Coffee is great and the hoard of Starbucks receipts you could find in my purse at any given time would not argue that fact. But, for as good as coffee is, it has also been getting pretty mixed signals for the health world. Sure, the sugars, creamers, and flavors that are just more sugar are not great- Well, actually, they are quite bad- but, what about coffee itself. If you are one of those highly disciplined people out there who never touches a Starbucks drive-thru or coffee creamer with a 10-foot pole, there is a pretty good chance you are doing quite well since most of the pros for coffee are when it is in it's purest form.
Go ahead, give yourself a pat on the back all you black coffee drinkers. Now, go on and read the good, bad, and ugly of that cup of jo.
One of the biggest, and best, pros to drinking coffee is the brain health that comes along with it. Researchers from some of the leading Universities have found that coffee increases memory retention and also decreases our risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This is because, like all plants, coffee has phytonutrients and antioxidants that fight free radicals in our body. Free radicals are the things that reduce cell production and harm our DNA and include UV rays, carcinogens, and even the air we breathe.
What is even more incredible is that coffee has been found to actually repair damage to our DNA. This means that our DNA has fewer errors in reproduction and stays longer for longer (all about those telomeres). Keeping our DNA healthy also goes a long way for reducing our risk of cancer. Specifically, coffee helps reduce the risk of brain cancers.
The antioxidants found in coffee are not just for the brain. Turn's out, that they also reduce inflammation in our arteries and can lower our blood pressure. Both of these being extremely great for that ticker. The reduction of swelling in the arteries decreases one's risk of a stroke. the Nitric oxide found in coffee may also increase the diameter of arteries, lowering blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
With all these great pro's, the only con to drinking coffee for a healthy heart is the caffeine. The caffeine found in coffee regular will actually negate the health benefits, making it a "con" instead of a "pro". Caffeine in coffee can also caused increased heart rhythms and an abnormal heart beat. If heart health is on your mind, switch that caffeinated coffee out for the decaf variety.
Diabetes and Weight
That's right, coffee reduces our risk of Type II Diabetes. Researchers have found that those who drink 4-6 cups of coffee (decaf or regular) reduce their risk of diabetes by, up to, 30%. Those that drink more than 6 cups per day reduce their risks by a whopping 35%. This crazy decrease may be due to the antioxidant compounds cholorogenic acid and quinides found in coffee that reduce cell's sensitivity to insulin and help regulate sugar levels.
Unfortunately, this benefit is mainly found in the decaffeinated version since caffeine increases insulin sensitivity. The sugar high that you get from caffeinated coffee will also adversely effect most people's diets when they get to that sugar crash. This is because most people will reach for something high in fats and carbs to even out their blood sugar levels once more.
Weight gain can also be associated with coffee. New research has found a correlation with coffee drinking and an increased sweet tooth. This may be because of chemical reactions in our body, or simply because, as a society, we associate coffee with sweets.
Drinking too much coffee can dehydrate the body, causing premature aging of the skin. If you are wanting to drink your usual coffee, it is best to drink it with a cup of water on the side. This will also decrease the headaches that some associate with their morning cup of jo since most coffee related headaches are a symptom of dehydration.
Cholesterol and Your Liver
Well, this is a mixed bag if I ever saw one. Turns out that caffeinated coffee might just lower your risk of liver cancers by, up to, 43%. Just like it worked in our brains and arteries, coffee limits swelling and inflammation in the liver, thus reducing the risks of many liver diseases. Likewise, caffeine may help inhibit cancer cells from forming.
Now, for the mixed part of this bag. Unfiltered and boiled coffees increases the LDL or bad cholesterol found in our blood. This is especially evident in French presses and Turkish coffee makers that do not filter the coffee first. To decrease the LDL increasing properties, opt out of non-filtered options and get a drip filter coffee maker instead. It may not be quite as good (so true), but you won't be increasing your cholesterol with each cup.
Ready? Caffeine makes you more awake. Bam. Mind blown.
Not quite. Caffeine keeping you awake may not be such a mind blowing idea, but it sure can be a pro in a pinch. There are many people out in our world that rely on that morning cup of jo for their eyes to open and their foggy brains to clear.
The only bad thing about this increased energy is when it gets in the way of when we need to sleep. Coffee can increase your risk of insomnia since the brain is wired and simply cannot turn off. Everyone reacts differently to caffeine, but it is best to not drink coffee within 6-hours of hitting the hay. Even if you have an easy time falling asleep, your sleep will not be as deep or rejuvenate you quite as well with caffeine in your system.
As our bodies become more accustomed to the effects of caffeine, we will also begin to need more to feel the effects. This can be a not-so-great addiction that will only increase over time and decrease the proper sleep we need to be getting.
Because of all the places coffee comes from, it is one of the most pesticide laden foods we can get. Pesticides in coffee are absorbed into our bodies when we drink it. And, they are not easily gotten rid of. To reduce your pesticide intake (which can lead to multiple diseases including different forms of cancer), opt for the organic option. The coffee industry is pretty strict on what makes coffee organic. This means that you can feel at ease knowing your organic coffee does not contain harmful chemicals.
Here is my favorite organic coffee brand :)