When most people think of healthy drinks, they probably picture spinach-green cold-pressed juices and ginger shots—not coffee. While those aforementioned elixirs do contain health benefits, coffee is linked to some surprising boons beyond giving you energy, including protecting against heart disease and lowering your risk of type-2 diabetes.
“Although the more well-researched compound in coffee is caffeine, coffee has other beneficial bioactive compounds, like polyphenols, diterpenes, and trigonelline, that have antioxidant properties,” Eva De Angelis, RD and health and nutrition writer at Health Canal, tells VegNews.
How much coffee is too much?
Everything good has a bad side and coffee is no different. Generally, you want to limit yourself to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which equates to about four eight-ounce cups of coffee.
Regular coffee-drinkers might notice that they need more than one cup of coffee to up their energy levels. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, this is because it’s possible to develop a “caffeine tolerance.” So, you may need a doppio espresso instead of a single shot just to feel more alive in the morning.
Some coffee-drinkers may experience heartburn or even an upset stomach after drinking a cup—this is because caffeine boosts the release of stomach acid. Caffeine may also inhibit the absorption of calcium and too much may make you jittery, restless, anxious, dizzy, or dehydrated.
Additionally, caffeine also has addictive properties. A regular coffee-drinker who doesn’t get their usual cup of joe might experience headaches, irritability, fatigue, and even depression. If you’re calling it quits on coffee, know that these effects usually go away after about a week.
Out of drip, instant, decaf, cold brew, and other types of coffee, which one is best? “There’s no straight answer here,” De Angelis says. It depends on the amount used and the coffee-to-water ratio, she adds.
“When making cold brew coffee, you need more beans than when brewing it hot,” De Angelis explains. “Since caffeine is more soluble in hot water, the cold brew coffee has slightly lower caffeine content. But if we compared cold brew with iced coffee, the first one is slightly higher in caffeine content.”
6 health benefits of coffee
In spite of its downsides, coffee comes with a bunch of health benefits. Here are six reasons to stick to your cup-a-day:
1 It gives you energy
Although it’s no surprise to the millions of people worldwide, coffee can boost your energy levels. Studies have shown that caffeine can also enhance exercise performance, especially in endurance activities. This is because of caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant that’s found in more than 60 types of plants, including coffee.
Your gut absorbs caffeine within 45 minutes of consumption, and it peaks in the bloodstream anywhere between 15 minutes to two hours. The duration depends on what’s in your gut—food and components like fiber can slow the absorption of caffeine.
After consumption, caffeine has a half-life of about four to six hours, meaning that up to half of it will still be in your bloodstream up to six hours later. If you drink caffeine when you’re already exhausted, though, then you might be risking a caffeine crash within three to four hours.
2 It might protect against heart disease
Coffee is more than just an energy-giving savior. According to the American College of Cardiology, research suggests drinking two to three cups of coffee a day may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 15-percent.
If the thought of that much coffee turns you into an anxious mess, fear not—even just one mug a day may benefit heart health. Studies show that caffeine can temporarily raise your blood pressure, but if you’re a regular coffee drinker, this effect is reduced.
3 It increases longevity
Coffee could help you live longer. A study published in the European Society of Cardiology found that drinking a few cups a day could extend your life, regardless of whether or not the coffee is caffeinated, decaf, instant, or ground. It also bolsters previous research about coffee and heart health.
“Our findings indicate that drinking modest amounts of coffee of all types should not be discouraged but can be enjoyed as a heart-healthy behavior,” study author Peter Kistler told CBS News.
4 It’s linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes
Even decaf coffee comes with benefits. A study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews suggests that a cup or two of caffeine-free coffee a day can protect against type-2 diabetes. Similar results were found in caffeinated coffee. It’s believed this is due to the plant compounds found in coffee rather than the caffeine. Another study suggests that the phytochemicals within coffee help protect insulin-producing cells in your pancreas.
5 It may lower the risk of depression
A meta-analysis of seven studies published between 1980 and 2015 suggests that the risk of depression goes down by eight-percent per every cup of coffee consumed. Of course, just keep in mind safe caffeine consumption limits—roughly four cups of coffee a day, or 400 milligrams a day. In addition to this, three large-scale cohort studies associated caffeine consumption with a lower risk of dying by suicide.
6 Lower risk of liver disease
Decaf, instant, or ground … No matter what type of coffee you drink, it might be good for your liver. A 2021 study published in the journal BMC Medical Health suggests that coffee protects against chronic liver disease, known as steatosis.
7 It could protect brain health
Drinking coffee could help protect against cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in the journal Nutrients suggests an association between caffeine consumers and a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s. Regular caffeine consumption is also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
Coffee may have its downsides, but research shows that being a regular coffee drinker comes with a number of benefits. So, enjoy your coffee, espresso, lattes, and more.