The exciting health benefits of coffee you might not know about
For many of us, there are few things more ritualistic than our morning cup of coffee. For years doctors warned us to avoid coffee, but these days moderate coffee drinking is believed to be associated with more benefits than harm. If coffee is one of your daily pleasures, you will love finding out about its potential superfood-like qualities.
Let’s talk antioxidants
Many of us drink coffee for a boost of energy or to lift our mood. What you might not know is that research has shown coffee drinkers have less cardiovascular disease and are less likely to die prematurely from causes including heart attacks, cancer and stroke. In addition, some experts say it lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and liver conditions such as cirrhosis, liver cancer and chronic liver disease.
The potential health benefits from coffee might be from polyphenols, which are plant compounds that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help rid the body of toxic ‘free radicals, a type of waste product that the body naturally produces. When free radicals build up they cause a state called ‘oxidative stress’ which can damage DNA and other important structures in our cells and can cause cancer.
Our bodies have our own antioxidant defences, but eating a diet rich in antioxidants is thought to optimise our chances for good overall health. We’ve all heard fruits and vegetables like blueberries, goji berries and kale are packed with antioxidants, but the big news is that in studies from around the world, including Finland, France, Japan and Spain, it is actually coffee that is by far the biggest source of antioxidants in our diet. This is because many of us drink coffee every day, while we may only eat other antioxidant-rich food like spinach or kidney beans once or twice a week. A great excuse to drink up, if ever you needed one!
Can coffee improve our memory?
Often we find ourselves reaching for a coffee for that ‘caffeine hit’ when we are just waking up in the morning or want to stay up late at night. But researchers at John Hopkins University in the USA have found another use for coffee, claiming that regularly consuming caffeine, the stimulant within it, has been linked to improvement in memory. The study showed caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory, with caffeine enhancing certain memory functions for up to 24 hours after it is consumed.
There are also studies that suggest that caffeine is a protective factor against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One particular study has shown that drinking three to five cups of coffee per day during midlife was associated with a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by about 65% at late-life. Another key study in Florida followed people with mild cognitive impairment (thinking and memory problems beyond normal ageing) and monitored their caffeine levels and their cognitive ability over the next two to four years. The researchers found that people who did not develop dementia had twice as much caffeine in their blood as those who did. While there is much encouraging evidence to support the idea that caffeine is a protector factor against dementia, it is important to note that more evidence is needed before a definitive answer can be given, as other studies have shown inconsistent results.
Good heart health
In the past coffee and caffeine were considered to be bad for the heart because people associated them with palpitations and high blood pressure. However, analysis of three large heart disease trials published in Circulation: Heart Failure, the American Heart Association Journal, shows that people who drink more coffee have a lower long-term risk of heart failure. While there is more research needed to understand what is behind this, the great news is that most experts now seem to agree that drinking a moderate amount of coffee is safe, and perhaps even beneficial, for the heart.
What about weight loss?
Coffee contains caffeine, which is one of the few substances known to help mobilise fats from our fat tissues and increase resting metabolism rate, which is the rate at which our bodies burn calories while we rest. One such study found that caffeine boosted resting metabolic rate by 3-11%, depending on the person and the dosage. There are also studies to suggest that caffeine might blunt our appetites and might therefore help us to eat less, though whether caffeine would help anyone lose weight in the long term would depend on the individual.
There’s also particularly good news if you love a coffee before you work out, as consuming coffee before exercise can cause fat cells to be used as an alternative energy source, as opposed to glycogen (the storage form of glucose from carbohydrates). This means that if you buy a cheeky espresso on the way to the gym there is potential to burn more fat than if you had saved your pennies.
Better exercise performance
Looking to pump those biceps or run that marathon? You’ll be pleased to know that caffeine doesn’t just help you use more fat during exercise, but has also been shown to have beneficial effects on your actual athletic performance.
A review of 21 meta-analyses in the British Journal of Sport Medicine concluded that caffeine ingestion improves exercise performance across a broad range of tasks, including muscle endurance, muscle strength, anaerobic power and aerobic endurance. And Frida Harju, In-House Nutritionist at health and fitness app LifeSum believes there are even further benefits to caffeine when it comes to exercise: “It has been shown to reduce the sensation of fatigue linked to muscle activity… and reduce the soreness in muscles when you are done.”
But can’t caffeine be harmful?
The short answer is: yes! It is important to remember that caffeine is a stimulant, and consumed in large quantities it can be harmful, causing jitteriness and sleep problems. Another downside is that people can become dependent on caffeine. The symptoms – headaches, irritability and fatigue – can be similar to those of people coming off addictive drugs. If you are experiencing any of these things, then the sensible thing is to cut back. Tuning into how your body feels during and immediately after drinking coffee is important. If you are feeling any adverse symptoms, we suggest lowering your intake.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant need to be particularly cautious about caffeine as there is some evidence to suggest a link between high coffee consumption and pregnancy loss, a low birth weight, and preterm birth.
If you are looking to cut down on caffeine, while still enjoying all the benefits that a delicious cup of coffee has to offer, looks no further than our Coffee + Collagen. It contains slightly less caffeine due to it being just over 70% coffee, with the rest made up of grass-fed collagen and calming adaptogenic herbs, including organic adaptogenic ashwagandha to help build stress resilience, nutrient diverse baobab, rich raw cacao and roasted chicory root. Each serving provides a rich source of fibre to support digestive function and gut microbiome and is an excellent source of protein.
So, to sum all this up…
Like many things in life, when it comes to coffee, moderation is key. But one thing is for sure, you can say goodbye to any guilt you may have once felt. It might just be doing you the world of good.