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Maximizing the Health Benefits of Coffee

By on June 14, 2015

A Splash of Good Health

Coffee is the seed of a fruit known as the Coffee Cherry;  a bright red berry containing a powerhouse of Antioxidants.  It could be considered the most powerful fruit on the planet, and by far it is the biggest source of antioxidants in the western diet today — outranking both fruits and vegetables combined.  As if this wasn’t enough, coffee offers a whole host of additional health benefits which will be addressed later on in this article.

It is believed that the origins of coffee stem from Ethiopia, when a goatherd observed how his flock became unusually lively, after eating a certain type of red berry.  The first known population to begin actually cultivating and trading coffee beans though were the Arab nations, starting with Yemen in the 15th century — by the 16th century coffee had become widely known in other Arab countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Turkey as well as Persia.

Coffee quickly became a social phenomena since it was not only drunk in homes, but also became available in public coffee houses known as qahveh khaneh.  In addition to coffee drinking, these venues  became important social institutions where one could go to enjoy music, see live performances and play board games such as chess — they also became powerful hubs for catching up on the latest news.

Europeans travelling to the near east brought home stories of a curious dark brown beverage, which began to rapidly infiltrate the entire continent shortly afterwards.  As with their Arabian counterparts — the introduction of this popular commodity spawned a  multitude of coffee houses, which doubled as cultural centers of social activity and communication.  In England they were known as Penny Universities — because for the price of a single penny one could enjoy a cup of coffee, whilst engaging in a stimulating conversation.

Coffee Cherries

The Lie That Duped a Nation for Over a Century

In the mid 1600s, the British introduced coffee to New Amsterdam, the place we would recognize today as being New York.  However, tea continued to be the beverage of choice in the New World until the infamous Boston Tea Party of 1773 — which would forever change the tea drinking habits of the Colonists.

Ironically in the early 20th century, Americans began to view coffee as a toxic substance, deemed entirely unsuitable for children — amongst other things it was feared that drinking coffee at such an early age could stunt the growth of your child.  Hence, parents were encouraged to take strong measures to prevent their offspring from consuming this forbidden fruit until the age of fourteen — anything other than this form of practice was considered to be nothing short of child abuse.

Notwithstanding, in many other parts of the world where coffee is highly revered, the inhabitants of these countries enjoy a higher level of health and longevity than the majority their US counterparts.  So where did this mystical fallacy about the dangers of drinking coffee come from? It is the consequence of a false doctrine fabricated by one man; Charles William (CW) Post, the founder of Post Cereals (formerly Postum Cereals).

Before creating his signature cereal line, which includes the company’s flagship product Grape Nuts, Post launched a coffee substitute known as Postum — a caffeine free beverage produced from roasted wheat bran, wheat and molasses, which is still available today.  Knowing this, we can clearly understand the vested interest Post would have had in creating a sea of hysteria over the mythical health risks of consuming coffee in infancy.

 

Strong Evidence of Coffee’s Health Benefits is Starting to Emerge

Attitudes on coffee drinking in America today however are rapidly changing thanks to a deluge of solid scientific based research, bringing clear evidence contrary to the baseless Post propaganda, which has beguiled the nation for so long.  The shift comes from a series of meta analyses — these are large scale studies which analyze the results of other studies.  In utilizing this powerful statistical tool, it is possible to identify patterns across multiple study results based upon an unbiased synthesis of empirical data.

Video on The Health Perks of Coffee

In a recent news interview Dr Holly Phillips told CBS This Morning that from the results of theses meta analyses, we can say this: “For most people moderate coffee drinking is not harmful”; she also stated that the meta analyses had  exposed a reduced risk in contracting the following diseases:

  • Death from all causes 16%
  • Type 2 Diabetes 25%
  • Melanoma 20%
  • Heart Failure 11%
  • Alzheimer’s 20%

Similarly as with alcohol consumption, there is however a strong correlation between the optimum health benefits obtained and the amount of coffee consumed — in this U relationship, the biggest health benefits come from drinking a moderate amount of coffee. What constitutes as moderate will of course vary from person to person depending upon factors such as gender, body type, lifestyle and physical activity.  The overall body of research shows however, that between 3-5 (8 oz) cups daily provide the optimum health benefits, where less than 2-3 or more than 5 cups are consumed the benefits start to diminish.

