Coffee seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Millions of people routinely drink it, and it’s a staple in many cultures around the globe. People love it, yet many are confused about how they should think of it; is it a health food, superfood, guilty pleasure, or health risk?
Right out of the gate, I can tell you that coffee is good for you. It’s a rich source of antioxidants that promote healthy cells, repair cell damage, lower inflammation, and reduce the risk of chronic illness. There is recent research suggesting that coffee drinkers are likely to live longer than non-coffee drinkers, as well as exhibit a lower risk for stroke and diabetes. There is even research to suggest coffee may lead to long-term reductions in blood pressure.
There is one caveat to this, of course: that’s for regular black coffee. If you’re drinking the sugar-laden, syrupy specialty coffees or loading sugar into it, these benefits are unlikely.
Some suggest that coffee is a powerful diuretic that promotes dehydration, poor nutrient absorption, dry skin, etc. But research suggests that although coffee is a mild diuretic, it doesn’t contribute to dehydration. One study found that participants displayed relatively similar hydration levels whether they drank coffee or the equivalent amount of water for three days. It’s likely the dehydration argument is overblown! Caffeine can, however, have a small-moderate influence on iron absorption.
One of the substantial knocks against coffee is that the stimulating effects of caffeine can lead to anxiety, sleeplessness, and other negative influences on the brain. On the other hand, moderate doses of caffeine can improve wakefulness, focus, and creativity. Therefore, not overdoing it is a good idea. Assessing your own tolerance is recommended, as is avoiding coffee late in the afternoon or evening.
Electing a dark roast over a light roast is also a way to cut back on caffeine. Darker roasts lose more of their natural bioactive compounds during processing, including caffeine.
As far as consumption goes, sticking to four cups is good. More than that, and it’s possible some of the benefits may turn into risks.
Don’t stress over your coffee; enjoy it and know that you’re likely doing a good thing for your body. Take it black or with a little bit of milk for a healthful start to your day.