Health

Cup of Joe Just What the Doc Ordered

Three health benefits of our favorite drink, on National Coffee Day and every day

“Morning coffee” is practically redundant. More than half of all American adults drink coffee within an hour of waking up. And since American-grown coffee is a recent development, the U.S. still spends about $4 billion annually to import the treasured beans.

Although the restaurant industry has stagnated, coffee sales are a burgeoning market. Starbucks raked in $4.56 billion last year. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf brought in a smaller $500 million. Even McDonald’s is brewing big plans to increase its coffee sales.

“Of the many things I feel guilty about, coffee is not usually one of them,” said one coffee lover.

Chuck Latovich, an author who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, brews a six-cup pot every morning. Most days he drinks the whole pot before noon. “It’s what gets the fog out of my eyes,” he told LifeZette — speaking for the majority of Americans. When asked whether he considered his love of coffee a vice or virtue, he said: “Of the many things I feel guilty about, coffee is not usually one of them.”

The negative rumors about coffee abound: It will stunt your growth, you’ll get addicted to the caffeine, it could be bad for your heart health. Not all of this is factual. Today, on National Coffee Day, a reminder of the benefits of coffee seems fitting, so here are three reasons to embrace your coffee habit:

1.) Coffee is likely your biggest source of antioxidants.
Your body collects a certain number of “free radical” molecules that can harm your healthy proteins and DNA. Antioxidants neutralize these molecules by donating electrons to them.

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Related: 9 Foods That Boost Your Memory

One study from Clermont University in France proved coffee was a more consistent source of certain antioxidants than fruits or vegetables. That’s not to say antioxidants aren’t in the fruits and veggies — just that we don’t consume enough of them. Not many people eat a bowl or two of berries each day. Various studies from Norway and Finland show coffee delivers up to 64 percent of antioxidant consumption.

Should we be eating more fruits and vegetables? Yes, we should. But until we start consuming a more plant-based diet, coffee will do.

2.) Coffee can reduce your risk of weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.
The health benefits of coffee come from drinking it black, not loaded with cream and sugar. While the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte might fill your craving for fall flavor, it packs a walloping 160 fat calories.

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Drinking five or six cups of black coffee each day can reduce your risk of diabetes by as much as 30 percent. This has been confirmed in multiple large-scale studies, including one from the Harvard School of Public Health that followed 1.1 million participants. The results are clear: The more coffee you drink, the slower your weight gain and the better your body will absorb and process blood sugar.

3.) Coffee could protect your brain.
The caffeine in your coffee might be serving a greater purpose than morning eye-opener. Studies from Johns Hopkins University and UCLA show that a morning dose of coffee can slow cognitive decline and improve memory.

Specifically, your coffee habit could lower your risk for neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, by as much as 30 to 60 percent. These same effects have not been associated with decaf coffee, however. Stop worrying about caffeine dependence — just embrace it. It could be saving your brain.

Related: I’ll Take a Medium Coffee, Hold the Socialism

The average American spends $1,100 a year on coffee. That sounds like a lot of money — but from the looks of things, our habits are serving us well.

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