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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!

What’s in my coffee?

Black coffee has zero calories and zero carbohydrates, yet today’s coffee drinks have turned into the caloric equivalent of rich desserts that people are consuming on a regular basis. 
Many specialty coffee drinks use espresso as the starting ingredient, a concentrated form of coffee. Espresso does not take up too much room in the cup, allowing for the rest of the drink to be filled with calorically dense ingredients like whipped cream. A coffee drink that includes half and half would provide double the amount of calories and three times as much fat than if whole milk were used. A coffee drink made with whole milk would provide 50 percent more calories and 7 grams more fat than if skim milk were used. In addition to milk based products, many coffee beverages contain other ingredients.  Flavored syrups have 20 calories for each pump and most coffee drinks take at least three pumps, adding to the caloric value of the beverage. Continue Reading »

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