I love my coffee, usually I am a very special kind of “special” until I have had my cup of coffee. If you are as conscious about your weight as me you will be delighted to know that coffee is one of those rare treats that contain next to no calories and offers health and performance benefits. It is also one of the leading sources of antioxidants in the Western diet. And if you think it’s too good to be true well, have a read.
• Liver protection
Coffee prevents liver cirrhosis and other liver diseases. The liver is an extremely important organ, responsible for many important functions in the body. Coffee plays a very important role in liver defense, which is particularly important if you drink alcohol. People that drink at least 4 cups per day have up to 80% less chance of developing liver cirrhosis.
• A happier you
I’m sure you don’t need any article to tell you this, but coffee makes you happier! Coffee drinkers are 10 to 20% less likely to be depressed, they are also about half as likely to commit suicide. I would say a double espresso is a good reason to wake up in the morning!
• Decreased cardiovascular risk
You may have heard that caffeine increases blood pressure and think that I am talking nonsense? However, this effect usually goes away if you drink coffee regularly (with exceptions). It also does not increase risk of heart disease and may prevent cardiac deaths.
Even better, coffee drinkers that drink between 1 and 3 cups per day have a significantly lower risk of having a stroke. Why is this? Antioxidants present in coffee which combat inflammation and a boost in nitric acid which dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
• Brain Benefits
A moderate intake of coffee improves brain function and reduces risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Coffee helps to increase the amount of certain important neurotransmitters which improves, among other things, memory, mood and general cognitive function.
As previously mentioned, coffee is also rich in antioxidants, this, along with its effect on neurotransmitters is thought to be the reason that coffee drinkers that consume between 1 and 5 cups per day have a noticeably decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, dementia and even a form of brain cancer.
Coffee or more specifically the caffeine in coffee also assists with prevention of Parkinson’s disease. It can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s by between 30 and 60%
• Cancer prevention
Coffee does not only prevent brain cancer. Due to its antioxidant content it has proven to be helpful in the prevention of skin, liver and colorectal cancers too.
• Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes
Diabetes is a huge health concern which affects about 347 million people worldwide. Interestingly studies have shown that coffee consumption decreases risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Risk is shown to decrease by about 7% with each cup of coffee drunk per day, I.e. The more coffee you drink the lower your risk of developing diabetes. Remember this is preventative in nature and is not the case for those with existing type 2 diabetes.
• Improved sports performance
By stimulating the nervous system caffeine helps to make free fatty acids available from fat cells. These free fatty acids are then available to the body as a source of energy to fuel your exercise.
Caffeine also causes an increase in the “fight or flight” hormone, adrenaline. Adrenaline increases heart-rate, breathing-rate and energy production, preparing the body for an intense workout.
Because of its physiological effects on the body, Caffeine has been shown to improve exercise performance by 11-12%. It therefore makes sense to have a cup of strong coffee 30-45 minutes before a workout.
Coffee contains antioxidants (Chlorogenic acid), but its raw unroasted format ‘Green Coffee beans’ provide a stronger antioxidant punch (as roasting will decrease the antioxidant content). So keep a look out for new developments in products containing Green coffee bean extract.
So this brings us to the questions. How much is too much?
The following guidelines have been issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):
In healthy adults between the age of 18 and 65, a daily dose of 400mg of caffeine does not raise safety concerns. Note: this guideline refers to caffeine as a whole and not just caffeine from coffee, it is important to consider all sources of caffeine in your diet when calculating your coffee allowance. Below is a table showing of the caffeine content of various sources:
Mug of brewed coffee 100 – 125 mg
Mug of instant coffee 70 mg
Bar of dark chocolate 65 mg
Can of Cola 350ml = 50 mg
Mug of tea 45 – 75 mg
30g dark chocolate (a third of a bar) 20 mg
Mug of cocoa 15 mg
Mug of green or white tea 15 mg
30g milk chocolate (a third of a bar) 6 mg
Mug of decaffeinated coffee 2 mg