Coffee Anyone?

So for years, everyone on the planet has been saying how coffee negatively impacts our health, destroys our stomach and generally turns us into bouncing balls.  But that hasn't stopped many cultures and many Starbucks from pulling us in with the unmistakable aroma of java (does Java actually grow coffee?). Now research may finally be catching up with that determined trend.  In fact, it looks as though coffee in moderation may actually improve your health!  Most dramatic is a group of diseases that studies have conclusively shown to be improved by the drinking of coffee: type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, dementia, stroke, cancers of the liver, kidney and prostate.  Not only that, but as long as it doesn't contain a boatload of sugar, it lowers your blood glucose level, which may explain the diabetes connection.

The truth is that coffee that is organic and is brewed safely without additives or chemicals, can really make a difference over time.  Now granted the caffeine needs to be limited, but there is a lot to be said for the power of the bean.  And when we talk about power, we're really talking about black - yup, nothing added pure java.

To get the most from your roast, there are a few things to consider when picking your morning cup of joe.  First, if you have high cholesterol, try using a paper filter.  This will eliminate one molecular element of coffee called cafestol which is a potent cholesterol-elevating substance.  You can even buy natural paper filters.  Next, if you are at risk for heart disease, then you might want to consider switching to a naturally decaffeinated coffee.  This will prevent the blood pressure spikes that are common with traditional coffee roasts.

Now you may think that because you have acid reflux, coffee is out of the question.  The truth is that many of these studies also showed that drinking coffee may have an effect on increasing your gut flora which protect and manage the immunity of your gut.  Choose a darker roast because the roasting process actually produces a substance that slows the accumulation of stomach acid.  In fact, the health benefits jump exponentially in dark roasts which have more of the beneficial health-promoting compounds and less caffeine than the lighter roasts.

Then there is the insomnia thing.  Well, there's good news there as well.  The compounds in coffee work themselves through your body systems over time, and are generally cut in half by 7 hours, and completely gone by 14 hours.  So to have coffee in the afternoon or evening after dinner may be great except when you lie down to go to sleep.  Each person's body is different and metabolizes these compounds at different rates.  So see how long it takes you to be able to sleep after drinking coffee.  You may simply need to eliminate the afternoon brew.

There were many other findings among the studies:

  • It helps to protect your brain.

  • Studies demonstrated that coffee drinkers had lower risks of developing skin cancer.

  • Over 25 years, drinkers had significantly lower rates of cancer of the mouth.

  • Some studies actually showed that the effects of coffee were similar to exercise (don't get any ideas here!), and it showed that drinking a cup of black coffee prior to exercise boosted overall muscle strength.

  • A 2011 study showed that men lowered their risk of prostate cancer by 20% and women lowered their risk of endometrial cancer by 25%, all by drinking coffee.

  • Helps the colon recover function after surgery (go figure!).

Most importantly, consuming 3 or more cups a day of either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, lowered the risk of death, and lengthened lifespan, even those with heart disease or diabetes.  And as any coffee addict will tell you, there is a distinct difference between brands, type of bean, processing method, etc.  So go with what feels best to you.  You may find you have a reaction to one type of coffee, but not another.  You may be able to sleep with one and not another.

This doesn't necessarily mean you should run out and get a gold card at Starbuck's today, but you shouldn't feel so guilty about your morning coffee.  But be warned that as soon as you add cream, sugar, milk, flavoring, whipped cream or chocolate sprinkles, you lose the benefits.  So sidle up to the bar and order up some life-extending, antioxidant, probiotic, energy missile coffee!