Roughly two and a half years ago, the World Health Organization took coffee off its list of possible carcinogens, after a decades-old study with faulty research and poor reasoning was refuted by several other papers trying and failing to replicate the results it published. This study concluded that coffee led to an increased risk in a number of different health conditions, including several different cancers. It failed, however, to prove causation, instead only proving correlation. The study failed to account for the fact that the heavy coffee drinkers in said study were also heavy smokers and alcohol drinkers, and generally led much less healthy lifestyles in addition to consuming larger amounts of coffee.
More recent independent peer-reviewed studies generally seem to reflect on coffee more positively. But don’t let anyone fool you – this does not make coffee an amazing superfood, or something you should increase your consumption of if you’re already an avid coffee drinker. Instead, the new research should help you feel like you’ve been exonerated from relentless persecution – or something like that. To see just how far we’ve gone in the other direction and have proved coffee to be a largely beneficial addition to most (definitely not everyone) people’s day, here are a few evidence-based reasons to go brew yourself a cup of good, locally-roasted coffee in the morning.
Caffeine makes you a more effective thinker.
The primary active ingredient in every cup of normal roasted coffee is caffeine, a stimulant chemical found only in a number of plant families. Caffeine attaches to the cells in the brain and blocks out adenosine, a neurotransmitter that builds up throughout the day to make us tired and drowsy. Blocking out adenosine makes us feel more alert and awake. Furthermore, caffeine boosts the release of dopamine and norepinephrine. Individuals with a good dose of caffeine in their system typically perform better in cognitive tests, show higher levels of vigilance and energy, and are in a better mood. It also improves reaction times as well as memory.
Caffeine cheers you up.
One of caffeine’s main effects is the fact that it generally improves a person’s mood. While not as effective as a prescription antidepressant, and certainly not as a main course of treatment for something as serious as a depression, caffeine can help you get from a baseline to a happier place in your own mind. Some people even rely on coffee and caffeine to get their day off to a good start. It’s up to you whether you find that good or bad, but coffee does improve mood and productivity in most people.
Coffee improves metabolism and helps dietary goals.
Caffeine is the primary ingredient in almost any fat-burning supplement on the market, for a large variety of reasons. First, caffeine boosts your mood, energy, and heart rate. In other words, a cup of coffee puts you in the prime mental and physical state to do some moving around, even if it’s only a little. However, more importantly, caffeine is a stimulant. Stimulant drugs blunt and even severely dull a person’s appetite. Obesity treatment pills sometimes include much more powerful stimulants like methamphetamine to kill appetite. These, however, are far riskier and addictive than a cup of coffee in the morning.
Coffee is an amazing pre-workout.
Pre-workout supplements are designed to help people get a temporary boost of energy before a workout, while also improving their performance during the workout, and giving them an upshot on protein synthesis after the workout. Caffeine tends to be a primary ingredient in many different pre-workouts, although usually combined with a number of other ingredients to boost its benefits. If you’re not one to shill money for powdered pre-workouts, a cup of coffee half an hour before you work out is effective too.
Coffee works as a micronutrient supplement.
It’s no secret that the standard American diet is not the healthiest in the world, and it’s important for many Americans to get their nutrients wherever they can, especially if they can’t afford a serious change in lifestyle. Coffee, if you can afford a few cups a day, can be a surprisingly effective way to get a number of micronutrients into your diet. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, and coffee contains vitamin B2, B3, B5, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. While a single cup only contains around 2-5% of your daily recommended needs for each nutrient for the average adult (except vitamin B2, sitting at 11%), it’s likely that you’re drinking several cups anyway.
Caffeine may help slow dementia.
While not conclusive, most studies researching coffee’s effects on cognitive decline report that coffee favorably helps patients slow cognitive decline, or dementia. More specifically, a habit of 3-5 cups of coffee per day in a person’s midlife meant a decreased risk of dementia in said person’s late-life, by 65 percent. Whether due to coffee’s antioxidant properties or the effects of caffeine and increased insulin sensitivity, some part of coffee’s effects on the body seems to translate into slowing dementia.
Coffee protects your liver.
Good news for former alcoholics who have since switched solely to coffee – coffee and tea have, in several studies, shown to prevent advanced liver disease and help people who are prone to liver issues prevent the hardening and scarring of liver tissue. That doesn’t mean it’s wise to drink booze and just try to counteract its effects with coffee, but it does mean that quitting alcohol use and switching to water and coffee might be beneficial for your liver.
Coffee lowers the risk of certain cancers.
Coffee use is now more strongly linked with a decreased chance of several different cancers – particularly mouth and throat cancer, endometrial cancer, liver cancer, and prostate cancer – but the exact reason why coffee is linked to a decrease in cancer is not well understood. Antioxidants are thought to play a role, or it may have something to do with the effects of caffeine on the body and the mind.
Coffee lowers the risk of stroke.
The opposite has actually been reported several times in the past, but a more recent meta-analysis (a study that analyzes several different studies to find consistent information) concluded that overall, coffee has a preventative effect on strokes, meaning that regularly drinking coffee gives you as much as an 18 percent reduction in the possibility of suffering from a stroke.
Coffee is many people’s primary source of antioxidants.
Granted, antioxidants are not nearly as important as a lot of people have previously thought. That, and most of the body’s antioxidation occurs through its own primary antioxidant, uric acid. While there are ways to get your body to release more antioxidants, you don’t want to go overboard either. The key is balance – and even then, the actual health effects of antioxidants are negligible at best.
But that doesn’t invalidate them. Diets high in antioxidants also decrease the risk of several different diseases and conditions. And for most Americans, coffee is their number one antioxidant. Coffee is rich in polyphenols, which are some of the more powerful antioxidants out there. While most Americans don’t consume dark chocolates and fresh berries, a cup of coffee is very common.
It’s important to add a couple caveats to this list.
1.) drinking a lot of coffee won’t improve your health by much on it’s own. It also won’t cause you to shed pounds unexpectedly, unless some other aspect of your health is improved as well (such as quitting alcohol consumption, cutting down on calories, changing your everyday diet, or getting more exercise).
2.) a ton of caffeine is not healthy either! Try to limit yourself to an amount of coffee you’re comfortable with while still getting the sleep you need every night.
3.) avoid coffee if it gives you an adverse reaction. Some people can easily enjoy five or six cups of coffee a day. Others show serious signs that they shouldn’t have any coffee, like persistent and worsening heart palpitations, a rise in blood pressure that won’t go down, or an increase in inflammation and general pain. Coffee can be a boon or a bane, but it’s typically a boon.
And that’s that! For the most part, coffee is more important to your overall health than you might realize. But don’t rely on it to keep you healthy. A healthy lifestyle is about more than a couple cups of joe a day.