Coffee is a lifeline for so many women. I’ve certainly been there myself! Not only does a cup of coffee in the morning give you an initial boost of energy to get you going, but this warm, comforting beverage is such an integral part of our American culture that many women can’t imagine starting their day without it. In fact, I’ve had women burst into tears at the thought of giving up their morning coffee.

There’s some great news from a recent study from the Journal of the American Heart Association. The study found that regular consumption of more than 3 cups of coffee per day decreased the odds of subclinical atherosclerosis (which can indicate increased risk for cardiovascular disease) among people who have never smoked. The conclusion: consuming coffee regularly could have a positive effect against coronary calcification, especially in nonsmokers.

And that’s just one study that shows potential health benefits from regular intake of coffee. In recent years the effects of coffee consumption have been studied repeatedly. Studies have turned up many potential benefits, including prevention of Type II Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Potential health benefits of coffee also includes:

  • Lowering the risk of liver disease
  • Increasing fat burning
  • Boosting intelligence
  • Promoting healthy heart function
  • Even protecting against some cancers.

That’s a lot of good reasons to keep your daily coffee ritual.

As with anything, however, there are some potential downsides, especially when coffee consumption is out of control. So it’s important for us to take a look at all the angles. Let’s talk about the health benefits of coffee and how to make sure your coffee habit works for your health, not against it!

The Health Benefits of Coffee

As I said before, there is ample evidence that suggests that drinking coffee might improve health in a number of ways. And with Americans consuming an average of 1-2 cups daily, that is, indeed, good news. Let’s take a look at some of what the research has shown. Studies suggest that drinking coffee could:

Prevent Diabetes

A study at UCLA found that drinking coffee increases plasma levels of SHBG, which controls the biological activity of testosterone and estrogen, which can play a role in developing type 2 diabetes. And three studies at the Harvard School of Public Health showed that increased coffee consumption may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Decrease Risk of Liver Disease

Your liver has a wide range of vital functions in your body, so good liver health is essential. And your liver is particularly at risk when faced with excess consumption of both fructose and alcohol. Cirrhosis is when liver damage is so extensive that scar tissue is more prevalent than healthy liver tissue. Research has shown that coffee consumption can dramatically lower the risk of cirrhosis – up to an 80% decrease in risk, particularly in those who drink several cups per day.

Protect Against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases

Authors of a study in the US to evaluate the link between risk of Parkinson’s disease and coffee consumption concluded that a higher intake of coffee and caffeine was associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease among participants. Another study published in the journal Neurology showed that the caffeine in coffee may help control movement in people with Parkinson’s.

There is also significant evidence that coffee/caffeine consumption can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a leading cause of dementia. Studies have shown an up to 60% reduction in risk for coffee drinkers. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that older adults, even those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had a reduced risk of developing the disease.

Promote Healthy Heart Function and Prevent Premature Death

I told you about the amazing new study that was just published about coffee and subclinical atherosclerosis. But there are other studies that indicate that coffee drinking in moderation protects against heart failure, and helps increase blood flow in small blood vessels. Not only that, but two large studies associated coffee drinking with a lower risk of death by any cause. One study showed a 30% lower risk of death during a 20 year period for coffee drinkers with type 2 diabetes.

Boost Intelligence

Caffeine, the active ingredient in coffee, is a stimulant whose primary operation in the brain is to block the impact of adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This actually increases the firing of neurons in your brain, as well as the release of dopamine and norepinephrine. Controlled trials have demonstrated that caffeine can improve mood, memory, attentiveness and overall cognitive functioning.

Improve Physical Achievement, Burn Fat, and Boost Nutrients

Coffee, as long as it’s not loaded up with sugar and artificial creamers , is a low calorie way to achieve a quick boost of energy. And the stimulant effect it has on the central nervous system raises metabolism and increases the oxidation of fatty acids. Athletic performance is improved when these fatty acids are mobilized from the fat tissues.

