The Benefits and Harms of Your Regular Espresso

For years now, there has been so much debate on whether or not coffee is actually good for us. If you are someone that drinks coffee each and every day, here are some of the health benefits that you will likely experience, as well as a few dangers that you need to watch out for.

 

What Exactly is Coffee?

Coffee is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, with 83% of the population of the United States being avid coffee drinkers. Consisting of a powerful collection of biologically active compounds, many people associate only caffeine with coffee, but this drink actually contains so much more than that, and is packed with thousands of complex substances.

Let’s look at the benefits and harms of drinking your daily espresso.

 

Benefits of Your Daily Espresso

 

1. Coffee Can Boost Physical Performance

Coffee has been proven to be able to increase energy and boost physical performance, making this a great beverage to sip on before a workout.

Drinking just one cup of coffee, around an hour before you intend to work out, can improve your performance by up to 12%.

Why?

Well, coffee increases the adrenaline in your blood, which is the hormone that your body produces to help it to deal with physical exertion. An increase in adrenaline levels then increases your energy, as well as the amount of exercise you are able to do.

 

2. Coffee Helps to Burn Fat and Lose Weight

While you should not depend solely on coffee if you are trying to lose weight, this beverage can definitely help you on your weight loss quest.

Coffee is packed with potassium and magnesium, both of which help the body to use insulin and regulate blood sugar levels. By keeping your blood sugar levels steady, you will not experience as many cravings for unhealthy foods and snacks, making it much easier for you to stick to a healthy diet.

But, don’t forget…

Although coffee can help you lose weight, you need to ensure that you are not filling your coffee with calorie-laden creams and sugars, as this will only counter the weight loss benefits that coffee can have.

 

3. Coffee Contains a Wide Range of Antioxidants

Here is a fact that will no doubt surprise you…

Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the Western diet, and outranks both fruits and vegetables combined. 

Coffee is absolutely packed with a wide range of antioxidants, including:

  • Polyphenols – key when it comes to disease prevention
  • Hydrocinnamic Acids neutralizes free radicals and prevents oxidative stress
  • Cafestol an anti-inflammatory that protects the brain
  • Melanoidins an anti-bacterial and an anti-inflammatory that also gives coffee its distinct aroma

So, why exactly are antioxidants so important?

Well, the body is constantly being attacked by free radicals, and these cause so much damage to your cells, affecting them as deeply as DNA level. Antioxidants are able to neutralize these free radicals, keeping your body healthier, as well as more youthful, for longer.

free radicals

But, here’s the deal…

The way in which you prepare your coffee will have a significant impact on its antioxidant content. For example, roasted coffee has many more antioxidants than non-roasted coffee, so always opt for coffee that is as high quality as possible.

 

4. Coffee Reduces Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Affecting over 300 million people, type 2 diabetes is one of the most common diseases out there, and refers to blood sugar levels being elevated due to a resistance to insulin.

There have been multiple studies carried out over the years that look at the relationship between coffee and type 2 diabetes, and the results have been surprising…

By drinking coffee on a daily basis, you will be able to reduce your risk of developing diabetes by an impressive 23-67%.

 

5. Coffee Offers Protection for the Brain

As the body ages, neurodegenerative diseases become so much more common.

What is a neurodegenerative disease?

These are brain diseases that occur due to the death of neurons in the brain. These diseases are always progressive, meaning that neurons will continue to die and the disease will only worsen over time.

The two most common neurodegenerative diseases out there are Alzheimer’s, which is also the leading cause of dementia, and Parkinson’s.

brain

Fortunately, coffee can help to protect your brain from both of these…

  • Alzheimer’s – Research shows that coffee drinkers have a 65% lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s Studies show that coffee drinkers have a 32-60% lowered risk of developing Parkinson’s, with this number increasing with the more coffee that you drink

By protecting the neurons in your brain, coffee will also reduce your risk of developing dementia as you get older.

 

6. Coffee Improves Mood and Acts as an Anti-Depressant

The caffeine that coffee contains is a known stimulant, and, each time you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine blocks the function of one of your brain hormones, known as adenosine.

Wondering what this actually means?

Well, by blocking adenosine, your brain is then able to enjoy an increase in activity, and releases several other neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine.

Here is what this can do for you:

  • Improves your mood
  • A short-term boost to brain function
  • Reduces tiredness and increases alertness

All of these effects then work together to fight depression, with one Harvard study showing that coffee drinkers experience a 20% lowered risk of becoming depressed.

