Most people can't go a morning without coffee. The taste and the very quick jolt of caffeine can make all the difference in your day. But there are actually some real health benefits to drinking a cup of coffee — they go way beyond just making you feel wide awake (although we love the energy rush, too). Examining it closely, coffee has pretty incredible health benefits as laid out by a suite of developing research in the scientific community, namely a decreased risk of developing certain chronic diseases.
Coffee isn't for everyone, including those who suffer from acid reflux, sleep disorders or sleep hygiene concerns, anxiety, or more simply a dietary sensitivity to caffeine. And because coffee can be enjoyed in so many ways, it's far from a magic bullet — especially since many people tend to turn to elaborately concocted sugary coffee drinks. These beverages tend to lose their health edge thanks to excessive caloric and added sugar counts, among other dietary drawbacks.
When it comes down to it, keeping your coffee as beneficial as possible may be as easy as turning to the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Federal health experts officially recommend only 1 cup of black coffee with 1/4-cup fat-free milk at breakfast time; while guidelines go on to say that Americans can easily throw back 3 or 4 cups before compromising their health (no more than 400mg of caffeine!), its the added sugar from sweeteners or syrups that can be the real culprit here.
Keep your coffee habit as straightforward as possible to potentially enjoy some of the following java health benefits. We're recapping the most promising health perks of coffee below, plus a few wellness benefits you can feel great about.
Coffee may be quietly boosting your metabolism.
It certainly won't replace a trip to the gym, but the caffeine in your latte is a stimulant, which can get your metabolism going. That potential benefit is extra apparent for those who enjoy their coffee black, or as neat as possible — sugary coffees may come with caffeine, but the nutritional blowback makes weight management that much harder. Black coffee is also associated with a link in aiding prevention against type 2 diabetes; a 2013 study found there was a 12% risk reduction for those who drank two cups of coffee every day, and that link was even stronger for women than in men.
For reference, 400mg of caffeine each day is the USDA's current standard, and seems safe for most adults — but caffeine may also work against you if you have a sensitivity. Symptoms for this include headache, insomnia, an erratic heartbeat, and others, which is a sign you may want to stick to one cup or less.
Coffee is rich in antioxidants.
A landmark 2004 study found that coffee is likely the single greatest contributor to your antioxidant intake in your diet — and that's because it's one of the richest dietary sources of chlorogenic acids, among other antioxidants. Researchers at Cornell University have previously found that these nutrients can help prevent vision loss, blindness, and glaucoma, as chlorogenic acid stems retinal damage as you age.
But that's not the only boon here. The antioxidants, like caffeic acid, consumed in a cup or two of regular coffee may help to fight inflammation across your entire body, and can aid in potentially preventing certain chronic conditions over time. If you're really interested in enjoying coffee's antioxidant benefits, stick to caffeinated options, as antioxidant capacity is reduced by the decaffeination process.
In addition to antioxidants, coffee packs in a variety of micronutrients that are notable; for example, a single cup contains 14% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for a vitamin called riboflavin, which helps produce energy and regulate your nervous system properly.
Coffee could make workouts seem easier.
Having trouble finding the inspiration to make it to the gym? Downing a cup of coffee beforehand may help. Coffee has been tied to ergogenic effects on your exercise performance, meaning it may increase your endurance if you were to drink it before you begin working out. One Journal of Applied Physiology study had researchers adding caffeine into exercisers' routine before they stepped in the gym; those who received it rated their workouts as easier and more enjoyable than those who did not. Plus, the caffeinated group ate, on average, 72 fewer calories that same day.
Coffee can aid your heart health.
This may seem controversial, especially since sugar-packed flavored syrups and artificial creamers work against cardiovascular health, but research suggests coffee may help your heart age well. In one 2015 study published in the journal Heart, people who drank three to five cups of coffee a day had a reduced risk for clogged arteries and heart attacks. But when it comes to heart protection, it may be smart to avoid unfiltered coffee, like the brew you produce with a French press: Research has shown that it can increase LDL cholesterol, the bad kind.
Coffee may help regulate our emotions.
Now this we can totally believe. Coffee may be able to lower depression risks, and the data to back the potential link is solid — a decade-long study published in JAMA Internal Medicine had previously illustrated a decreased risk of depression for those who regularly drank coffee after collecting data from thousands of American women. More researchers are continually looking into this link, with neurologists at Harvard University recently releasing a new review (which has yet to be peer reviewed) suggesting coffee may potentially reduce depression risk by upwards of 33%.
Even more ways coffee may aid holistic health:
While more research is needed to understand coffee's full suite of health benefits, these studies and scholarly reviews are certainly promising.
Reduces breast cancer risk: A 2015 study suggests that two or more cups of coffee each day may reduce your risk of breast cancer. Coffee may inhibit the growth of tumors and reduce your risk of cancer recurrence, as acids and caffeine could impact cancer cells and make them more susceptible to treatment.
Reduces skin cancer risk: Early research suggests that caffeine sourced from coffee and tea may have a role in reducing the risk of developing melanoma. But you are likelier to enjoy better benefits from proper skincare regimens (yes, sunscreen!).
Boosts your longevity: There are smaller pieces of evidence linking coffee (even decaffeinated varieties!) to a longer life for a multitude of reasons, some of which are recapped above. A 2017 Annals of Internal Medicine study pulled data from the Multiethnic Cohort Study and illustrated that those who drink coffee may have a lower risk of death due to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer.
Stems cognitive decline: Compounds in your coffee may help your body keep your brain sharp as you age. Researchers discovered that drinking coffee may help reduce aging's effect on motor skills, and also showed a reduced risk of dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Aids power napping: Since caffeine needs a few minutes before it truly enters your bloodstream, taking a 20-minute power nap after drinking a cup of your go-to java may actually help you feel even more energized afterwards, researchers maintain.
Works against grogginess: You may expect this, after all, but research demonstrates that coffee is so effective at waking us up, just the scent may be enough. Scientists say the scent of roasted coffee beans can help to minimize (in their own way!) the effects of sleep deprivation.
Exfoliates your skin: It's more of a beauty hack than anything, but six tablespoons of ground coffee and four tablespoons of coconut or olive oil can create a homemade skin scrub. Rubbing it into your skin in a circular motion can help remove dead skin.
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