Coffee seems to have gotten a bum rap. It has a ton of good things in it including a lot of the same flavanols and antioxidants we find in cocoa. One study found that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in our diet. According to lead researcher Joe Vinson, PhD, of The University of Scranton, “Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. Nothing else comes close.”
I’m not sure if that says more about coffee or about how pathetic the American diet is, but I suspect it’s a little of both. We Americans do eat a crummy diet – most of us, anyway – but coffee is still an antioxidant heavyweight. One study, in the journal Circulation, concluded that coffee drinkers who drink one to five cups a day have far less heart disease, diabetes and neurological disorders.
The research on coffee drinking has been pretty impressive. Not surprisingly, coffee increases energy. It does this by occupying the receptor sites for a compound made in the body called adenosine, which normally would be very relaxing. When adenosine is blocked, you have more dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain, and that means better memory, vigilance, reaction time and cognitive function. Research shows that drinking coffee can improve physical performance by 11 to 12%.
It also lowers risk of Parkinson’s, gout and Alzheimer’s. There are even studies showing that coffee drinkers have lower rates of liver and colorectal cancer, the second and fourth leading causes of cancer death worldwide.
And yes, coffee helps you burn fat, boosting metabolic rate by 3 to 11%!
Is there a downside? Yes. There appears to be a genetic component to how the body metabolizes coffee. Some people don’t seem to suffer any harm, while others who are slow metabolizers experience sleep interruption and high blood pressure. If you get the jitters from coffee, keep your intake low and don’t drink it after 4 pm.
Be aware that coffee is one of the most pesticide-sprayed crops I know of, so I strongly recommend you go organic whenever possible.