Is coffee good or bad? It seems no one can agree, as some research says yes, while other research says no. When it comes to coffee, cravings often come down to habits and physical dependence on caffeine.
For many people, coffee is the glue that holds it all together. It’s the morning drink that can be relied upon to help them get through the day. Even the smell of coffee is comforting.
But coffee is more than just a delicious morning drink, as a cup of coffee not only helps give you a great jumpstart to the day but can also lighten the mood. It can represent community, livelihood, passion, friendship and tradition because coffee can energise you, warm you, refresh you, wake you up, and even help you to catch up with your loved ones. It has been a staple of many households for generations.
The International Coffee Association has created an International Coffee Day on 1 October to help bring together coffee lovers to celebrate this much-loved beverage.
Since coffee contains caffeine, it can help you feel less tired, increase energy levels, burn fat by jump-starting the body’s metabolism and enhance productivity and brain and mental function.
Coffee is also packed with antioxidants and vitamins such as riboflavin, magnesium and potassium. Study after study indicates that moderate consumption of coffee, three or four cups per day while limiting additives like cream and sugar, can help to lessen depression, promote a healthy heart and reduce the risk of developing Type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and liver cancer, and even boost longevity.
As with many things that are nutrition-related, the best advice is to listen to your body. If you suspect that caffeine is triggering some unwanted effects or limiting your performance, try decaffeinated coffee instead.
Here are some of the ways in which coffee can positively impact your health:
Enhancing physical performance:
Drinking a cup of black coffee about an hour before a workout can improve your performance. Caffeine, the main ingredient of coffee, can increase the level of the hormone adrenaline in the blood and help you prepare for physical activity. It can also help break down body fat and use it as fuel for training.
Helping to lose weight:
Several studies show that caffeine can increase fat burning and boost your metabolic rate. Coffee contains magnesium and potassium, which can help our bodies use insulin, regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the craving for treats and snacks.
Reducing the risk of cancer:
Studies reveal that drinking four cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer in men by 20 per cent and the risk of developing endometrial cancer in women by 25 per cent. Caffeine can also prevent the development of basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer.
Refreshing your mood:
Two cups of coffee a day can assist the fight against depression and reduce the risk of suicide by 50 per cent. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all improving mood.
Reducing Parkinson’s disease:
Studies show that drinking coffee regularly reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 25 per cent. It can also stimulate activity in parts of the brain affected by the disease.
Protecting the body:
Coffee contains many antioxidants and fights against free radicals in the body.
Reducing the risk of Type II diabetes:
Caffeine can reduce insulin sensitivity and impair glucose tolerance, thus reducing the risk of Type II diabetes.
Moderate caffeine intake, one to six small cups a day, can help improve concentration and mental alertness.
Protecting the brain:
High levels of caffeine in the blood can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Two to four cups of black coffee a day is associated with a low risk of stroke.
Lowering the risk of death:
Studies have shown that the overall risk of premature death for coffee drinkers is 25 per cent lower than for non-coffee drinkers.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly