Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. The International Coffee Organization estimates that in 2016 over 151.3 million 60 kg bags of coffee were consumed globally. That’s well over 9 billion pounds of coffee beans!
We Americans super love our coffee ranking as one of the top coffee consumers in the world. Annually we import $4 billion in coffee beans and that’s the cost before it’s turned into coffee, espresso or some other variation of coffee. On any given day over 150 million Americans drink coffee and the average American coffee consumer has 3.1 cups of Joe a day. That’s over 465 million cups of coffee consumed, on average, every day in America. But with the math and onto the real question - is all that coffee good for us?
To begin with, let’s clarify that when studies look at the health benefits of coffee, they are referencing black coffee, not the foo-foo coffee type beverages slap loaded with sugar, fat, dairy and a bevy of food additives. Straight up black coffee has 5 or fewer calories and offers an array of health benefits. It’s loaded with antioxidants, phytochemicals and other health boosting benefits.
However, only 35% of Americans drink their coffee black. Now before you go wondering, know that there are in fact ways that you can jazz up your morning cup of Joe without negating all the health benefits. Check out Sheila's Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte and Cold Brew recipes for 2 delicious examples oh healthy coffee drinks.
Coffee May Curb Depression
Ever heard the expression that happiness is an inside job? Well that’s true on many levels, including the coffee inside your coffee cup! Studies have shown a reduction in the risk for developing depression in women who drink 4 more or more cups of coffee a day. One of those studies was led by Harvard School of Public Health.
That’s not to say that coffee cures depression, but rather women who drank the 4 or more cups of coffee a day compared to those who didn’t were less likely to develop depression. Women who drank comparable amounts of tea, soda, decaffeinated coffee or chocolate beverages did not experience the same benefits.
Swap out that toxic soda for a healthy cup of coffee and you may see a boost in your mood. Swapping out an unhealthy habit for a healthy habit is a great way to make sure the healthy habit and its benefits stick. And according to research, it looks like this swap is one you can be really happy about.
A couple things to keep in mind – for starters a coffee “cup” when referenced in studies is far different than the amount most people throw back. For some reason dating back to inception of the U.S. measurement system, when it was conceived in England, a coffee “cup” is 6 ounces. Don’t rightly know the reasoning behind this, but if you’re looking for validation of this measure out the ounces in your coffee pot in a Pyrex cup. Weird isn’t it?
The average amount of coffee Americans actually put in their cups is 9.1 ounces. To bring things back to the realm of normalcy, an actual cup of fluid, in the U.S. is 8 ounces. That means the coffee pot is 3/4ths lying to you and we’re all going above and beyond the call of duty by 1/8th. Surely hope you had your morning coffee before reading this.
Another point to note is that this study was in reference to women and depression. While coffee knows no gender, it is still a stimulant and thus individuals dealing with anxiety disorders and sleep issues may be better off limiting or excluding coffee. In any case, coffee does not replace mental healthcare.
Your Heart May Love Coffee as Much as You Do
Consuming 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day, which averages out the 4 the cups of coffee shown to be beneficial at staving off depression, has been found to be protective of heart health in a meta-analysis of 36 studies with a combine 1.27 million participants. Meta-analysis is a fancy way of saying an organized, systematic review of a large number of scientific studies to look for common findings across the studies. Every science enthusiast's dream come true (like yours truly) and every college student’s worst nightmare.
What’s the takeaway on this one? If you like coffee, drinking 4 or so cups a day (24 ounces) may offer some heart healthy benefits. Those benefits go out the window as sugar, creamer and food additives go into your coffee though.
Coffee consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, but again, that is before adding a ton of cream, sugar and nonsense. This is not to say that coffee cures or prevents cancer, but that there seems to be some protective values to coffee. If you love coffee and hate cancer, it may be in your best interest to keep up your java habit and even switch out one unhealthy beverage you’re having a day for a simple cup of coffee.
Your Love of Coffee May Make You More Loving
Some cultures view coffee as an aphrodisiac. It’s easy to love someone who hands you a cup of coffee. Ha! Perhaps it’s due to the love of java itself or perhaps it’s related to coffees health perks. Coffee contains caffeine, a known stimulant and it has been shown to boost your natural dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with our brain’s reward system. Pleasure, learning and approach behavior are all associated with pleasure and thus dopamine. See where this is leading?
Caffeine also boosts mood, physical performance, blood flow and stamina - all the more reasons that caffeine can be an aphrodisiac. Or simply put, great reasons to enjoy a cup of coffee with your heart’s desire.
Coffee and Healthy Weight
Coffee has been shown to help with burning fat and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. That said, one more time with feeling, the health benefits of coffee are found in a cup of black coffee. Once you add a ton of sugar and cream, now adding to weight problems and probability of developing diabetes.
To help coffee help you see a slimmer waistline, drink freshly brewed or cold brew coffee. Organic, fair trade and shade grown if you’re going for the best of the best benefits of coffee. Cold brew offers the added benefit of lower acid levels and a naturally sweet, almost creamy flavor that you don’t need to add anything to.
If you’re going to add creamer and sugar, like 65% of all American coffee drinkers do, use organic dairy or dairy replacement products. Make sure whatever milk or milk replacement you choose does NOT have added sugar, artificial flavors/colors, or carrageenan. Measure the sweetener you put in your coffee, opting for coconut sugar, real maple syrup or local honey and keeping the amount within check.
It’s Not All Sunshine and Lollipops
Too much coffee can of course give you the jitters and if you’re dealing with anxiety and/or insomnia, it can wreak havoc on your life. Additionally, chronically high coffee consumption can cause mineral absorption and utilization problems for people, more so in those who do not consume a healthy, nutrient rich diet to begin with. If you’re swapping a meal for a cup coffee, you’re more likely to see the negative side effects and on a larger scale.
Let’s not overlook the common “coffee spilt while driving to work for an important meeting on brand new, very nice white shirt.” Also spilling hot coffee in your lap can cause burns and foolish lawsuits.
Total side note: Coffee grounds make great, all-natural skin care.
If you’re looking to perk up your skin, especially after a bout of stress, used coffee grounds make an incredible exfoliant and the caffeine in the grounds will perk up your skin. Some say that the acid in the grounds help clear up skin breakouts and ingrown. Do note that coffee grounds can be tricky to clean up in the shower and can stain shower curtains.
I collaborated with the wonderful ladies of Moonlight Makers to create this fun cup. It's a NutritionSheila.com exclusive. A great way to enjoy a cup of coffee. Click HERE to get yours.
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