This also relates to suicide rates, with coffee drinkers being 53% less likely to take their own lives.

 

7. Coffee Can Lower Your Risk of Premature Death

Premature deaths can be caused by so many different factors, including all of the health issues mentioned in this article.

By experiencing so many health benefits, it only makes sense that coffee drinkers have a much lowered risk of dying prematurely.

How much coffee do you need to drink for this?

Studies have shown that when drinking four to five cups of coffee a day, men have a 12% reduced risk of premature death, while women have 16%.

However, even just one cup of coffee a day can still reduce your risk of premature death by 5-6%, showing you just how little is needed to make a difference. 

 

8. Coffee Can Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Thanks to its phenolic compounds, coffee can have a significant impact on different types of cancer.

Numerous studies have been carried out over the years. Here are some of the results:

  • A 2012 study found that each cup of coffee a day would lessen your chances of developing endometrial cancer by 8%
  • A 2011 study showed that each cup of coffee a day would reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 4%
  • A 2011 study found that each cup of coffee a day would reduce the risk of bladder, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers by 3%

Here is the best bit…

When it comes to liver cancer, a 2007 study found that drinking two extra cups of coffee a day would lower an individual’s risk by 43%.

 

8. Coffee Can Help with Oral Health

You are probably thinking…

“Coffee is known to stain teeth. How can it help with oral health?”

While it is true about coffee staining the teeth, this is a cosmetic problem, and does not actually signify anything about a person’s health.

In fact, when drank straight black, the antioxidants found within coffee make your teeth less adhesive. This means that bacteria is not able to hold on to your teeth with much strength, not only keeping them cleaner, but also making them easier to clean.

 

Harms of Your Daily Espresso

 

1. Coffee Can Elevate Cholesterol Levels

While coffee does not contain cholesterol itself, it does interfere with the way in which your body produces and regulates cholesterol.

How?

As mentioned above, coffee contains an antioxidant called cafestol. While this compound does have its benefits, it affects the way in which your body metabolizes cholesterol, leading to raised cholesterol levels.

Fortunately, there is a way around this…

There are multiple ways to brew a coffee, but, if you do it in an American-style coffee pot, with a filter, then the resulting coffee will actually have quite low cafestol levels.

Why is this?

Since the coffee only passes through the grounds once, most of the cafestol is left behind in the filter. On the other hand, a French press brews coffee by constantly passing water through the coffee grounds, meaning that the resulting beverage contains quite a bit of cafestol.

However, even if you do like a French press, you may not need to worry too much about raised cholesterol levels…

Research has indicated that you would need to drink around five cups of French press coffee a day to see an increase in your cholesterol levels, so as long as you ensure that your coffee consumption does not become excessive, then you should not have a problem.

 

2. Coffee Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

While coffee does not increase the risk of heart disease for everybody, it does if you have a genetic mutation that slows down the rate at which caffeine is broken down by the body.

Since your body will not be able to metabolize the caffeine quickly enough, this can significantly increase your chances of developing heart disease.

Fortunately, this does not mean that you have to completely avoid coffee…

Try to stick to just one cup a day, as the risks will only come from drinking two cups or more.

 

3. Coffee Can Be Addictive

If you are quite dependent on your daily coffee, then you will already be aware of the fact that coffee is quite addictive. This is due to the caffeine in coffee, with the term caffeine dependence being coined a few years ago.

What does too much caffeine do to your body?

A number of things:

    • Increases anxiety
    • Disrupts sleep patterns
    • Leads to insomnia
    • Increases blood sugar levels
    • Can lead to spinal bone loss if an individual is not consuming enough calcium

 

A Lowered Tolerance

While all of these health benefits that coffee can bring to the body may sound great, keep in mind that many of these effects are likely to only be short term. If you are someone that drinks coffee multiple times a day, then you are likely to soon build up a tolerance to its benefits, meaning that the results will not be as noticeable, and you will be more likely to experience some of the negatives that come with coffee.

So, how much is too much?

Drinking more than eight cups of coffee a day would be considered excessive, and would bring about the negative effects mentioned above.

So, as long as you stay below this guideline, and do not fill your coffee with sugars, flavors and creams, you will be able to enjoy nothing but the many benefits that coffee can bring to the body.

