When most people think of healthy drinks, they probably think of cold-pressed spinach and ginger juices — not coffee. While the aforementioned elixirs contain health benefits, coffee has been linked to some surprising benefits beyond just giving you energy, including protection against heart disease and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“Although the better-studied compound in coffee is caffeine, coffee has other beneficial bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols, diterpenes, and trigonelline, which have antioxidant properties,” says Eva DeAngelis, RD and health and nutrition writer for Health Canal, to VegNews.
How much coffee is too much?
Everything good has a bad side and coffee is no different. In general, you want to limit yourself to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which equates to about four eight-ounce cups of coffee.
Regular coffee drinkers may find that they need more than one cup of coffee to boost their energy levels. According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, this is because it is possible to develop “caffeine tolerance.” So you might need a double shot of espresso instead of a single cup just to feel more alive in the morning.
Some coffee drinkers may experience heartburn or even an upset stomach after drinking a cup – this is because caffeine increases the production of stomach acid. Caffeine can also suppress calcium absorption, and too much can make you jittery, restless, anxious, dizzy, or dehydrated.
In addition, caffeine also has addictive properties. A regular coffee drinker who doesn’t get his regular cup of joe can experience headaches, irritability, fatigue, and even depression. If you want to give up coffee, know that these effects usually disappear after about a week.
What’s the best of drip, instant, decaffeinated, iced, and other types? “There’s no straight answer here,” DeAngelis says. It depends on the amount used and the coffee-to-water ratio, she adds.
“When you make cold coffee, you need more beans than when you brew it hot,” explains De Angelis. “Because caffeine is more soluble in hot water, cold brew coffee has a slightly lower caffeine content. But if we compare cold coffee with iced coffee, the former is slightly higher in caffeine.”
6 health benefits of coffee
Despite its drawbacks, it comes with a bunch of health benefits. Here are six reasons to stick to your glass a day:
1 It gives you energy
Although it comes as no surprise to millions of people around the world, coffee can boost your energy levels. Studies show that caffeine can also improve exercise performance, especially in endurance activities. This is due to caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant found in more than 60 types of plants, including coffee.
Your intestines absorb caffeine within 45 minutes of consuming it, and it peaks in the bloodstream anywhere between 15 minutes to two hours. How long it takes depends on what’s in your gut – food and components like fiber can slow down the absorption of caffeine.
After consumption, caffeine has a half-life of about four to six hours, meaning that up to half of it will still be in your bloodstream up to six hours later. However, if you drink caffeine when you are already exhausted, then you may risk a caffeine crash within three to four hours.
2 It can protect against heart disease
Coffee is more than just a savior that gives energy. According to the American College of Cardiology, research shows that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 15 percent.
If the thought of that much coffee turns you into an anxious mess, fear not—even just one cup a day can benefit your heart health. Studies show that caffeine can temporarily raise your blood pressure, but if you drink coffee regularly, this effect is reduced.
3 Increases longevity
Coffee may help you live longer. A study published in European Society of Cardiology found that drinking several cups a day can extend your life, whether the coffee is caffeinated, decaffeinated, instant or ground. It also supports previous research on coffee and heart health.
“Our findings suggest that drinking moderate amounts of coffee of any kind should not be discouraged, but can be enjoyed as a heart-healthy behavior,” study author Peter Kistler told CBS News.
4 This is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes
Even decaffeinated coffee has benefits. A study published in Nutrition reviews suggests that a cup or two of decaffeinated coffee a day may protect against type 2 diabetes. Similar results were found with caffeinated coffee. This is thought to be due to the plant compounds found in coffee, not the caffeine. Another study suggests that phytochemicals in coffee help protect insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
5 It can reduce the risk of depression
A meta-analysis of seven studies published between 1980 and 2015 suggested that the risk of depression decreased by eight percent for each cup of coffee consumed. Of course, just keep in mind the limits for safe caffeine consumption — roughly four cups of coffee per day, or 400 milligrams per day. In addition, three large-scale cohort studies linked caffeine consumption to a lower risk of death by suicide.
6 Lower risk of liver disease
Decaf, instant or ground… No matter what kind of coffee you drink, it can be good for your liver. A 2021 study published in the journal BMC Medical Health suggests that coffee protects against a chronic liver disease known as steatosis.
7 May protect brain health
Drinking coffee may help protect against cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in nutrients suggests a link between caffeine users and a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s. Regular caffeine consumption is also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Coffee may have its drawbacks, but research shows that drinking coffee regularly has a number of benefits. So, enjoy your coffee, espresso, latte and more.