate coffee consumption does not result in a significant increase in urine production or frequency for most individuals.
What impact does coffee have on my physical performance?
The alertness in your brain we spoke about earlier also increases adrenaline levels in your blood, the hormone better known as the fight-or-flight stimulant. The adrenaline that is released in the brain prepares your body for intense physical performance.
To fuel this performance, caffeine also stimulates the nervous system to break down body fat, making use of the fatty acids. This means that your physical performance could be improved by an average of 12% by simply having your morning cup of coffee!
Remember to have a cup of coffee an hour before your gym session — you’ll be grateful for the boost in energy!
What impact does coffee have on my mental performance?
Studies have shown that just one cup of coffee — about 75mg of caffeine — can have a psychoactive effect on the brain, meaning that it stimulates the brain to increase performance, specifically when it comes to being alert, paying attention, and concentrating for long times.
Caffeine also enhances the formation of memories, which means that performing tedious, repetitive tasks can be done effectively.
The peak in mental performance is actually what started the international trend of grabbing a cup of coffee on your way to work because increased productivity became a demand in the fast-paced corporate world.
Are all kinds of coffees equally strong?
There are different types of coffees with different types of strengths. The strength of the coffee depends on the concentration of caffeine in the coffee, which is determined when the coffee is produced.
The strongest type of coffee is an espresso, served in a small cup the size of a shot glass, packed with around 70mg of caffeine. Compare that to a normal cup of coffee from a coffee machine (dripper), which contains about 200mg of caffeine and you’ll know to save the espresso for a special day!
A cup of instant coffee has about 140mg of caffeine and contrary to what the name says, decaffeinated coffee contains 8mg of caffeine. This makes it easy to determine what to have, based on your energetic needs for the day!
Does it matter how my coffee is prepared?
Is there a difference between coarse or fine ground coffees? Dark or light roast? The short answer: to your health, yes. The roasting process reduces chlorogenic acids but forms other compounds.
The concentration of these compounds that you consume depends on how you make your coffee; for example, drinking an espresso would be consuming the highest concentration of compounds, because you’re hardly adding water to the coffee.
Boiling your coffee forms an oil that contains two compounds called diterpenes: cafestol and kahweol. These compounds increase the bad type of cholesterol (LDL) and even slightly lower the good kind (HDL).
How does adding milk or sugar change what my coffee does to my health?
The effect of adding sugar to your coffee depends on how much sugar you consume per cup. Adding large scoops of sugar to your coffee will increase the jittery feeling you may feel after having too much coffee.
That’s because sugar works similarly to caffeine. Lots of sugar in your coffee will enhance the adrenal effects of the coffee, meaning that your alertness will be even more intensified.
You may also struggle to fall asleep. Adding full cream milk might mean that your cup of coffee now contains more fats than it used it. There is no concrete evidence, however, that sugar and milk cancel out the benefits of caffeine.
Is coffee addictive
Unfortunately, we don’t have good news. Extensive studies have shown that over time, consumers build a reliance on caffeine and develop withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and irritability when consumption is stopped.
Some people who consume more than 400mg of caffeine report feeling anxious, shaky, and having an irregular heartbeat. However, over time they built a tolerance, which leads them to keep increasing their daily consumption. There are many types of health, coffee can increase some of them.
It’s also fair to note that caffeine is a psychoactive drug, which not only increases addictive tendencies but is also habit-forming.
Are there any beneficial nutrients and minerals in coffee?
Yes. Coffee contains vitamin B1; vitamin B2; vitamin B3; vitamin B5; manganese; calcium; potassium and magnesium — all nutrients that form part of your recommended daily intake for a healthy diet.
To exceed the daily recommended allowance of each mineral or nutrient would require dozens of cups of coffee, so don’t be concerned about mineral toxicity.
Is it true that coffee can lower my risk of Diabetes Type 2?
One very evident negative effect of our nation’s poor eating habits is Type 2 diabetes. It affects millions of individuals all around the world.
Having type 2 diabetes means that your blood sugar levels are constantly elevated due to a reduced ability or inability to secrete insulin or inherent resistance to insulin.
Regular consumers of coffee have been found to have up to 50% less risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with one single cup of coffee every day reducing your risk by 7%!
