I certainly am one of the 62 percent of Americans who drink coffee on a daily basis especially when I haul it around in my new d.stil thermal tumbler that keeps it hot and doesn’t drip on my chin. Besides its caffeine content to wake us up, several new studies suggest that — for many of us — coffee may perk up our health as well.
According to an article by registered dietitian, Judith Thalheimer, coffee offers us much more than caffeine. It contains more than 1,000 active compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, coffee drinkers may get more of these helpful substances in their daily cups of joe than they get in tea.
When scientists put all the reliable data together and crunch the results, coffee comes out associated with several positive attributes, Thalheimer reports. Coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of many types of cancer. It may even lower our risk for developing type 2 diabetes, although we’re not sure why.
More than 2 cups of coffee a day is considered a high intake, according to those who study its effects on health. But who knows what a “cup” of coffee actually is? What’s interesting is that many benefits are observed from more rather than less coffee intake. Praise the Lord.
Not everything in coffee is magically good for us, however. Compounds called diterpenes help fight against cancer. Yet they also raise bad LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. More of these compounds are found in unfiltered coffee such as Turkish or French press. Much lower levels are found in filtered and instant coffees, say scientists.
Pregnant women should also not overdo coffee, especially the leaded kind. Caffeine stays in the system longer during pregnancy and crosses over to baby, who does not have the ability to break it down. Women who drink a lot of coffee (generally more than 1 to 2 cups a day) have an increased risk for miscarriage or a baby of low birth weight, according to recent studies.
And although coffee drinking appears to lower our risk from dying of heart disease, people with high blood pressure need to avoid large doses of caffeine. Remedy? Choose decaf; it benefits the heart, too.
Other people who need to limit their intake of this pick-me-up are those with digestive issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or sleep disorders. And forget it if you think pure shots of caffeine are good for you. Coffee’s benefits are more likely a combination of all its ingredients, say researchers.
Finally, let’s be honest. Many of our favorite foo-foo coffee beverages are loaded with sugar and fat calories with their own associated health risks. Take it easy.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.