 

How to Make Your Daily Espresso Healthier

As mentioned above, you need to ensure that you do not add sugars and other harmful ingredients to your coffee, as this negates its benefits.

Here are a few other tips to help you to ensure that your daily brews are as health-boosting as possible:

  • Coffee is often sprayed heavily with pesticides, making it worth springing for organic versions
  • For maximum health benefits, drink your coffee straight black
  • Adding a square of 70% cacao dark chocolate to your cup of coffee will give it a chocolatey edge, while bringing you all of the health benefits of the cacao too 

So, how should you brew your coffee?

Well, that all depends on what you are trying to gain from it…

  • If you want a coffee that is as “pure” as possible, opt for a French press
  • If you have acid reflux or a sensitive stomach, go for cold-brewed coffees, as these are much less acidic
  • If you have cholesterol concerns, an American-style coffee pot or an instant coffee may be your best bet

Do not be afraid to experiment with all of the different coffees, as well as brewing methods, that are out there. While you do want your coffee to be as beneficial to your health as possible, you still need to be able to find a brew that truly satisfies your taste buds.

Woman holding energy drink

Energy Drinks May Zap Your Zing

Energy. Everyone wants more of it. In fact, if someone could put energy in a bottle and sell it, they would probably make a million dollars. Oh, wait, someone’s already tried it? Whenever you get a million dollar idea, you can be pretty sure that someone has already thought of it, and if that someone has access to the means of production, he or she has probably attempted to make it a reality – probably a lot of people. The only problem is, not all of these people are too concerned with what these products really do to the people who buy them. It’s no secret that energy drinks are big money, but are they really all they’re cracked up to be? Let’s take a closer look at the truth behind the can.

The Stats
Feel as if you’ve been hearing more lately about energy drink related visits to the emergency room? You’re not imagining things. Between 2007 and 2011, these visits doubled from an estimated 10,000 to 21,000 visits. According to a USC study of randomly sampled ER patients, a third of those who reported having consumed an energy drink suffered symptoms including everything from chest pain, to heart palpitations, to seizures. In addition, the FDA has received at least 15 reports of deaths related to the energy boosting beverages. Although there is no definitive proof linking the drinks with negative health reactions, Michael Jacobsen, PhD, says, “No one really knows how dangerous they are. They certainly raise a caution flag about drinking too much (caffeine) too quickly.” This “too quickly” may be related to the form of the drink itself. Says Jacobson, “Some contain large amounts of caffeine. And they’re consumed differently than coffee. Energy drinks are gulped, rather than sipped.”

Coffee beans

Caffeine Content
It may not surprise you to know that the active ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine. What may surprise you, on the other hand, is the amount. While some brands stop at 50 milligrams, others pack in a whopping 215 mg. To break it down, an eight-ounce cup of Joe contains about 100 milligrams and most experts advise topping out at 400mg a day max. As if that wasn’t worrying enough, energy drink manufacturers are not required to list the amount of caffeine in their products unless it’s in the form of pure caffeine. That means, if the caffeine in the drink is added in the form of tea, coffee, or natural substances, such as guarana, the amount may not be on the can, and if it is, it may not be accurate.

How Do Energy Drinks Deliver?
Ok, so we know they might be dangerous to our health, but do energy drinks even do what they’re supposed to? While it may be true that caffeine can help to improve the clarity of thought and exercise endurance, as little as 1.5 mg per pound of body weight (2 cups for a person weighing in at 150) will do the trick and more does not make it better. Furthermore, according to a 2012 Nutrition Reviews report the energy drinks’ natural ingredients, like amino acids, vitamins, and botanicals do little to increase energy.

The Bottom Line
The overall verdict on energy drinks? Overall, when consumed in moderation, they are fairly safe. However, a study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2013 Scientific Sessions found that downing these babies can raise systolic blood pressure by 3.5 points on average and can lead to irregular heartbeats which can be potentially fatal, especially if you have an underlying heart condition. So bottom line? Proceed with caution.

What do you think about energy drinks? Friend or foe? We want to get your take.

Woman drinking a detox smoothie

Feel Better With A Weekend Detox

  Do you dream in chocolate?  Do you leave a basket of fruit on your table when the neighbors come and quickly swap it for the donut box when they go?  Do you have a secret stash of Snickers bars under your bed?  If this describes you, you may be a good candidate for a weekend detox.  Now let’s get this straight.  A weekend detox is not just for the nutritionally deprived.  It is a more like going on a two-day health bender in which your diet and health habits are regulated with the goal of cleansing your system, restoring blood pressure, and getting your digestion and blood sugar back on track.  Sound like a nutty adventure?  Let’s take a closer look.

