There is nothing I love more than my first cup of coffee in the morning. Although I once used to chug it quickly before running out the door, I now take the time to sit down and enjoy it. I wake up after a great sleep on my millet pillow and Tencel sheet set, walk to the kitchen and start brewing a pot. I even upgraded my setup with a professional coffee grinder and a digital scale to make the perfect cup. Coffee is so much more than caffeine (although I can’t deny its role!). It’s a vital part of my “mindful morning.”
There are millions of people just like me. In fact, you, too, may be one of the 150 million people in the United States who start their day with a cup of java. Collectively we put back 400 million cups of coffee every day, making the nation one of the biggest consumers of coffee.
Fortunately, there are many health benefits associated with coffee consumption. Coffee has plenty of antioxidants and substances that can prevent disease and inflammation. Nutrition experts from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine say that coffee is good for you when you have the right amount!
One of the most notorious benefits of coffee is its effect on our energy levels. Due to caffeine, a psychoactive substance found in coffee, you can feel more energized and improve reaction times. When you drink coffee, the caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels into the brain. It then blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine. As a result, neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine increase which trigger enhanced neuron firing. This improves brain function, including mental abilities, memory, vigilance, reaction times, and energy.
Additionally, caffeine can also help you burn fat and lose weight. Research has found that caffeine can increase your metabolic rate by up to 11%! By increasing metabolic rate, you can increase fat burning by up to 29%.
Studies have also found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of acquiring Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is when the body becomes insulin resistant and causes blood sugar levels to increase. Several studies have found that regular coffee drinks had up to a 50% lower risk.
Coffee may also prevent cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common neurodegenerative disease worldwide with no known cure; however, there are ways you can prevent it. The European Journal of Neurology published a study on the protective effects of caffeine. The researchers found that caffeine has neuroprotective effects when taken in low doses and was associated with a significantly lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Further studies suggested that coffee drinkers have up to 65% lower risk of acquiring the disease.
Another common neurodegenerative condition is Parkinson’s, which coffee is also believed to lower the risk of. Parkinson’s is caused when dopamine-generating neurons in the brain die. Though there isn’t a known cure, research has found that coffee drinkers' risk is reduced by up to 60%. This benefit results from the caffeine found in coffee, as those who drink decaf don’t receive the same benefits.
Coffee is also full of essential nutrients! In just one cup, you’ll receive 11% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin B12, 6% of the RDI of vitamin B5, 3% of the RDDI of manganese and potassium and 2% of the RDI of magnesium and vitamin B3. For those who drink multiple cups a day, these totals add up! It is also the most significant source of antioxidants in the average Western diet. It is arguably one of the healthiest drinks you can have, with more antioxidants found in a cup of coffee than your daily intake of fruits and veggies.
Drinking a few cups of coffee won’t hurt your liver, either. In fact, it may protect it! A healthy liver is critical to your well-being as it carries out hundreds of essential functions. Research has found that those who drink four or more cups a day reduce their risk of cirrhosis by up to 80%.
Coffee also helps your liver by protecting against liver cancer and colorectal cancer. Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death, with colorectal falling into 4th place. A study containing 489,706 participants found that those who drank 4 to 5 cups a day reduced their risk of colorectal cancer by 15%.
Despite all of these benefits, many people still believe coffee is bad for them. There are claims that it increases blood pressure and is bad for heart health. Though it can indeed increase blood pressure, this increase is minor, rising just 3-4 mm/Hg. Often an increase in blood pressure doesn’t occur in those who drink coffee regularly. Some studies actually suggest that coffee drinkers, especially women, have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
With a reduced risk of neurogenerative diseases, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, it is no surprise that coffee drinkers may live longer. In addition, many observational studies found that coffee drinking can reduce their risk of death. For example, in two studies, it was found that the risk of death was decreased by 20% in men and 26% in women.
How much is too much?
Everyone responds to caffeine differently, and some won’t find it makes them feel better. One of the most significant risks of drinking too much coffee is disrupted sleep. The caffeine found in coffee can make it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Even with a comfy millet pillow and Tencel sheet set, caffeine can keep you up.
Research has found this to be especially true for older adults, decreasing the total amount of sleep time. After a poor night of sleep, you may then reach for more coffee the next day, and the cycle continues. The good news is that sleep is rarely affected by a low or moderate coffee, even in those with insomnia.
Even though we often reach for a coffee in the morning to help us feel more awake, it can also cause fatigue. This coffee-triggered fatigue is known as rebound fatigue and occurs after the caffeine leaves our system. This is why people will continue to have coffee throughout the day.
Too much coffee can also make you feel jittery or anxious. It can then make it difficult to concentrate. Some people are sensitive to caffeine, and the effects are different with children and pregnant women and doctors believe it is harmful to these individuals and should be avoided.
The key to receiving the benefits of coffee is to have a moderate amount. According to Harvard Health, this is two to five cups a day. In addition, it is best to keep your coffee intake to the morning and switch to decaf later in the day so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
When you drink more than 5 cups a day, you can experience adverse effects from having too much caffeine. One of these negative effects is anxiety. This is because caffeine blocks the effects of a brain chemical known as adenosine and releases adrenaline which can then lead to feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Those who are more sensitive to caffeine or have over 1000 mg a day may have a caffeine-induced anxiety disorder, a caffeine-related syndrome found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Too much coffee can also cause digestive issues. Just one cup can have a laxative effect due to the release of a hormone called gastrin. Gastrin speeds up colon activity and stimulates bowel movements. Typically this isn’t an issue; however, when someone has gastro issuea or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it can make it worse.
If you have been drinking too much and want to cut back, you can – but it may be difficult! Coffee is addictive, triggering parts of the brain similar to cocaine and other drugs. As a result, those who stop drinking coffee “cold turkey” may experience headaches, cravings, and fatigue.
Gradually cut back one cup at a time. For example, if you usually have six cups a day, only drink five for a week. The following week you can cut back again to just four cups.
You should also stop drinking coffee around noon for better sleep, so the caffeine has enough time to leave your system. After a prolonged period of too much caffeine and sleep troubles, your sleep cycle could be disrupted. Instead, try a natural sleep aid with sleep-enhancing ingredients like tryptophan, chamomile, and melatonin to get back on track.
If you love coffee as much as I do, don’t worry – coffee is not bad for you! Balance is key. By enjoying two to five cups of coffee a day, you can reduce your risk of disease, feel more energized, and boost levels of nutrients and antioxidants. So the next time you wake up from a great sleep on your millet pillow, you can enjoy that first cup of coffee guilt free.