Coffee contains a decent amount of B vitamins (B1, B2 and B5), as well as potassium and manganese. Although the RDA of these in one cup of coffee ranges from 2% to 11 %, when you drink three or four cups, that’s quite a boost of these important nutrients. Add to that the fact that coffee is the largest source of antioxidants in the western diet, and you have some good reasons to sit back and relax with a cup.

Are There Drawbacks to Coffee Drinking to Consider?

Like anything you put into your body, moderation is best. There are some documented risks that may outweigh the health benefits of coffee if you consume too much. Certainly, drinking too much coffee can lead to unpleasant symptoms similar to those caused by anxiety or depression, especially in people who already have an anxiety disorder or depression. Some other risks of coffee consumption include a significant temporary rise in blood pressure, which can be dangerous to individuals with hypertension; difficulty sleeping; fatigue; headaches; and dehydration.

And that’s just in the coffee itself. The real problems come with what many people add to their coffee — often there’s so much sugar, cream, or flavored syrups you can’t even taste the actual coffee at all! Let’s take a quick look at how you can enjoy your coffee — and the benefits it brings – while being mindful of possible issues.

Related article: Caffeine Tolerance – How Does Your Body Respond to Caffeine?

Making the Most of the Health Benefits of Coffee

Moderation – Know How Much is Enough

Only you can know your own body, so it’s really important to pay attention to how coffee is making you feel.

I know that I can’t drink any coffee after noon unless I want to be up much later than my usual bedtime. So, if I have a lot of work to do late at night, or I want to stay out dancing later than usual, I’ll have a cup late in the day. But if I want to get to sleep early, I have to avoid coffee – and any caffeine – after noon.

I also notice that sometimes, when I have a third cup of coffee, I feel frenetic; I even have noticeable heart palpitations. If you find that after two or three cups of coffee, you are jittery, nervous or anxious, it’s probably best to stop after one, or switch to decaf. And if you find that you are like me, and can’t sleep at night after drinking coffee in the afternoon, limit yourself to mornings only.

For some women, especially those who know they have adrenal dysfunction, or whose bodies don’t detox easily, even one cup of coffee might be too much. So you have to be attentive to what’s going on in your body, and take heed of its signals.

It’s the Coffee – Not What You Put it in – That Has the Health Benefits

Remember, the studies were looking at coffee — not the cream, sugar and other crazy things people add to it. Sugar, in whatever form, is the quickest way to sabotage the benefits you might gain from drinking coffee. If you have to load up with sweet syrups to enjoy the drink, chances are you don’t really like coffee – in which case finding another way to boost your health is probably best!

A little cream or milk is fine to add, but avoid artificial non-dairy creamers. Did you know they contain sodium aluminosilicate, which is actually a flammable substance? Why would you want to drink that? Although the original creamers, in the 1950s, were made from real sugar and cream, these natural ingredients have been replaced over the years, to save cost and extend shelf life. Now, it’s all chemicals, oils, sugars and additives. The labels read like someone’s science project!

Boost Nutritional Value with MCT Oil

There is something you can add that actually can improve the health benefits of coffee: MCT oil. These are medium-chain fatty acids, extremely beneficial nutrients for your body. MCT oil offers many benefits, including boosting metabolism and improving your immune system functioning.

Know Where it Comes From

Just like I recommend buying organic fruits and vegetables, the quality of your coffee matters. Don’t pick up the cheapest can on the supermarket shelf. Buy organic, high quality coffee that hasn’t been sprayed with a plethora of chemicals.

Stay Mindful of the Health Benefits of Coffee

I was excited to see that many studies support the health benefits of coffee. Not only is coffee drinking a cherished morning ritual, but it is the culture we live in. Drinking coffee promotes social gatherings with friends and family – just look at how many coffee shops are in every city, filled with groups of people laughing and spending time together. Coffee isn’t the villain it’s been made out to be. As long as you’re being mindful of how you much you drink and how you feel afterwards, coffee poses no real threat to your health. So go ahead, schedule that coffee date with your friend and enjoy yourself!