What about coffee protecting against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a mental decline and the onset of dementia and it usually affects adults over 65. There is no cure for this disease, so there has been lots of research to determine how the disease can be prevented.
One of these studies in 2017 discovered 24 compounds that can protect the brain against dementia, with caffeine being among them. Other studies have shown that daily coffee drinkers decrease their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 65%.
Does coffee also lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease
Similar to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition with no cure.
Parkinson’s is caused when neurons in the brain responsible for the generation of dopamine, die and the disease is characterized by light to vicious tremors, slow and difficult movements, slow and slurred speech, and a range of other health problems.
In 2007 a study was published that showed regular coffee drinkers with up to 60% reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Does coffee protect or harm internal organs?
Coffee is very good for the liver, as it reduces the risk of developing cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. This leads to the reduced functionality of the liver — something that caffeine protects against.
Some studies have also shown that particularly female coffee drinkers have a lower chance of developing heart disease and coffee drinkers overall have a 20% less chance of having a stroke!
Can coffee lower the risk of getting cancer
It seems that your daily cuppa joe will also protect you against liver and colorectal cancer — the third and fourth causes respectively of cancer death around the world. Studies have proven that daily caffeine consumers have up to 40% less risk of liver cancer, while heavy coffee drinkers have a 15% lower chance of colorectal cancer.
Can coffee cause heart disease or a stroke?
Some people who start drinking coffee for the first time initially complain that their blood pressure is increased. This might happen, but with daily consumption, it usually levels out again, unless you have some sort of inherent blood pressure problem.
There is no proof that caffeine increases heart disease, despite these instances of increased blood pressure. Coffee drinkers also have a 20% less chance of having a stroke, so in our opinion, you’re safe!
Does coffee contain oxidants?
Coffee contains a whole bunch of antioxidants, which protect sensitive tissue against reactive molecules before they can inflict any harm. This means that antioxidants are the good guys!
The best-known antioxidant in coffee is chlorogenic acid, which is also incidentally the main antioxidant. Scientific experiments show that chlorogenic acid evens out insulin levels and inhibits the absorption of glucose inside the digestive system. This probably explains why coffee drinkers have lower rates of both heart disease and diabetes!
Does coffee extend or shorten the life
Looking at all the risk reduction in developing health-related problems, simply by drinking your daily cup of coffee, it’s easy to see that drinking coffee is bound to extend your life.
People who drink only one cup of coffee per day have been shown to have a 12% less chance of premature death. Two to three cups of coffee a day gives you an 18% chance of living longer!
Although coffee alone can’t guarantee a longer life, it certainly contributes to your overall health, which helps prevent premature death due to health-related problems.
Is it true that coffee is high in cholesterol?
Early studies showed that coffee increased cholesterol levels and not just cholesterol levels in general, but what is considered bad cholesterol or LDL. However, it was later found that this is only true of coffee that has not been filtered, like coffee prepared in a typical Turkish style.
Coffee contains oily substances (diterpenes) which raise cholesterol and there are two main types called cafestol and kahweol.
These two substances can be filtered out by drinking pre-filtered coffee or making use of paper filters or other filtering methods. So, to answer your question, coffee is not high in cholesterol, but certain types of coffee may contain cholesterol-raising elements.
Does coffee have an effect on hair?
If you haven’t heard enough yet to convince you to take up drinking coffee, pay close attention: coffee can restore hair growth and also prevent hair loss!
Some other oily ingredients in coffee include phytosterols, which promote the retention of moisture and enhance absorption thereof.
This leads to an improved structure of newly formed hair follicles and increased growth. On top of that, your coffee brew can be used as a hair mask when combined with a tablespoon of honey and olive oil.
Other health benefits of coffee include:
It sometimes acts as a pain-killers
After a workout, you may have no greater wish than to have the dull aching in your muscles disappear. Good news — only two cups of coffee can help reduce post-workout muscle pains by 48%. Remember coffee before the gym for energy; coffee after the gym for pain!
You’re eating more fiber
If you drink five cups of coffee per day, you have already consumed almost half of the recommended intake of fiber, because one cup contains around 1.8g of fiber. The daily recommended intake of fiber is anything between 20 and 35g. This is why weight-losing programs take your coffee intake into account when working out your daily, weekly, and monthly meal plans.
