Coffee (Coffea arabica) is a beverage of mixed emotions. On the one hand Americans know that they overindulge when it comes to coffee drinks and this is no thanks to addiction pushing chains. On the other hand it is so satisfying to slowly sip on that warm morning pick-me-upper. Regardless of your stance on coffee drinking, the health benefits of coffee are overlooked. The typical American diet doesn't offer a whole lot of antioxidant or bitter foods and coffee offers both. The bitter flavor was discussed in the Daily Herb-o-Scope on Thursday May 24, 2012. So I'm not going to say much about it other than it helps to improve the flow of gastric juices and can reduce the risk of gall stones and colon cancer.
Antioxidants help to protect the body from free radicals. Antioxidants and free radicals are buzz words in the health food industry right now, so I want to make sure everyone knows what they mean. A free radical is an atom or molecule that carries an unpaired electron in its outer ring. Because electrons work best in pairs, the free radicals steal electrons from cells in the body, causing damage by turning our own cell into free radicals. This process known as oxidation can lead to a chain event of destruction with molecules and cells trying to hijack electrons from other cells.
Antioxidants help to remedy this by giving an electron to the free radical, making it stable. Even though the antioxidant now has a unpaired electron it does not become a free radical because it is stable with or without unpaired electrons. Some research suggests that a cup of coffee may offer more antioxidants than a serving of blueberries or raspberries. And coffee antioxidants can help to prevent degenerative diseases of the heart and nervous system and even protect against certain kinds of cancer. Dark roasting the beans produces even more antioxidants; however, adding milk to coffee has been shown to bind the antioxidants, making them less effective.
A few other tips to keeping your cup of coffee as healthy as possible are to store your beans in the freezer and to grind them fresh. Coffee contains oils that can go bad. When the oils are rancid they make the coffee very bitter and can wreak havoc on your liver. Also opt for real sugar and organic cream. Decaf usually contains traces of the solvent used to extract the caffeine and still contains traces of caffeine. My advice is to stick with herbs in their natural form. Caffeine and all.
Now don't go out and drink 5 cups of coffee. Too much can cause nausea, heart palpitations and irregular heartbeats, anxiety, restlessness, muscle tension and insomnia. It may also worsen ulcers and heart burn especially if you drink decaf. Long term excessive use can lead to adrenal fatigue and burnout. Anything in excess is discouraged, stick with moderation. So just as long as you aren't overdoing it enjoy your cup of coffee and the health benefits that go along with it.