As you may have heard, today is International Coffee Day! The question is: to sip, or not to sip? Traditional wisdom has told us that drinking coffee is unhealthy, but the many different coffee-related studies in the news in recent years have many coffee lovers rejoicing over the supposed health benefits of drinking a daily cup of Joe (or four). So, which is it? Is coffee really good for your health, or should we all stop buying into the hype? The answer may not be so simple.
The New Superfood?
Countless studies exist today extolling over the many health benefits of regularly drinking coffee. One of the biggest was a study of 25,000 people in South Korea. The study found that a moderate consumption of three to five cups of coffee a day is associated with decreased coronary artery calcium (CAC), which is a predictor of heart disease. CNN has cited other studies that are making some scientists believe that coffee helps to prevent inflammatory markers in the brain that are related to both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and that coffee can reduce the risk for some cancers. However, it is very difficult to prove that coffee is the sole cause of all these health benefits–certainly other lifestyle factors play a role as well. Furthermore, it turns out that when it comes to health benefits, not all coffee is created equal.
In some cases, the difference is in the caffeine. Decaf coffee has not been shown to provide the same health benefits of caffeinated coffee. Additionally, the way you brew and mix your coffee makes a huge difference. Research typically defines a single cup of coffee as about six ounces of black coffee, maybe with just a drop of cream or sugar. That means that an extra-large caramel latte does not count, unfortunately. All the added fat and sugar that most mixed coffee drinks contain make them the opposite of healthy. Certain ways of brewing the coffee itself are healthier than others. In fact, the compound cafestol found in coffee actually increases bad cholesterol (LDL). Using a filter to brew coffee filters this compound out, while using a French press does not. Finally, it’s nothing new that coffee and high caffeine intake can be harmful to children and pregnant women.
The jury may be out indefinitely when it comes to the health benefits of coffee. Whether you choose to drink five cups a day or zero, you can always enjoy the health benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Try skipping out on the sugary coffee drinks for a simple cup of black coffee. Find a workout regimen that you can stick to, and pay attention to your daily count of fruits and vegetables, while limiting overly sugary or fatty foods.
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