I wrote here about the physiology of caffeine primarily, and its respective plusses and minuses. But caffeine aside, coffee has a lot of perks.
- Chlorogenic acid. This is most likely the reason why moderate coffee consumption (around 3 cups per day, and up to 6!) is linked to decreased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. According to the researchers of the journal Diabetologia, test subjects’ increase of one cup of coffee per day over a 4 year period decreased risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 11%, while those who decreased their consumption by more than a cup had a 17% higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes. (Of course the best way to decrease the risk of diabetes is to stop eating sugar and white carbs).
- Lignans. Also found in seeds (including flax seeds), whole grains, and legumes, these are phytoestrogens (which is NOT a bad thing), and anti-carcinogenic, or protective against cancer.
- Magnesium. This is the reason why coffee tends to encourage colon regularity, as magnesium does the same thing. Magnesium deficiency is incredibly common, probably because it is found in whole grains, almonds and nuts, beans, green leafies, and fish, none of which are too common in the Standard American Diet (SAD—what an appropriate acronym). Additionally, many over-the-counter and prescription meds block magnesium’s absorption, as do soda and alcohol. Coffee delivers a particularly absorbable wallop of magnesium.
- Polyphenols. Oxidative stress is a mediating factor in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic inflammatory diseases, and it is postulated to be a major contributor to cellular aging as well. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidative stress, which means they protect against many of those chronic diseases. Many nutrients are considered to be antioxidants, including polyphenols. According to chemistry professor Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton, Americans consume 1.64 cups of coffee daily on average, which delivers 1,299 mg of antioxidants. The closest food group to this was tea, which (based on average intake) delivered only 294 mg.
In the name of balance, however, I will point out that too much caffeine does put you at risk of increased blood pressure, heart rate, insomnnia, palpitations, irritability and/or anxiety, not to mention headaches due to withdrawal. Coffee is also acidic, and this may place a greater strain on your blood buffering system. Therefore, although the studies suggest up to 6 cups daily, I’d recommend no more than two cups per day, to avoid these negatives and maximize the positive effect.
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