Thinking of giving up caffeine this new year? Don’t be too hasty – coffee offers more health benefits than you may think
Coffee often gets bad press, which – in some cases – is for good reason, especially if you’re drinking lots of it or always using it as a pick-me-up in the afternoon. However, there are lots of health benefits in these little beans too, when drunk in moderation and not in a calorie-laden white chocolate mocha with whipped cream on top!
Let’s start with the liver. Research has shown that drinking two or more cups a day can help protect your liver against certain diseases, including cirrhosis. Coffee is also packed full of antioxidants and, for big coffee drinkers, is often the biggest source of antioxidants in the diet. Antioxidants are important for many reasons, including helping protect against free radical damage and therefore diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. But that doesn’t mean that coffee can replace all those amazing antioxidants from fruit and vegetables!
We all know that the caffeine in coffee can help with energy levels, as it is often found in energy and sports drinks, and, of course, many people use it to help them get through that ‘4pm slump’. However, caffeine can also help improve your memory and mood. When you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the brain. Once in the brain the caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine, which in turn allows an increase in other neurotransmitters that help fire your neurons and increase your alertness and memory. There is also increasing evidence that coffee can help protect against neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and reduce the risk of depression, too.
Coffee also contains some essential nutrients including B vitamins, magnesium and potassium, and isn’t dehydrating on the body as some may think. According to research, coffee is in fact almost as hydrating as plain water and counts towards your total daily fluid count, plus it’s low in calories when drunk black.
Do be careful with coffee, though, as some people can be really sensitive to it. Even one cup can cause ‘caffeine shakes’ where the body feels a bit jittery and shaky, or cause nausea. It can also cause a slight increase in blood pressure, so if you suffer from high blood pressure then coffee is best avoided.