Is coffee good for your health? The answer is maybe. The 21st century buzz is that coffee stimulates and heals.
One cup of fresh-brewed coffee contains about 100 to 130 milligrams of caffeine. Espresso has less, about 65 milligrams, and decaf has between 5 to 30 milligrams. Arabica coffee contains 0.8-1.4% caffeine, making it 98.6 to 99.2% naturally caffeine free. Decaf has to be 97.5% caffeine free to be considered decaffeinated.
Americans, who seem unsatisfied with just a little wake up, have gone crazy with caffeine. Turbocharged caffeinated energy drinks are taking a toll on our health. At least 13 deaths from sudden heart failure are associated with popular energy boosting products, and emergency room visits related to energy drinks has sky rocketed by 15 times those recorded from 2005.
I believe that too much caffeine is bad for you. But the caffeine in energy drinks and colas is made in factories from urea, a nitrogen-rich chemical. The caffeine in coffee is created under the sun, while growing on a tree.
The Health Benefits of Coffee
Some worry that coffee is too acidic. But is it? Your cup of coffee contains many acidic compounds, which contribute to coffee’s distinctive flavor, in addition to the caffeine that keeps you alert. The average pH of brewed coffee is about 5, which is slightly acidic, but much less than a glass of orange juice or lemonade. That coffee can sometimes upset your stomach is not due to its acids, many of which are healthy for you, but to other compounds.
New research shows that freshly made coffee from whole beans can lower your risk for cancer, heart disease, lower blood pressure, and prevent diabetes, and even help weight loss. Scientists are finding that it’s actually two powerful antioxidants—and both are acids—that provide coffee’s health benefits.
Chlorogenic and caffeic acids are amazing antioxidants that help beat cancer and prevent other degenerative diseases. Researchers found that women who drink coffee regularly have a lower risk of developing estrogen receptor-related breast cancer. The compounds in coffee may also shield the liver from cancer-causing chemicals. A Japanese study that included 240,000 people found that those who drank several cups of coffee every day had fifty percent less chance of developing liver cancer.
Coffee is a mild diuretic, and may aggravate symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland. New research, however, found that it might actually be good for prostate health. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that men with lower risk for prostate cancer drank a lot of coffee.
We used to believe that coffee made blood pressure rise. Research based on caffeine-laden colas found that blood pressure went up, so it was assumed that coffee would also spike blood pressure. More recent studies however, show that coffee helps lower blood pressure.
Changing Climate Threatens Coffee Supply
All this good news doesn’t mean that you should power up to six or ten cups of coffee a day. Consider coffee as a healing medicine and super food, like green tea or pomegranate juice, to be taken in small doses every day over a long period of time. Caffeine tolerance is very individual. For some, less may be more, and for others, more is better. Coffee is like all things: you have to find your own balance.
Nevertheless, coffee aficionados be warned. Whether you are a double-espresso drinker or just like the occasional soy late or a traditional cappuccino, enjoy it while you can: changing climate threatens to reduce the flow of coffee to your cup. Rising temperatures and erratic rainfall have sent yields plummeting in key coffee-growing countries, and worsening climate conditions threaten coffee growing.
You won’t be the only one worried. Some 26 million farmers depend on coffee to feed their families. It is the most valuable tropical export crop, and as the world’s favorite drink, it’s big business.
The coffee tree is very fussy about the conditions in which it will grow. It flourishes best at a fairly constant 18 to 21 °C. As global temperatures rise, coffee trees become stressed and yields fall. It also needs the right combination of dryness and water. Climate change is causing some places to be too dry, while others get inundated. In the short term, we’ll likely see only higher prices, but in the long term, your beloved cup of coffee may become the rare indulgence.
Coffee is part of America—fast-paced, stressed-out nation of over-achievers that it is—and many would like to keep it that way. We know now that coffee is not just a morning wake up drink: it’s truly one of nature’s amazing healthy miracles. Enjoy, but consume responsibly.