Brewing the beverage down to its pros and cons
Have you ever stopped to ask, “Is coffee good or bad for me?” Don’t be concerned if you never have. You’re just like millions of others who have a cup of coffee or two every morning. Perhaps your daily routine includes the Starbucks drive thru. It’s been a part of your life you don’t think much about, unless you just can’t do without it or you rely on it to keep you regular. There’s an abundance of memes floating around online that exaggerate the behavior of people deprived of their morning caffeine fix, they’re portrayed humorously in a variety of ways – as homicidal, kooky or best of all, as a frazzled kittens.
The real truth is that it’s not just a black and bitter drink with little to offer beyond being a stimulant. It is interesting that some argue that caffeine is a harmful ingredient in a beverage that is otherwise linked to reduced disease risks thanks to its high count of antioxidants.
In fact, an eight ounce cup of coffee contains a reasonable amount of vitamins, too. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is the most prominent with 11% of the Recommended Daily Allowance. Coffee also contains Vitamins B5, B1 and B3, as well as folate, manganese, potassium and phosphorous at three or less % of the RDA. Naturally, when you have two cups the percentage doubles, and so on.
It is the antioxidants in coffee however that really put coffee in the ‘healthy’ category. It is alleged that in an average Western diet, a person ingests more antioxidants by drinking coffee than they do from eating fruits or vegetables.
But what of coffee’s primary ingredient, caffeine – is it addictive or at all harmful? Caffeine is a stimulant that will enhance brain function and boost metabolism. It’s also found in perhaps the majority of popular soft drinks, tea and chocolate. It gets you going because it blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter (brain hormone) called Adenosine, thereby increasing activity in the brain. Meanwhile, norepinephrine and dopamine are released, and they cause you to feel awake and alert.
Studies indicate that caffeine can be responsible for a short-term boost in brain function, which in turn improves mood, cognitive function and vigilance. Your metabolism is boosted and the number of calories burned increases anywhere between three and eleven %. Everyday consumption of coffee will cause these effects to diminish as a tolerance is developed.
There are even additional health benefits. Coffee drinkers are less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, which is characterized by elevated blood sugar due to resistance to the effects of insulin. While studies have shown huge increases in diabetes afflictions, coffee drinkers seem to be missing among the at-risk categories. In fact, their chances of becoming diabetic appear to be slim, now up to 67% less likely of acquiring the disease than non-coffee drinkers. In fact a reputable study had concluded that a daily cup of coffee was associated with a 7 % reduced risk of T2D.
Studies also indicate that regular coffee drinkers are less likely to succumb to liver disease. Though very sensitive to alcohol and fructose intake, the liver doesn’t appear to suffer ill-effect from coffee. Cirrhosis (when the liver is turned into almost entirely scar tissue) is less likely to occur in a coffee drinker – by 84%, especially if up to four cups a day is consumed.
Such studies further reveal that coffee drinkers are less prone to depression and even suicide. Despite being an epidemic (the most common mental disorder in the world) responsible for a reduced quality of life among countless individuals, it was revealed that those who drank the most coffee had a 20% less risk of depression.
There are even studies that show coffee drinkers live longer! As established, coffee drinkers have a lower risk of getting many common diseases, naturally that would contribute to a longer life. There’s decent evidence in support of this idea, indicating that four to five cups a day for individuals between the ages fifty and seventy-one reduces the risk of dying by 18%.
That’s a lot of promising info, but what of adverse effects? There are negative aspects to coffee consumption, of course. Basic unpleasant symptoms such as jitteriness are quite common as is anxiety, heart palpitations and in severe instances, panic attacks. Naturally, if you are prone to any of these feelings you will likely be too sensitive to the effects of coffee and would be best off not indulging in it.
And who hasn’t – at least a couple of times – lost sleep or had trouble getting to sleep after being spun on coffee earlier? In order for the caffeine to have minimal influence on your turn-in time, don’t drink coffee past 2pm. Sure, you and your friends love to take that Starbucks trip in the evening but you will regret getting a caffeinated drink when you are tossing and turning in bed a few hours later.
Another potential disadvantage to coffee intake is the elevated affects one’s blood pressure may experience. Such increases tend to normalize with regular use, although a raise in blood pressure of 1 – 2 mm/Hg will likely continue.
Naturally, there’s a lot of talk about addiction. The manner that addiction exists in the coffee world is insignificant compared to the symptoms experienced by addicts of hard drugs. Much like with them, however, a heavy user will develop a tolerance to its effects. Sometimes larger doses are needed. It’s at this point that the similarities end. A coffee user will probably just take a break, abstain for a while. There might be withdrawal symptoms like headaches, fatigue and irritability, but they aren’t too profound and only last a few days. Unlike a hard drug user going through severe withdrawal, a coffee enthusiast experiences nothing life-threatening.
Are we better off drinking decaffeinated coffee? There actually IS some caffeine in decaffeinated, though not nearly as much as regular. By repeating the process of rinsing the coffee beans in solvent chemicals, the caffeine is dissolved until it has been mostly removed. It should be noted that the health benefits attributed to coffee (and detailed here previously) do not apply to decaffeinated coffee. There is no reduction in risk of diabetes or liver disease.
Be mindful not to compromise the integrity of the benefits coffee offers by putting anything in it. Sugar and any type of artificial creamer are unhealthy, for the most part. If you can brew your own and avoid places like the major coffee chains, you’ll be better off. A couple of cups of straight black coffee before 2pm are ideal.
Obviously, not everyone should be downing cups of coffee each day. Pregnant women for example, should limit or quit coffee altogether, and folks with high blood pressure and insomnia should follow suit. Even if you experience general anxiety and do not like feeling nervous, just ditch the coffee. It’s not for everybody.
Coffee should remain a drink that adults enjoy at their discretion. There are some bona fide benefits to be derived from coffee consumption, but the disadvantages should not be overlooked. Ultimately you make your own choices and how much coffee you drink shouldn’t make you lose any sleep – or should it?