These days your cup of coffee comes in all possible shapes and sizes, from the humble but powerful espresso through to the decadent, marshmallow covered Mocha (with skinny milk to offset the marshmallows, of course). Coffee also comes in at number three on the list of most consumed beverages worldwide. So why is there always some killjoy out to spoil your delicious cup of joe by telling you why it’s bad for you? If your senses haven’t been sharpened enough by your morning dose of caffeine for a snappy comeback, or if you simply want to pour another guilt-free cup without the killjoys on your case, here are some of the health benefits your caffeine fix provides that you can throw back at them.
Of course, you can always have too much of a good thing, so we’ll also have a look at just how much is TOO much when it comes to caffeine intake.
This may seem like an obvious one, but drinking coffee increases energy levels in both brain and body. Due to varying amounts of caffeine in each cup, different types of coffee affect us in different ways. So as soon as you start sipping that cappuccino (or whatever your preference may be) caffeine enters your bloodstream and makes its way to your brain, blocking inhibitors and enhancing levels of dopamine and other chemicals which make you more energised, productive and ready for the day ahead. Increased dopamine has also been linked to increased intelligence, so your favourite drink could be making you smarter just as it’s waking you up! Of course, a good mood goes hand in hand with feeling more alert, productive and smart - good coffee can put a smile on your face.
OK, increased levels of energy are great for working away at your desk, but also great for working out. Not only will a pre-exercise coffee give you a much-needed jolt of energy, it also helps speed up the metabolism, helping to burn fat quicker. I must point out that this works at different levels depending on your shape and size. If you’re a bit overweight the metabolism speeds up slightly more slowly, but at least you’re helping burn off that excess fat! I should also point out that a huge milky latte probably isn’t the ideal drink BEFORE twenty minutes on the treadmill. Sip a coffee post workout though and your recovery time will be faster, as the caffeine increases adrenaline and eases muscle pain.
In today’s typical western diet, coffee is one of the most powerful antioxidants. While that might not say much for our diet in general, antioxidants are very important for the body in preventing or slowing damage to cells, so coffee consumption shouldn’t be overlooked in this area.
Let’s not go into too much detail with this one, but many people feel their bowel stimulated by a cup of coffee. So it can help keep you regular, another important factor for your core health. Some people I know even take their morning cup to the smallest room for a bit of company and/or encouragement!
While it’s important to note that not all of these have been fully proven, the consumption of a moderate amount of coffee has been linked to prevention or lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia and many other diseases. Studies are underway and suggest that caffeine can help prevent your liver from cirrhosis and other diseases (although cutting back on the alcohol is definitely more helpful with that). It’s actually a fallacy that coffee increases blood pressure permanently (although it does cause a little spike), so as a result, the myth that it causes heart disease is just that, a myth.
As with any chemical which affects the brain and body, overconsumption can have some adverse effects. If you really overdo your caffeine fix that productivity and elevated mood can turn into anxiety, counterproductivity and moodiness. That regular bowel movement can become a slightly unpredictable state of affairs (although this can be countered by consumption of food to soak it up). And of course, if you want a recharging, peaceful sleep it’s best to limit your intake, or maybe turn off the coffee machine at a certain time of day to let the caffeine make its way out of your system before bedtime.