Coffee is a beloved beverage for many people, and those who love it don’t need to be told twice to enjoy another cup. But coffee is more than just a nice energy boost and a helpful buzz to get through the day—it also offers quite a few significant health benefits. Here is a guide to maximizing the top five benefits of drinking coffee:
1. Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Coffee consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The exact mechanism is unknown, but caffeine may increase fat-burning and boost metabolism, which is one reason it tends to be included in fat-burning supplements. More studies are needed, but it’s certainly true that caffeine decreases appetite.
The effect is mixed on how coffee affects the cardiovascular factors that are commonly complications of type 2 diabetes—it increases blood pressure but is linked to fewer heart attacks and strokes.
2. Lowers Your Risk of Neurological Diseases
Coffee has been linked in research to a lower risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The mechanisms are not fully understood, but it seems to be related to compounds in the bean itself. When it comes to lowering the risk of these diseases, the darker the roast, the greater the health benefit.
3. Improve Your Mental Health
This may not be huge news to daily caffeine drinkers who need their coffee to get through the morning, but caffeine can boost your mood. Regular coffee drinking is also associated with positive benefits to mental health in the long term as well. Drinking coffee regularly is linked to lower rates of depression and suicidal ideation, especially in people who drink 3-4 cups a day.
Studies show people who drink three cups a day have a 20% lower chance of developing clinical depression, and people who drink four cups a day have a 53% lower suicide rate. However, because of caffeine’s effects on sleep it’s also important to make sure coffee drinking isn’t impacting the sleep cycle. For people who experience trouble sleeping, avoiding caffeine at least 8 hours before going to bed helps.
4. Fill Up On Cancer-Fighting Antioxidants
Coffee is one of the richest source of antioxidants in the Western diet. A cup of coffee contains concentrated amounts of polyphenols—plant compounds that decrease inflammation—and anti-aging hydrocinnamic acid. These antioxidant compounds can slow down cell aging, decrease disease-causing inflammation throughout the body and decrease the chances of certain types of cancers. There are more antioxidants in lighter roasts.
Coffee also seems to have a protective effect on the liver, helping to preserve the tissue. Coffee that contains caffeine is especially beneficial to people with hepatitis C or fatty liver disease. People who consume at least three cups daily appear to get the most liver enhancing benefits.
5. Improve Your Exercise Performance
Coffee can boost exercise performance for athletes or people looking for an easier time working out. Coffee lowers what is known as “perceived exertion”—the subjective feeling that you’re working hard during exercise. If you want your workout to feel a little easier, consider drinking a cup of coffee a few minutes before.
Drinking coffee before an endurance run is especially linked to an increase in performance. Aside from lowering perceived exertion and fatigue, it can also directly offer up energy. Coffee releases free fatty acids in the blood—an important fuel source when you are engaged in endurance activity. This can benefit you during a long run or during muscle recovery afterward. This effect is more pronounced in people who don’t drink coffee regularly, so saving up your caffeine boost for a race day or event is a strategy that can work well.
Drinking coffee has many great benefits, but there are a few potential side effects too. Coffee can increase anxiety, disrupt sleep and cause heart palpitations and higher blood pressure for some people. The safest way to drink coffee is to drink it black or with a small amount of milk or non-dairy creamer early in the day. The best dose for an individual can vary, but it’s generally about one to five 8-oz cups per day.