It seems that coffee drinkers have white blood cells with fewer instances of the DNA strand spontaneously breaking, which means that the building blocks of their DNA are stronger.
You have a lower chance of contracting Multiple Sclerosis
Having at least four cups of coffee daily has been shown to prevent neural inflammation. It is the inflammation of neurons that leads to Multiple Sclerosis. This means your coffee can prevent the development and reoccurrence of MS.
Less chance of gout
In a large study involving thousands of men, it was proven that coffee consumption decreases the risk of developing gout, specifically in men. This is because coffee increases the rate at which your body excretes uric acid, effectively lowering the uric acid levels in your body. Uric acid is known to be the largest contributor to gout.
Good for your eyes
The strong antioxidant we spoke about earlier, chlorogenic acid helps to prevent retinal damage. The damage could be caused by glaucoma, aging, or diabetes, all of which could lead to partial or complete blindness.
Good for your teeth
Strong black coffee helps to prevent tooth decay by killing the bacteria found on teeth. The bacteria cause plaque and another buildup on the teeth that are detrimental to the health of your teeth.
Coffee, especially strong black coffee, will help remove this buildup on the teeth. However, as soon as you add milk and sugar, this benefit disappears, seeing as sugar is well-known to cause tooth decay and the oils and fats in milk are also prone to cause some bacterial decay.
Good for your gums
In a long-term study spanning over 30 years it was discovered that instead of promoting gum diseases, coffee actually protected the gums by aiding in teeth cleanliness. Because teeth are kept free of bacteria and plaque buildups, the gums are kept free of infection, inflammation, and unnecessary tenderness.
Good for your skin
The National Cancer Institute published a study that discovered that the consumption of coffee decreases the risk of melanoma or cancerous skin growth. It was also found that the more coffee was consumed, the lower the risk of melanoma was.
Good for your job
Coffee consumption in the workplace has become standard and has been accepted as part of the culture. That’s because it helps you look at yourself, your job, your colleagues, and your workplace with more positivity.
Surveys and some informal research have also discovered that regular coffee drinkers were more prone to constructively partake in office activities, whether work-related or social.
Good for your coordination
Caffeine improves your neuromuscular coordination by helping your brain to deliver messages to your muscles faster. This means that your hand-eye coordination will be improved and your reactions will be faster. So you’ll have a greater chance of catching yourself after almost tripping, rather than before your morning coffee!
Good for your digestion
Drinking coffee every day can help with your digestion by helping to prevent a range of digestive diseases from Crohn’s to celiac. Remember that your colon is a muscle. Coffee stimulates muscles, so coffee will inevitably have an impact on your digestion.
Drinking coffee also cuts your risk of colon cancer by almost a third.
Good for your hair
The oils in coffee are absorbed by your skin and particularly your scalp. This means that your scalp will stay moisturized for longer, helping to eliminate dandruff from your life.
As a bonus, you can also combine your raw coffee powder with coconut oil and other essential oils for hair and apply it as a hair mask. If you are a brunette, this might even give your hair color a bit of life again!
Good for your sex life
If you’re struggling with erectile dysfunction, you might want to try drinking two to three cups of coffee every day — it might help you a long way!
Similarly, caffeine has been found to increase libido in women by increasing blood flow to the genitals. Unfortunately, this is only found when a woman has had one single cup of coffee, and let’s be honest – who does that?
Good for your memory
Caffeine stimulates the brain and improves some brain functions like short-term memory. The neural pathways in your brain are stimulated to fire more rapidly when you’ve had coffee. This means that information is processed faster in your brain, which increases core functions such as processing and storing information.
Good for your mental health
Coffee has been linked to lower rates of depression in both men and women in a range of studies. It activates neurotransmitters that control moods, like dopamine and serotonin. This makes you feel happy and relaxed.
Coffee’s potential health benefits are vast and varied, ranging from cognitive enhancement to reduced risk of chronic diseases. While it is essential to consider individual factors and consume coffee in moderation, the evidence in favor of coffee as a health-promoting beverage is substantial. By understanding the science behind coffee and debunking common misconceptions, we can appreciate our morning cup of joe not only for the pleasure it brings but also for the numerous ways it may contribute to our overall health and well-being.
There you have it. Coffee is good for you in a variety of different ways, from your mental health to your physical health. Don’t hesitate — go and grab a strong cuppa joe right now!