Why the Weekend?
One thing you should keep in mind is that there is a reason for it being called a weekend detox.  Firstly,  limiting your food intake in this way is definitely not the best way to stay focused in the office and should only be done for a short time period.  Also, you need time to prepare your foods and might end up having to use the bathroom excessively because of the water, tea, and juices that constitute a good portion of most diets. Thus, a leisurely day with some degree of privacy may be best.

The Nutritional Component
The detox menu varies depending on the plan you follow.  The most severe ones are limited to system flushing liquids and smoothies, but more of them incorporate a restricted list of foods.  Here are the general rules of detox eating.

Antioxidants
Eating brightly colored fruits and veggies, whole grains and beans get rid of harmful substances and make them water soluble, so your system can flush them more easily.  Think spinach, kale, and cranberries.

Eat foods with Glutathione
What’s that?  Glutathione is an antioxidant that is produced by your own body.  It can be found in garlic, onions, eggs and foods rich in sulfuric compounds.  It is useful in removing toxins, including mercury and arsenic, from the body.

Drink water and tea
There is no denying that elimination is one of the primary goals of detox.  Water helps you with Number 1, Number 2, and perspiration.  While detoxing, try to drink 8-12 glasses of water or decaffeinated tea.

You may also want to add some  detox teas as  a bonus. These generally contain dandelion which supports digestion and liver function, licorice which expels mucus, and ginger, which stimulates circulation and gets rid of toxins.  Licorice tea, in particular, contains a compound that is 50 times sweeter than sugar, which may help to control a sweet tooth.

Eat Clean
Remember, your goal is to eliminate food that contain the toxins you are trying to eliminate.  Avoid processed goods including fast food, fried food, caffeine, dairy, alcohol, red meat, sugar and white flour.

Parting Notes
Avoid eating after 7 PM and get eight hours of sleep.  This will kick-start your system and help develop lasting healthy habits, or at least, help you get reacquainted with your fruit basket.

woman having coffee

Daily Caffeine Doesn't Cause a Racing Heart

If you absolutely can’t start your morning without coffee or get through the afternoon without a cup of tea, you’re in for good news. For years, the healthcare community has advised against regular caffeine consumption because caffeine is thought to disturb the natural cardiac rhythm of your heart, but a recent study challenges this advice. Coffee, tea and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants that may actually benefit your heart’s health, and according to this study, they are safe to be consumed daily.

The Study
Close to 1,400 individuals were chosen to participate in a year-long study that looked at the effects of daily caffeine consumption on the heart. “Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart’s cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits,” says the study’s senior author, Dr. Gregory Marcus, director of clinical research in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant,” Marcus adds. Marcus is referring to research that points to extra heartbeats being a cause of heart problems and stroke, but this is in rare cases.

The Results
Researchers monitored the chocolate, coffee and tea consumption of each of the 1,400 participants, and participants wore portable devices that monitored their heart rhythm continuously for 24 hours. During the course of the survey, 61 percent of participants consumed more than one of the caffeinated products daily and the results were that those who consumed more than one caffeinated item each day had no extra heartbeats. These findings are important because “this was the first community-based sample to look at the impact of caffeine on extra heartbeats, as previous studies looked at people with known (heart rhythm disorders),” says study lead author, Shalini Dixit, fourth-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco.

The results of this study are exciting and encouraging because it was previously thought that regular caffeine consumption was related to extra heartbeats or a racing heart. This University of California, San Francisco study challenges those beliefs and asserts that caffeine can be consumed daily. It is important to note that the study looked at caffeinated products that are known to have additional health benefits (coffee, green tea and chocolate) and not drinks health experts warn people to stay away from like soft drinks. Additionally, the study authors say that before determining whether or not there are additional health risks to heavy caffeine consumption, more studies are necessary.

This study seems to confirm that like most things, caffeine in moderation is safe for your heart, and that some of the products containing caffeine may have additional health benefits. The antioxidants in coffee, green tea and chocolate provide health benefits for your body by fighting inflammation, protecting against free radicals and can even help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Enjoy these products in moderation, knowing that they won’t cause your heart to work overtime.