All of the Health Benefits (And Risks) of Drinking Coffee
Can’t get through the morning without a cup of joe? You’re not the only one. 64% of Americans drink coffee every day. But have you ever wondered what it does to your health?
Well, lucky for you – and 64% of Americans – drinking coffee every day poses a lot of health benefits. Now, before you go and down seven cups before work because “Dr. Threlkel said it was healthy,” remember that you still have to drink it in moderation.
There is such a thing as too much coffee.
Hard to believe, I know. Especially when it seems like your life force sometimes.
But it’s not all good. While drinking coffee does have a lot of benefits, there are drawbacks, too. The trick is to know when you should stay caffeinated and when you should cut back.
Here’s how it can affect your health – the benefits and the risks.
What It Does to Mental and Physical Performance
Let’s start with what you want to hear first.
Coffee improves your energy levels. (Shocker, I know.) But it’s not just a placebo effect. The caffeine acts as a catalyst that can give you a boost in energy.
With this boost, you may experience increased cognitive function. So when someone judges you for drinking coffee, tell them that it makes you smarter.
Okay, so that’s not exactly how it works. But it does help you to focus and work more efficiently, so it makes you feel sharper. We all work best on a full night’s sleep, but coffee can be a useful tool when you don’t get the recommended eight hours.
Just don’t rely on it too much. Coffee might make you feel invincible, but you still need sleep.
It doesn’t just improve cognitive function, though. Studies show that caffeine can enhance physical performance, as well. When you drink caffeine before or during a workout, it decreases the pain you feel and helps your body process glucose better, especially in endurance workouts.
There is even some evidence that caffeine can help with weight loss. It may reduce belly fat by boosting your metabolism. It can also suppress appetite temporarily.
Don’t replace your water bottle with a coffee cup, though. You still need to stay hydrated.
What to Keep in Mind
While all of this sounds great, remember there are still drawbacks.
Drinking coffee floods your body with adrenaline, which creates a boost in energy. But you may also notice that your energy levels crash a few hours after drinking coffee. Because your energy was fabricated to begin with, your body is reliant on coffee to keep it up.
It’s not as simple as just grabbing another cup, though. Once your tolerance goes up, you need to drink more and more to keep your energy, mood, and performance from tanking.
But too much java reduces the health benefits of this addictive drink.
Drinking coffee also activates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol naturally spikes in the morning to wake our bodies up. When you drink too much, this cortisol spike doesn’t happen, and you become reliant on coffee to force it to happen.
This may be why you can’t even brush your teeth or button your shirt without a cup of joe.
And, while caffeine partnered with a workout may aid weight loss, it can actually hurt you when you drink too much coffee on its own. Because all of this caffeine produces stress hormones in the body, you may end up overeating as a way to cope.
The Good News
In spite of all of this, there are a lot of benefits to drinking coffee – including helping you live longer.
Research has found that people who drink around 3-5 cups a day have a 12-16% lowered risk of early death. Drinking more than this has no additional benefit, but even drinking just one cup a day can reduce your risk by 5-6%.
Black coffee is full of antioxidants. And get this: coffee provides most Americans with more antioxidants than their fruit and vegetable intake does.
Now, before you start telling people that coffee is healthier than fruits and vegetables, you should know – it’s definitely not. But Americans’ coffee intake is higher than their consumption of all things green, so naturally, they receive more antioxidants from it.
(Long story short: you should probably eat more vegetables.)
Drinking coffee regularly may also reduce your risk of heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s, liver disease, and some cancers. In moderation, it can even help with battling depression.
While all of this may seem like reason enough to start chugging some jitter juice, there are still some adverse side effects to consider.
The Bad News
Coffee may feel like nature’s merciful gift to the working class, but it’s not perfect. There are some drawbacks to consider before you make yourself a pot in the morning.
It can (shocker!) disrupt sleep. If you’ve been experiencing insomnia lately, you may want to dial back your intake, or at least isolate it to the morning hours.
And you won’t believe it, but this drink, nicknamed liquid lightning, can give you the jitters. Totally unexpected, right? If you’ve been nervous or shaky, try cutting it out for a few days and see if that helps.
On a more serious note, coffee can increase your heart rate and blood pressure and may even cause feelings of anxiety.
And keep an eye on the manufacturers of your favorite products. Both Keurig and Starbucks have had recent recalls on coffee makers and cups due to safety risks.
Coffee can also be addictive. Withdrawal systems can occur as quickly as twelve hours after your last cup. This can lead to tremors, bad moods, issues with productivity, fatigue, headaches, depression, and anxiety.
If you’ve experienced this, don’t quit cold turkey. Try detoxing it from your system over a number of days to minimize the withdrawal effects. Avoid it for a few weeks and then reintroduce it slowly. Be careful to keep an eye on your consumption, or you’ll have to start all over.
How to Make It Healthy
Drink it black.
I know, I know. That caramel macchiato is calling your name. But did you know that black coffee only has two calories? Adding sugar and creamer nullifies all of the health benefits you’d otherwise get.
But if you can’t stand the taste of black coffee, there are alternatives. Instead of creamer, add coconut or almond milk. And in place of sugar, try vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa powder, cardamom, or ginger.
All of these options are rich in antioxidants and can liven up the bitter taste.
There is such a thing as too much. Hold yourself to a maximum of 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. To put this in perspective for you, one 8oz cup of coffee usually has 95 milligrams.
That doesn’t mean you can definitely have four cups of coffee every day, though. Remember that soda, energy drinks, tea, and even some foods all contain caffeine.
Keep an eye on your tolerance. If coffee no longer gives you the same boost that it used to, you may be drinking too much. When this happens, you should detox it from your system and slowly reintegrate it after a few weeks.
Lastly, try not to drink it after 2 p.m., or it may affect your ability to sleep.
Who Should Avoid Coffee
As with anything, coffee isn’t great for everyone. While there are health benefits, with certain populations, the risk outweighs the reward.
People diagnosed with glaucoma, epilepsy, anxiety, and insomnia should remove it from their diets.
Pregnant women should reduce their caffeine intake. Too much coffee can increase the risk of lower birth weights, premature labor, and miscarriage. Try limiting yourself to one or two cups a day, but be sure to discuss it with your OB/GYN first.
Avoid coffee when you’re sick to lower the risk of dehydration. And always check your medication to make sure caffeine won’t affect it.
Most importantly, listen to your body. Coffee may give you energy, but if it negatively impacts your body in any way, you should try to remove it from your diet.
If you’re not sure if coffee is the reason behind any discomfort, try eliminating it for a few days and see how your body reacts. If you feel better overall without it, you should probably avoid it. There are other ways to boost your energy.
Interested in how your diet affects your life? Want information on natural strategies to maximize your health? Make an appointment today, and we’ll get started.