The Healthy Side of Your Morning Coffee
While the anecdotal origins of coffee find their roots in the Ethiopian Highlands, where the species is thought to have originated, coffee didn’t really become more than an amusing berry shrub, the fruit of which had a tonic effect, until the 16th century, when Arabian traders catapulted it to rock star status throughout the region of the Middle East. In fact, this is where the bean came to be known, as opposed to the fruit surrounding it. The traders popularized drying, roasting, and brewing these seeds in a way that is recognizable to coffee drinkers today. It is from the port of Mocha in Yemen, a primary shipping city, which is why mocha, a rich chocolate sauce with coffee essence is associated with coffee today. As well, the abstemious Muslim consumers founded the first coffee houses (called qahveh khaneh or schools of the wise) and it is from that first word that our modern name for coffee is derived.
Eventually, the bean made its way to Europe, a stimulant-starved continent where it became incredibly popular during the 17th century. To make a long and fascinating story brief, coffee seduced all who encountered it, spreading to and throughout the new world in a blaze of political intrigue, transatlantic imperialism, human exploitation, and illicit, politically deadly romance. Imagine a food so valuable that people hire assassins to possess it, to thwart another political power from possessing it, and it is guarded more assiduously that the royal jewels. That’s coffee. And while it is much more cheaply, openly available these days, its value is only beginning to be understood by modern science.
What’s the Big Deal?
Coffee, in its many incarnations, has managed to become a nearly ubiquitous substance in the modern, Western world. For many, the significance of this unassuming shrub with bright red “cherries” is never made manifest. In fact, the concept that the brown, coarse grit that comes in a variety of containers at every supermarket, or the tiny, lobe-shaped beans mounded in tasteful displays at the neighborhood coffee shop could be a miraculous cocktail of beneficial phytonutrients, amino acids, and a source of daily hydration might sound outlandish. Yet, recent advances in food science are unlocking the secrets of this botanical treasure trove.
There’s More Brewing than Caffeine
First, let’s cover why caffeine is not evil in moderation. Yes, it’s a stimulant, and in the history of the species, it is the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug. A number of substances that are common today were originally cultivated because they possessed this, and other, mildly addictive chemical namely coffee, tea, cacao, and kola nuts (from which we originally derive the term “Cola” in Western society.) When we consume caffeine, it blocks the uptake of Adenosine, an inhibiting neurotransmitter. By blocking it, caffeine actually increases neuronal firing and the release of neurotransmitters like norepinephrin and dopamine. This increases energy, memory retention, cognitive functions such as reaction time and vigilance, and improves your mood.
Another neurological health benefit to the consumption of coffee is the reduction of risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s both neurodegenerative autoimmune disorders. In relation to the former, coffee drinkers face up to a 60% lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s based on several broad-range studies. The latter is caused by necrosis of dopamine generating neurons in the brain. Studies indicated that consumption of coffee may lower risk of this disease between 32% and 60%.
Next, it can also help you burn fat. This is because it increases your metabolic rate and helps you to mobilize fatty acids from stored sources like your thighs. A related benefit supported by observational research is its role in risk reduction for Type II Diabetes. Data compiled in a scholarly review of 18 separate studies that involved a total of 457,922 participants indicated a reduction range of 23% to 67%. To date, the strong, positive correlation persists, averaging about 7% reduction of risk for each additional 8 ounce serving consumed daily.
Your liver will thank you. Studies have indicated that coffee can reduce cirrhosis caused by excess indulgence in alcohol or sugar, and in some cases by Hepatitis, with a margin as high as 80%. Optimal results were reported when four or more 8 ounce servings of coffee are consumed per day. It may also decrease your risk for liver cancer by as much as 40%
Sisel Coffee is also Chock Full of Vitamins
Who knew that vice could be so healthy? A single 8 ounce serving of healthy coffee is packed with 6% of the recommended daily amount of Pantothenic Acid (B5), 3% of both Manganese and Potassium vital for calcium absorption and Sodium balance, 2% Niacin (B3) and Thiamin (B1), respectively, and an astounding 11% of the RDA of Riboflavin (B2). As well as a cornucopia of other nutrients and delicate oils, coffee ranks as the number one single source of antioxidants in the Western diet, outranking both fruits and vegetables. Currently, research into benefits of green coffee is being conducted; already, products are promising everything from miraculous weight loss to super brilliance in a pill. I hardly need tell you, there is no such thing.
While coffee may be a healthful beverage with a rich history behind it, overindulgence is always a bad idea. As well, the results of studies discussed herein are based on correlation. While the health benefits of coffee have only recently begun to be discovered, I’m sure we’ll continue to deepen our understanding of the benefits of this rich and fascinating substance.