We need to be crystal clear about one thing here; optimizing the health benefits involves more than just drinking the correct amount of coffee.  Just as incorporating the word Salad into the name of your meal  does not automatically make it synonymous with Healthy — guzzling down a 32 oz cup of butter pecan flavoured iced coffee laced with high fructose corn syrup, sugar and whipped cream won’t cut it either.  In order to gain the maximum health benefits from your coffee, it should be taken either black or nearly black with just a splash of milk — but never those awful creamers and ideally without sugar and certainly no artificial sweeteners.

 

Note:

It’s unclear what the exact health benefits of Decaffeinated coffee are since the majority of studies carried out have been carried out on caffeinated coffee, despite this Dr Phillips states that “Drinking decaf is definitely not harmful”.

 

Helpful Tips for Maximizing Coffee’s Health Benefits

  1. Wait at least 15 mins after waking in the morning before drinking coffee, to give your body’s Sleep Inertia time to wear off.
  2. Wherever possible use a high quality Organic Coffee.
  3. Always brew your coffee with filtered or bottled water.
  4. Buy the beans and grind them yourself rather than buying  ready ground.
  5. Avoid refined sugar and artificial sweeteners at all costs — if you must sweeten then choose either partially refined sugar (not brown sugar), honey, date juice or raw sugar cane.
  6. Drink it black or with just a small splash of milk, or use Almond Milk instead.
  7. For even more healthy antioxidants, add cinnamon for its great taste and other added health benefits, which include helping to control blood sugar.
  8. Limit coffee consumption to 3-5 8 oz cups per day.
  9. Stop drinking coffee after 2:00pm to help ensure a restful nights sleep.

Cinnamon Espresso Fireball Shot

 

Conclusion

Drinking coffee is definitely not harmful to your health, and there are some extremely valuable health benefits to be gained from coffee drinking.  However, in order to maximize the health benefits you should maintain your intake to the recommended daily amounts as given above, with no sugar, artificial sweeteners or creamers.

 

Bonus Recipe

This recipe provides three sources of powerful antioxidants — firstly Dark Chocolate which is not only a rich source of antioxidants as well as being moderately low in sugar, but also has its own independent set of health benefits.  Next we have Cinnamon which in addition to its antioxidant properties is also an effective blood sugar regulator– and finally of course coffee which is proving to be a valuable source of antioxidants in addition to a plethora of health benefits.  All of the ingredients below constitute a delicious super healthy free radical blasting treat.  (Click the image below to view the recipe)

Dave's Triple Hit Iced Mocha


References:

  1. Ferdiman, Roberta A, “Why Americans should drink  more coffee, The Washington Post 02/22/2015, Web 05,28/2015/,  Drink More Coffee.
  2. Carroll, Aaron E,  More consensus  on coffee than you might think, The New York Times 05/11/2015 Web 06/07/2015 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/21/its-official-americans-should-drink-more-coffee/.
  3. Lewis, Tanya Coffee Health Benefits, The Huffington Post  03/03/2015 Web 06/08/2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/coffee-health-benefits/.
  4. LaMotte, Sandee, Coffee is practically a health food, Myth or fact?  CNN Special  03/05/2015, Web 06/08/2015  http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/04/health/coffee-myth-fact/.
  5. Sgobba, Christa, 11 Reasons to have a cup of coffee right now!!!  Men’s Health Magazine 05/14/2015, Web 06/08/2015,  http://www.menshealth.com/health/health-benefits-coffee.


Dave Ward

About Dave Ward

Dave Ward majored in “Business and Computing” and “Computer Science” at the “University of Wolverhampton” in his native country the UK. Before graduating in 1992 he lived for a short time in Frankfurt, Germany, and Garmisch PartenKirchen afterwhich he returned to the UK. In 1995 he moved to the States where he currently resides in the Chicago area as a freelance “Systems Analyst /Software Developer”.

In addition to his work life Dave enjoys a passion for the art of writing, having taken several classes in the subject including his latest at Duke University NC. Hitherto he has produced a plethora of writings, from various genres including technology, poetry, fiction and cultural affairs. His longtime interest in the health and fitness industry and its concerns has also spawned several articles dedicated to this subject.

Currently he has several side projects in the pipeline; these include his latest poem, a book on morality, a stage adaptation of John Bunyan’s book “A Pilgrim’s Progress”, and a vegetarian cookbook. You can reach Dave at the following email address britguyinus@gmail.com.

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