7 Healthy Reasons to Enjoy Your Morning Coffee

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

Jonesing for java? You’re not alone. According to the National Coffee Association, more than 75 percent of Americans drink coffee, second only to water. The Harvard School of Public Health reports that Americans drink an average of 3.1 cups of coffee a day and spend about $40 billion dollars on coffee each year to support their habit.

Although the research is still trickling in, several existing studies suggest that coffee serves up some pretty sweet health benefits. So how much coffee should you be drinking? Experts suggest that moderate intake (about three eight-ounce cups daily) is optimal to reap the health benefits. Just watch the amount of sugar, milk and cream you put in your joe, because these add-ins can pack a powerful calorie punch.

Here are seven healthy reasons to knock back that morning cup.

1. It’s brimming with antioxidants
Coffee contains free radical-fighting compounds called antioxidants. Free radicals are extremely unstable molecules that can cause oxidative stress in the body. Experts believe that this kind of stress plays a role in a number of diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and even eye conditions like cataracts. Because Americans consume so much coffee, it is one of our primary sources of antioxidants and may be a big contributor to defending against these diseases.

2. It may reduce the risk of diabetes
In a recent study published in Diabetologia, subjects who increased their coffee consumption by more than one cup a day over a span of four years had an 11 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who made no changes to their coffee habits. In the same study, people who decreased their consumption by more than one cup a day experienced an increase in risk by a whopping 17 percent. Although the exact mechanism is not well understood, experts contend that coffee drinking is associated with increases in certain hormones and other factors that positively impact insulin and blood sugar levels.

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3. It can boost bone health
You might be surprised to know that coffee serves up small amounts of nutrients like potassium, niacin, magnesium, vitamin E and is a good source of the B vitamin riboflavin. And thanks to the milk many people add to their cup, coffee can be a great vehicle for calcium and vitamin D―two nutrients that are important to bone health and which many Americans fall short on. If you do take milk with your coffee, just be sure to opt for fat-free or reduced fat options. If you follow a dairy-free diet, give your cup a flavor jolt with a fortified soy beverage, which dishes out these nutrients as well.

4. It could help your heart
In a large study published in 2011 in The Permanente Journal, subjects who drank one to three cups of coffee per day were 20 percent less likely to be hospitalized for abnormal heart rhythms than non-drinkers. Further, in a 2009 study of nearly 84,000 women, those who drank two or more cups of coffee per day showed a 20 percent lower risk of experiencing a stroke than those who drank less.

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5. It can keep you sharp
In a 2002 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, coffee consumption and lifetime caffeine intake were associated with better performance on cognitive tests in women and slower cognitive decline in men. Further, a 2015 study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that moderate and regular coffee consumption may have protective effects also against mild cognitive impairment, which is considered a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Other studies have linked greater coffee consumption with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease.

6. It could make you happier
Coffee truly may be the ultimate pick-me-up. In a 2011 study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, women who drank two to three cups of coffee daily lowered their risk of developing depression by 15 percent compared to those who drank just one cup or less a week. These findings may explain why, in a 2013 study published in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, the risk of suicide for adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee daily was nearly half that of those drinking decaf, very little or no coffee at all. Although experts are not entirely sure why coffee may keep people happy, some contend that caffeine may boost certain neurotransmitters in the brain associated with contentment. Interestingly, other studies have demonstrated an association between soft drinks and mental health problems suggesting that it might be something other than caffeine that’s to thank for the jolt of happiness coffee may provide.

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7. It could keep you around longer
A 2012 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that men who drank six-plus cups of coffee a day had a 10 percent lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers. In women, drinking six or more cups of coffee daily was associated with a 15 percent lower risk of death. These findings mirror those of earlier studies, which demonstrated that coffee drinking was associated with a significantly reduced chance of death.