Quick Recipes and Easy

Cup A Joe: The Health Benefits of Coffee

That miraculous small berry seed, known as the coffee bean, is often the source that wakes up a sleepy world. A 12 oz. cup of regular brew contains 165 mg. of caffeine which carries enough of a nudge to rouse the brain into alertness. A Starbucks tall delivers a whopping 375 mg. jolt that can place many people into overdrive. But there is more to this small berry seed than its caffeine. Scientists are finding that in addition to the effect on the nervous system, the roasted bean is chock-full of antioxidants that are only found in a select number of foods – walnuts, blueberries, artichokes, strawberries, and pecans.

It wasn’t very long ago that coffee was getting a terrible rap in the health industry. Studies were conducted to find a correlation between coffee consumption and diseases — pancreatic cancer, osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, mental illness, physical fatigue, and breast cancer. The results have been coming in, and the coffee bean is looking more like a knight than a villain.

After years of research, the World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Journal of Epidemiology found “no conclusive evidence for any increased incidence of caner in ANY organ due to coffee.” In fact, these studies learned that the individual who consumes more than four cups of coffee per day has a 24 per cent lower risk of colon cancer than the non-coffee drinker.

Another study from the University of Minnesota concluded that consumption of coffee (more than 4 cups per day) really lowered the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 22 per cent. Their research included more than 28,000 post-menopausal women from 1986 to 1997. Scientists suspect that minerals and compounds in the coffee bean might help the sensitivity of insulin receptors process blood sugar more effectively.

Coffee consumption also seems to have an edge in memory retention. Michael P. McDonald, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology, noted that lifetime coffee drinkers have better memory than non-coffee drinkers. Scientists are now looking into the effects of coffee as a possible prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

What about the heart? While studies are continuing, recent research is unable at this time to substantiate any correlation of coffee consumption with coronary disease or myocardial infarction. In fact, in a trial by Iowa Women’s Health Study, the conclusion revealed that coffee really may reduce the risk of inflammatory and cardiovascular disease in post-menopausal women. Also, a recent study of 85,747 women over a ten year period showed a similar conclusion; no connection of coffee use to coronary heart disease.

The health benefits of coffee are also found in alcohol abuse. According to Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly, coffee drinkers are the ones who remain safe from developing liver cirrhosis. A study by Kaiser Permanente shows that the consumption of coffee reduces the chance of developing liver cirrhosis by 80 per cent.

Coffee can also improve our mood, and has a positive influence on our choice-making skills. Drinking that cup of java just might help an individual work through an argument. In a study at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, that is exactly what they learned. “Caffeine enhances alertness and concentration . . ,” states Pearl Martin, Ph.D., enabling an individual to know a different point of view during a disagreement.

Want to relieve stress? Coffee is listed as one of the foods that help alleviate anxiety, along with chocolate, yogurt, and chewing gum. Stress inducers, but, are alcoholic drinks and processed junk food.

In order to reap all the benefits from coffee, and lessen any unhealthy effects, the following includes a few facts coffee lovers need to know. First, drinking decaffeinated coffee can raise the LDL – which is the terrible cholesterol — by 8 per cent (3 to 6 cups of coffee). The various fats and oils in decaffeinated beans cause this hike in LDL. Therefore, stick with caffeinated coffee. Secondly, stay with standard drip coffee, since the French-press also can increase LDL. If you have heart disease, it is always excellent to make sure your coffee is filtered rather than made in a plunge pot.

Here’s to coffee, and excellent health!

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