I have been a coffee drinker since my sophomore year of college. Finals were coming and I needed an edge to get me through some late night study sessions. A few people I knew told me that it provided the boost they needed so I figured I would give it a try. I ran out and bought one of those little 4 cup coffee makers, sat it on top of my dresser and brewed my first cup. I didn't like it. I added a little sugar and that made it better, but not much. But I had to admit, I could feel a little bit more mental sharpness and stuck it out through finals week making a cup when ever I needed to fight of the Sandman. Now here I am years later and I am an avid drinker if not aficionado. And I enjoy it. There is nothing like that first sip of a nice dark roast first thing in the morning to get your eyes opened and start your day.
History of Coffee
According to Wikipedia, the history of coffee dates all the way back to the 10th century. Apparently Ethiopians have accounts of it use, but wide spread drinking appeared in the 15th century when its fame spread to Yemen, Middle East and Northern Africa.
Science of Coffee
Coffee contains caffeine (in case you didn't know) and that little ingredient is quite powerful. It blocks a neurotransmitter called adenosine which then allows levels of other beneficial neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine to increase. As a result of those two powerhouses your brain can now function in a peak state leading to faster reaction times, better focus, improved memory recall and better overall cognitive functioning. Energy levels rise and for many coffee can even elevate mood. In fact, Harvard University found that 4 or more cups a day lowered depression by 20%.
I mentioned it in another article, but caffeine is one of the few substances in nature proven to help with fat loss. That reputation is why it is in just about every over the counter fat burning supplement on the market. It does this by mobilizing fatty acids for energy expenditure, boosting your metabolic rate by up to 11%. Source
Sports and Fitness
The fatty acid release from a coffee boost also increases the fight or flight hormone adrenaline, enhancing athletic performance. To get the benefit drink a strong cup of coffee, the usual dosage of caffeine for improved performance is 200mg, 30-45 minutes before heading to the gym.
Nutrients in Coffee
A single cup of coffee is like a mini multivitamin, packing several key nutrients like Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), Manganese, Potassium, Magnesium and Niacin. A mega dose of antioxidants like flavonoids are packed into every cup and according to one article: "Coffee’s antioxidant compounds include caffeic acid, caffeine, the chlorogenic acids, eugenol, gamma-tocopherol, isoeugenol, p-coumaric acid, scopoletin and tannic acid. In fact, coffee is the primary source of beneficial, protective antioxidants in the American diet"
Coffee can protect you from developing Type II Diabetes, with reports of as much as a 67% reduced risk. Each cup you consume daily has been shown to reduce your risk by 7% according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Coffee also has shown in studies to protect the liver from cirrhosis, a condition where the liver tissue becomes scarred over time from several ailments. Coffee appears to be protective against two types of cancer, reducing the risk of liver cancer by 40% and colorectal cancer by 15%. Caffeine from coffee can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by 65%. It has also been linked to lowered risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, by as much as 60%, which neurologists believe is due to the caffeine content. Studies also show that coffee drinkers have a 20% lower risk of stroke.
With all the benefits of coffee consumption, it makes sense to incorporate it into your diet. Adding sugar and heavy cremes , like in many of the popular coffee drinks, can negate many of the benefits. I personally prefer to drink my coffee straight black with no sugar, but i do enjoy the flavor. My favorite is a nice bold Sumatran roast which has an earthy flavor. Some prefer an Italian roast which has a heavy roasted flavor. If you're not quite ready for such bold flavors, many light and morning roasts or blends are available. If you must add sweetener try a natural one like stevia, and use skim milk instead of whole milk. Cinnamon makes a great flavor enhancer in place of sugary ones. Good luck on your coffee quest, and comment below about what coffees you love.
Brooke Bailey is a personal trainer, masseuse, and student in health and wellness. She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Facebook.