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Coffee: Good for you!

If you are a coffee drinker, there’s probably nothing more appealing than the robust aroma of freshly brewed coffee. For millions of people all over the world, starting the day off with a hot cup of java has become a morning ritual, whether it’s home brewed or purchased from the many coffee stores that dot urban and suburban neighborhoods. For many in the U.S., that morning cup of coffee has become a must-have. Indeed, statistics from the National Coffee Association show that more than half of American adults drink some form of coffee daily, and over 400 million cups of coffee are consumed every year.

What’s in that cup?
Recent studies on coffee’s health effects suggest that a moderate intake of coffee can be beneficial. Apparently, roasting coffee beans and then brewing them in water generates beneficial compounds that are good for our health. Coffee, whether full-strength or decaffeinated, contains substances such as antioxidants, magnesium, chromium and more, which have been shown to play a role in preventing many chronic conditions.

Research data shows that the number one source of dietary antioxidants in industrialized countries comes from coffee. Antioxidants are substances that prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are byproducts of normal metabolism such as breathing and exercising but are also formed from processes such as smoking, radiation, toxins and other environmental exposures. Antioxidants, which are found in fruits and vegetables, and (as literature confirms) coffee beans, can counteract the damage caused by free radicals.

Prevent disease–drink up
Studies have also shown that coffee plays a role in the preventing type 2 diabetes. Scientists speculate that it is not one particular nutrient in that cup of java that is beneficial, rather it’s the combination of substances in it that make a difference. Aside from antioxidants, coffee’s chromium and magnesium are involved in the function of insulin, the hormone which helps control blood sugar.

There is additional research that shows a correlation between coffee consumption and lower risk of heart disease. A recent study indicated a lower risk of heart failure in those who consumed coffee compared to those who did not. Studies also suggest a lower risk of stroke among women coffee drinkers.

Caffeine has some benefits
The caffeine in coffee may also provide some benefit. Aside from its stimulating effect, caffeine has been shown to increase the effectiveness of some pain killers. Many over-the-counter analgesics contain caffeine as an active ingredient. Other studies have demonstrated a correlation between coffee consumption and decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease, which the data suggests is due to the caffeine in coffee. How it works, though, is unclear.

Coffee lovers beware
In spite of all the benefits of coffee, it is prudent to point out that both regular and decaffeinated coffee contain acids that can exacerbate symptoms of heartburn. Consult with your doctor about your coffee consumption if you suffer from heartburn. It is also good to remember that coffee acts as a mild diuretic, meaning you will need more trips to the bathroom as your consumption of coffee increases.

To benefit from all that a cup of joe has to offer, it is important to remember a few things. First, enjoy the coffee; that is, keep the beverage simple and avoid the extra sweeteners and flavorings that will increase the calories of this fabulous concoction and do more harm than good to your waistline. Second, while research shows there is a benefit to consuming coffee, do so in moderation. Two to three cups of coffee a day may be enough to reap its many health benefits. Remember, more of a good thing is not necessarily better!

About Julia Salomón MS, RD, CD

Julia is the corporate dietitian at Affinity Health System and also a nutrition educator. She works at various sites throughout the organization working with Affinity’s employee wellness program. She earned her Master’s degree in nutrition science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996 and became a dietitian shortly thereafter. Julia has worked on several nutrition projects abroad as well as domestically. Before joining Affinity Health System in June of 2011, she worked as a college dietitian and later in the school nutrition field. She has earned certificates of training in adult and childhood weight management. Julia has a special interest in nutrition, public health and wellness.

One Response to Coffee: Good for you!

  • Ann-Marie Haas Niec says:

    Julia,
    Do you remember a young gent named Murphy Patrick?
    His mom lovessssss coffee and would like to talk to you.

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