Coffee’s not a miracle drink, nor is it all sunshine and rainbows, but the evidence is clear: Coffee is overwhelmingly good for you.
The health benefits of coffee are well-documented and are available to most people. This article will highlight the health benefits available from coffee and pinpoint common pitfalls to coffee drinking.
Why You Should Love Coffee
#1: Coffee enhances your mood and awareness. Because coffee contains caffeine, it can put can improve mood and boost alertness. This makes coffee great for getting important projects done, powering through mundane chores, or boosting motivation to exercise.
#2: Caffeine can help you stay alert during energy lows. Most people grab coffee first thing in the morning, but this is actually not the best time to get your fix. Because cortisol is naturally jacked up in the early morning, you’ll get more of a benefit by drinking coffee as you come down from a cortisol peak—between 9 am and 11 am. Caffeine cooperates with your body’s natural cycles to give you boosts just as the energy boost from cortisol wanes.
#3: Coffee can reduce the risk of cancer. Despite what you may have heard from California, coffee has been shown to lower cancer risk, while also reducing risk of mortality and health conditions that are associated with cancer (diabetes, obesity). Coffee provides antioxidants that have a protective effect against cancer. For example, the antioxidants in coffee improve liver function so that it is better able to metabolize estrogen, lowering risk of cancer in the breast, prostate, ovary, and testes.
#4: Coffee lowers Type 2 diabetes. Coffee modulates blood sugar and can improve insulin sensitivity. Interestingly, caffeine taken alone doesn’t appear to have this effect, decreasing insulin sensitivity. So, it’s likely the antioxidants in coffee that have this protective effect. Of course, coffee isn’t a panacea—if you’re pouring sugar in your coffee or drinking it alongside a donut, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
#5: Coffee reduces pain and soreness. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you may have noticed that you feel increased pain or headaches when you skip your fix. This is because caffeine binds with pain receptors, lowering your experience of pain. It’s also a great tool for reducing muscle soreness and restoring strength and energy reserves after a tough muscle damaging workout.
#6: Coffee’s great for your heart. Hypertension, strokes, and a variety of other cardiovascular illnesses are less likely to come your way if you drink coffee. Why is this? Coffee improves the health of the vascular system by increasing nitric oxide production (a molecule that dilates blood vessels and helps them stay flexible). This means that long-term, coffee improves blood pressure rather than raising it (which is the short term response).
#7: Coffee makes you better, faster, and stronger. In addition to improving motivation to work hard, the caffeine in coffee improves power, endurance, and strength, giving you what you need for a higher quality workout.
#8: Coffee helps with weight maintenance. Assuming you drink your coffee black, it can help you maintain body composition by increasing insulin sensitivity and slightly raising metabolic rate. The boost in energy expenditure is small, but measurable, and when you combine this with killer workouts and an intelligent nutrition plan, it can pay off with a steadier body composition.
#9: Reduce risk of liver disease. Non-alcoholic liver disease is one of the fastest growing modern diseases due to unhealthy diets and obesity. Coffee protects the liver in several ways that pay off in less risk of other ailments to the liver, including cancer and fibrosis.
#10: Protect your brain. In addition to boosting cognition—the caffeine in coffee increases activity of the frontal lobe of the brain that influences short-term memory and attention—coffee has long-term benefits for the brain, lowering risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
What About The Pitfalls To Coffee?
For many people there’s a thin line between too much coffee and not enough. Because the caffeine in coffee raises cortisol, it can increase anxiety and sleeplessness. If this is you, limiting your coffee intake to a cup or two and only drinking it during the morning lull (9-11 am) is probably a good choice.
Many people don’t realize their sleep is impacted by coffee consumption. In one study, researchers found that very few participants reported loss of sleep despite coffee consumption, yet they all were documented as having lost sleep when monitored overnight. Eliminating caffeine for a while may be worth it to see if your sleep improves.
Finally, coffee itself is not dehydrating. Rather, you’re consuming a liquid, which the body must eliminate via urination. Additionally, coffee stimulates the digestive system, so the liquid may pass through your system more rapidly than if you drank plain water. But the bottom line is that you don’t need to worry about coffee causing dehydration.
Final Words: As long as you’re intelligent about your relationship with coffee, you can carry on with your love affair without any guilt. Drink up!