“Coffee’s for closers.” – Blake, played by Alec Baldwin in the film Glengarry Glen Ross
Ah, coffee! Coffee, java, cup o’ Joe, or whatever you call it, is probably a big part of your day. Americans drink it more than any other beverage. One of its many attractions is caffeine, the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive substance. But, unlike many others, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all jurisdictions. In North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily, and coffee is the number way we consume it. We start our day with a strong cup, drink it on breaks at work, use it to get through a mid-day slump, and meet new people as we socialize over cup or two. Sixty per cent of Americans claim they “need” a cup of coffee to start their day, implying an addiction, or at least a mild dependence. Can this be good for us? Should we be drinking it at all?
Coffee, used responsibly and in moderation, can actually be quite healthy and beneficial. It is the original “energy drink,” with a proven track record of safety and benefits. Those who have problems with coffee are those that use it to excess and do not included as part of a well-balanced diet and lifestyle. In recent years, many Americans have sought out alternative ways of getting that daily pick me up with carbonated energy drinks and shots of stimulants designed to give us periods of five hour energy boosts. As of now, there are not enough long-term research studies to confirm the safety and impact of frequent consumption of these products. Coffee has been around for over 1000 years and is quite safe and is an effective energy booster, having health benefits when used responsibly. One could argue that it is a safe and proven alternative to the current consumption of energy drinks.
Here are some of the scientifically proven benefits of coffee:
⦁ Coffee increases energy levels. Within 20 minutes the energy boost from the caffeine becomes noticeable. When consuming coffee, the caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the brain. It increases the amount of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine, leading to enhanced brain activity and improved memory, alertness, reaction time, and cognitive functions.
⦁ Coffee improves physical performance. Coffee enhances the production of epinephrine, the body’s adrenaline. This is the “fight or flight” hormone which readies our bodies for intense physical exertion. Studies indicate that coffee, used responsibly, can enhance the body’s exertion capacity by 11 to 12% on the average. This, however, is where the danger lies. Overconsumption of coffee and going through your day an adrenalized state of readiness can be a problem.
⦁ Coffee has a fat burning effect. A study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that coffee can increase the metabolic rate by anywhere between 3% to 11%. Caffeine is one of the number one stimulants in most over-the-counter “fat burning” supplements, which can be dangerous to take as ingredients often include other stimulants such as ephedra. This combination of caffeine, ephedra, and other chemicals can be dangerous to the heart. Coffee, a more natural alternative, allows you to burn fat in a safer manner.
⦁ Coffee is rich in antioxidants. According to researchers at the University of Scranton, Americans get more antioxidants from coffee than any other food source. Joe Vinson Phd., the study’s lead author says, “Nothing else comes close.” The study cautioned that moderation, 2 cups per day, is the safest way to use coffee as a source of nutrition.
⦁ Coffee has protective factors for many diseases. Various studies have shown that coffee can help to prevent type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, colon cancer, liver diseases, and heart disease. Various studies recommend different amounts of coffee, but most studies showed that there are some very positive benefits from moderate daily consumption.
⦁ Coffee can provide some hard to get nutritional benefits. Coffee contains several important nutrients, including Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Manganese, Potassium, Magnesium and Niacin.
⦁ Coffee can help fight low levels of depression. A 2011 Harvard University study showed that women who drink four or more cups per day had a 20% lower risk of becoming depressed.
Coffee has health benefits that other sources of caffeine simply do not. That can of cola, energy drink, or chocolate milk that you consume simply can’t compare to the health benefits provided by that cup of Java. What is the safest and most effective way to consume coffee? Here is what the research indicates:
⦁ Consume thoughtfully and in moderation. In 2015, a government advisory commission published the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in which they stated that Americans can safely consume 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day, or approximately 400 mg of caffeine with no detrimental effects. While studies cautioned, however, that results vary from person to person and that the coffee should not be consumed all at once.
⦁ Trying brew your own. The over-the-counter coffees that you buy in coffee shops usually are too big, too sweet, and have way more calories than you need. Not all coffee is created equal. Most people don’t think of this, but coffee is the most heavily pesticide sprayed crop in the world. If at all possible try to get organic coffee or fair trade that you grind yourself. This is approximately 3% of all coffee consumed.
⦁ Drink it black if you can. Sugar, artificial sweetener, and saturating it with milk or cream defeats the purpose. All research studies agree that consuming it black was is the healthiest way to consume.
When you’re looking for a morning pick me up, a pre-workout boost, or something to get you through that afternoon lull, pass along the colas, energy drinks, and sugary juices. Look no further than your basic cup of coffee, nature’s original energy drink.
“The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.”- Oliver Wendell Holmes
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