by guest blogger Julia Westbrook, assistant online editor for Rodale Wellness
Coffee is a staple of the American diet. From their a.m. wake-up call to their cup of decaf after dinner, Americans are drinking the stuff all day long. And while this miracle brew’s reputation has been besmirched by old wives’ tales that it will stunt your growth (false, by the way), coffee, in truth, is brimming over with health benefits.
Why the discrepancy? Dave Asprey, author of The Bulletproof Diet, explains that for coffee to be good for you, it has to be good coffee. “The studies on coffee and health go back and forth,” he explains. “Some studies show health benefits, while others show negative impacts. This might seem confusing, but the reason is simple: Bad coffee is bad for you, and scientists don’t differentiate between types of coffee when they run these studies.
Asprey points out that coffee can be a major source of mold toxins, which come with their own set of negative health consequences. But some coffees are moldier than others. For instance, beans are cleaner than instant coffee. Fortunately, if you pick a good clean bean, you can enjoy these 6 benefits of a healthy cup of joe—all great reasons to grab a cup of organic coffee and drink up now!
1. Increased Longevity. It doesn’t get much simpler than this: Coffee reduces your chances of dying. According to research published in The American Journal of Epidemiology, drinking four cups of coffee per day reduced risk of death—from any cause—by 16 percent, and three cups per day reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 21 percent.
2. Protection against Cancer. Research conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center that found that drinking four or more cups of coffee per day reduced a man’s risk of prostate cancer recurrence by 59 percent. One explanation for this finding is that coffee is loaded with antioxidants. “The richest source of polyphenols in Western diets by far is coffee,” says Asprey. And previous research has shown that polyphenols can reduce the risk of the onset of prostate cancer.
It’s not just cancer of the prostate, either. A meta-analysis performed by Chinese researchers found that higher coffee consumption could reduce the risk of liver cancer by 50 percent, and another study by Canadian researchers found that high coffee intake was associated with reduced risk of breast cancer.
3. More Weight Loss. Coffee may be your new favorite diet food. First, Asprey points out, the polyphenols in coffee are a prebiotic for good bacteria in your gut, a species called Bacteroidetes. This particular species of gut bacteria has been associated with thinness. “You can’t increase the population of that species with probiotic capsules,” he explains; “you have to feed it.” Plus, the caffeine makes it thermogenic, meaning it helps you increase your resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure, leading to more calories burned.
4. Less Inflammation (And Maybe Alzheimer’s Prevention). Coffee may help keep brain inflammation low, according to research from the University of Illinois. “We have discovered a novel signal that activates the brain-based inflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases, and caffeine appears to block its activity,” said Gregory Freund, MD, professor and head of the pathology department at University of Illinois. Reducing your brain inflammation is proving to be a critical way to prevent age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases, which may explain why in previous studies coffee seemed to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
5. A Mood Boost. “The caffeine in coffee binds to receptors for neurotransmitters associated with your mood,” Asprey says. This may explain why coffee doesn’t just give you a burst of energy; it may also brighten your day. According to a study from The Archives of Internal Medicine, women who drank at least four cups of coffee daily were 20 percent less like to become depressed.
6. A Liver Cleanup. Coffee isn’t usually thought of as a detox drink, but research has found that not only does coffee lower abnormal liver enzyme levels, but it can even reduce your risk for cirrhosis, a liver disease. Drinking two or more cups of coffee per day reduces your risk of death by cirrhosis by 66 percent, according to research published in Hepatology. Interestingly, tea, fruit juice, and soda consumption don’t affect cirrhosis mortality; only coffee does.
Julia Westbrook is the assistant editor for RodaleWellness.com. Having spent some of her best childhood summers around campsites (and then working as a camp counselor because she loved it so much), she is psyched to contribute to a website that values living a healthy life in harmony with nature. She started her career at Rodale as an editorial assistant for Men’s Health books and Women’s Health books, broadening her knowledge of all things health, ranging from cutting-edge telomere science to the simple perfection of a burpee.
Adapted from the story “9 Incredible Benefits of Coffee,” originally published on RodaleWellness.com.