The global spread of coffee is said to have originated from the coffee trees in the Ethiopian province of Kaffa. Legend has it that Ethiopian shepherds were the first to discover coffee’s stimulatory effects, when they noticed their goats ‘dancing’ and full of energy after eating coffee berries!
Originally consumed whole, the berries were mixed with animal fat to create a protein-rich snack bar. It actually wasn’t until the 13th century that people began to roast coffee beans, a crucial step in the creation of coffee as we know it today. Now, we are consuming 400 million cups of coffee each and every day, and that’s just in the US alone!
CAN COFFEE BE GOOD FOR YOU?
Up until recently, coffee used to be thought of as a guilty treat, something that wasn’t the best for our health, and that many of us regularly relied too heavily upon! However, new research continues to emerge highlighting some amazing health benefits when it’s consumed in moderation.
Some of these include:
1. Helping to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease showed moderate coffee consumption can help reduce your risk of developing the disease. Dr. Arfran Ikram, an assistant professor in neuroepidemiology at Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, believes this is due to its polyphenol and caffeine content, helping to reduce inflammation and deterioration of brain cells, especially in the hippocampus and cortex, areas of the brain involved in memory!
2. Improved brain function and mood.
Caffeine in coffee doesn’t just help keep you awake, it can make you more alert and improve your mood! Caffeine blocks the neurotransmitter adenosine, increasing the brain’s release of the neurotransmitters dopamine, involved in the pleasure and reward response, and norepinephrine, involved in alertness, attention span and mood as well. A study by Harvard School of Public Health found that women who drank coffee may reduce their risk of depression by around 20%!
3. Increases beneficial gut bacteria.
A study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology found the consumption of coffee can help to increase the metabolic activity and numbers of the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium. Gut health is critical to overall health, with this group of bacteria in particular, producing vitamins, antibacterial chemicals, and antibiotic-like substances that have significant health benefits on both the digestive system and the immune system.
4. Rich in antioxidants.
Coffee is naturally rich in chlorogenic acid and melanoidin compounds which contribute to its strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants play a vital role in protecting your cells from oxidation and your body from diseases such as heart disease, cancer, cataracts, reduced immunity and premature aging. Each coffee blend varies in the amount of antioxidants it contains. If your favorite beans have been tested they will have an Oxygen Radical Absorbence Capacity (ORAC) score. This tests for antioxidant activity - the higher the ORAC rating the better!
WHEN CAN COFFEE BE DANGEROUS?
Despite the proven health benefits, it’s best to moderate your intake of coffee. Consuming too much coffee can limit the absorption of vitamins and minerals essential for your body to function properly.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT THE CAFFEINE?
Consistently consuming caffeine long term can also be problematic. According to Dr. Mercola, pregnant women in particular should restrict their coffee intake. Studies show a higher caffeine consumption increases the risk of a miscarriage or a low birth weight baby, exposing the child to a higher incidence of chronic diseases later in life.
The caffeine in coffee also stimulates your adrenals – the hormones that activate your fight or flight response. If you continue to drink coffee consistently over a long period of time, your adrenal glands can burnout due to overstimulation. Caffeine itself is a central nervous system stimulant that acts within minutes to counter drowsiness and help us feel alert. Dr. Lipman suggests avoiding coffee if you find yourself having to rely on it to function throughout the day, as although the beverage does have health benefits, the buzz from the caffeine is temporary, and can easily become addictive.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine but still enjoy the occasional cup, consume your coffee with a full fat milk such as coconut milk. The fats in the milk help to slow down the absorption of the caffeine, resulting in a steadier release into your system."