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Is Your Morning Cup of Coffee Healthy?

November 30, 2021

Can’t imagine starting the day without a fresh, aromatic cup of coffee? You’re not alone. Millions of people around the world rely on that first — and often second and third — cup to start their day. The good news is that this morning ritual is good for you, too. 

Health Benefits of Your Morning Joe

Coffee stimulates the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that causes pleasant feelings. That’s why your morning java fix tastes so satisfying. 

Beyond this jolt of euphoria, studies have shown there are several health benefits that accompany drinking at least one cup a day. 

Basic nutrients help protect against Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, liver disease and liver cancer, and they also promote heart health. The nutrients include: 

  • Riboflavin

  • Vitamins B12 and B3

  • Niacin

  • Magnesium

  • Potassium 

In addition, phenolic compounds acting as antioxidants play their own role. Theobromine encourages oxygenation to the brain, theophylline promotes better concentration and paraxanthine aids your muscles in breaking down fat at a faster rate. 

Are Certain Brewing Methods Healthier Than Others? 

Some brewing methods preserve nutrients better than others. A stainless steel or glass French press is best, because it doesn’t use bleached paper coffee filters that can contain carcinogenic chemicals. 

The flip side of filter-free coffee brewing is that certain fatty acids contained in the coffee bean’s natural oils aren’t filtered out, which can affect cholesterol levels and raise your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. If you’re prone to high cholesterol or consume a diet high in refined sugars and fats, use a brewing technique with a bleach-free filter. 

Too much sugar and creamer in your coffee can offset its health benefits. Instead, try a sprinkle of cinnamon, unsweetened almond or coconut milk, and a natural or no-calorie sweetener such as stevia, melted dark chocolate or vanilla extract to give your cup a flavor boost. 

The Best Time to Caffeinate? 

Many can’t begin the day until they’ve had their first sip of coffee, but waiting just a few hours can enhance coffee’s positive effects. 

Cortisol levels spike throughout the day and peak between 8 and 9 a.m., between 12 and 1 p.m. and between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Drinking coffee during a cortisol spike can cause your body to interpret caffeine as a cortisol replacement, eventually building up a tolerance and rendering the caffeine ineffective. Aim to enjoy your first cup when cortisol levels are lower, between these peak times. 

Caffeine’s effects also depend on genetics and other factors. After binding with adenosine receptors, caffeine travels to the liver to be metabolized with the CYP1A2 enzyme. If you’re one of the people who feel like coffee doesn’t affect you, it’s possible that caffeine may not stick well to your adenosine receptors. In contrast, if you drink coffee early in the day and still feel the effects hours later, then your body is likely metabolizing more slowly, meaning you may not need that additional cup. 

When To Pass on Coffee 

During pregnancy, women should limit themselves to one cup of coffee a day or consider decaf as research suggests caffeine can reach the fetus. 

Coffee is also linked to acid reflux, frequent urination, heart palpitations, muscle tremors, irritability, insomnia and headaches. And it can interfere with thyroid medication, antidepressants and antibiotics for UTIs. Patients with heart arrhythmias should be careful because caffeine can heighten anxiety. 

So be sure to pay attention to your body and as with many other things we love, moderation is key when it comes to drinking coffee.

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