Raise your hand if you need a cup of coffee before you can function in the morning. You’re not alone—in the U.S., an estimated half of the population drinks coffee and consumers drink around 450 million cups per day! Coffee is the biggest traded commodity (next to oil) and is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
But the numbers don’t really matter to most people; what usually matters is the jolt of energy it gives to get you out of your morning stupor or the much-needed boost it provides when you’re feeling lethargic at siesta time but still need to power through your work day.
With the amount of coffee adults typically consume, the question begs to be asked: Is coffee good for you? What are the coffee benefits and are there risks associated with drinking it daily?
The Lowdown on Your Cup o’ Joe
This multi-billion-dollar commodity has its roots in 15th-century Ethiopia. Trading and colonial expansion eventually brought coffee to other parts of the world.
Coffee starts off as a humble bean harvested from plants that today are grown mostly in developing countries. The three main types of coffee beans are robusta (typically from parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Brazil), green coffee (produced by Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Ethiopia), and Arabica (grown in Latin America, Eastern Africa, Asia, and Arabia). The beans are roasted before consumption.
It seems like for every study that touts the coffee benefits, there’s another study saying that it’s bad for you. An article published by Harvard Health Publishing lists some of the health problems that studies have associated with consuming coffee: bladder and pancreatic cancer (30-year-old studies backing this have since been refuted), esophageal cancer (but this has more to do with how hot the drink is, and is thus not just applicable to coffee), cardiovascular disease (for those who consume copious amounts daily, meaning more than four cups), and minor issues like sleep disruption, anxiety, heartburn, and palpitations.
But the World Health Organization has removed coffee from its possible carcinogen list, and other studies back the claim that coffee may in fact be good for you. Coffee has so many components so it’s difficult to determine which ones are responsible for the health benefits, but they’re often attributed to the caffeine and polyphenol (plant micronutrients with good-for-you antioxidants) content.
Some of the potential benefits based on studies are:
- It may be good for your heart. A Japanese study found that men who drank one to two cups of coffee per day significantly reduced their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
- It may protect you from Alzheimer’s. Research shows that those who drink three to five cups of coffee per day are 65% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease that is the leading cause of dementia.
- It reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies indicate that long-term coffee consumption can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, anywhere from 7% to 67%! Just make sure you limit the sugar you put into your coffee.
- It can help you burn fat. Caffeine, one of the main components of coffee, has been shown to help increase your metabolic rate (or your body’s fat-burning capabilities).
- It may keep depression at bay. A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine involving over 50,000 women found that increased caffeinated coffee consumption was linked to a decreased risk of depression.
- It may lower the risk of some types of cancer. Whereas coffee was previously thought to be a potential carcinogen, there is now some evidence that links it to protection against liver cancer (reducing risk by 40%) and colorectal cancer (reducing risk by 15%).
- It may help you live longer. Studies have shown that drinking coffee may extend your life, especially if you have type 2 diabetes.
All these coffee benefits don’t mean that you should guzzle cup after cup of java for optimum health. If you’re a non-coffee drinker and you think these health benefits are why you should drink coffee, Harvard Health Publishing states that you don’t have to start. And if you already do drink coffee, take it in moderation.
Use coffee to give you a dose of energy as you go about your day in the healthiest way possible: eating a balanced diet of whole foods, managing stress, and getting enough exercise and rest.