Coffee definitely has its perks

Photo: Jon Muldoon

Boy, do we love our coffee. For many of us, it’s what starts our day and provides that perfect mid-afternoon break. It’s so popular that there’s an entire culture based around it – just look at all the coffee shops out there.

But do we really know what we’re getting out of it? There are both pros and cons to drinking the stuff and much of it has to do with the caffeine content.

On the positive side, science provides lots of evidence that it’s a very beneficial drink. Coffee possesses lots of nutrients (riboflavin, pantothenic acid, manganese, potassium, magnesium, niacin) and more antioxidants than both fruits and vegetables combined.

All of this adds up to improving our health and even lowering our risk of developing serious diseases. More specifically, several scientific studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of getting type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and developing cirrhosis, and liver and colorectal cancer.

The caffeine acts as a stimulant, improving energy levels, mood and various aspects of brain function, increases adrenaline levels, and releases fatty acids from fat tissues, leading to improvements in physical performance.

It can increase fat burning in the body, boosting the metabolic rate and aiding in weight loss. It tends to brighten our disposition, leaving us less prone to depression, too.

If all of this is true, it would then make sense to conclude that coffee drinkers potentially live longer and have a lower risk of premature death.

On the negative side, coffee acts as a diuretic for some folks, causing more frequent visits to the bathroom. The acidity of coffee can cause digestive discomfort, indigestion and heartburn in some people, and some ingredients can reduce the effectiveness of prescription medication.

Perhaps most drastic is caffeine’s addictive nature. So many of us can’t seem to function properly until we get that caffeine fix at the beginning of the day, and many of us use it throughout the day to keep going. Too much can render us hyper and increase stress level as well as blood pressure. Consumption close to bedtime can rob us of sleep, and this phenomenon worsens with age. Generally it takes about six hours for caffeine to clear our system, although it varies from person to person. Ultimately we could drink decaf, without the “buzz”, and still get many of the positive benefits.

Considering all that, how much coffee is the right amount to consume? I suppose it depends on the individual, their physical and mental health, tolerance for caffeine and love for the beverage. According to many studies, for certain benefits, maximum results are achieved by consuming three or four cups a day. That may be way too much for many folks. Coffee drinkers might consult with their doctors to see what amount is best for them, especially if they’re on medication or have specific ailments.

According to some experts, the best method to brew coffee is to use a filter of some sort such as in a drip coffee maker. It filters out cafestol, a compound that can increase bad cholesterol in our blood.

After weighing the pros and cons, decide whether the positive benefits of drinking coffee outweigh the negatives for you personally and sip accordingly. Myself, I love the smell of freshly ground beans in the morning, even if I only consume a single cup a day.


Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator, judge

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