Coffee: Good for You!

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Guilty coffee drinkers, take heart. It's time to clear the fog about this remarkable beverage, and to straighten out misconceptions. Coffee is just plain good for you, and here you will find ammunition for that argument.

The Coffee Tree

The plant from which coffee derives is the coffee tree, an evergreen covered with fragrant white flowers and coffee cherries at the same time. Inside the bright red skin of the coffee cherry is a pair of beans. The beans are what all of coffee is about. The simple coffee bean bears the bracing stimulant caffeine, and also yields a satisfying flavor and aroma.

Mighty Caffeine

Whatever contains caffeine will be consumed widely. Why do we love and crave caffeine? Because it makes us feel good, by stimulating valuable physical and mental functions.

A caffeine user's guide

- Brewed coffee (5 ounces) 80 - 175 milligrams - Percolated coffee (5 ounces) 40 - 170 milligrams - Instant coffee (5 ounces) 45 - 70 milligrams - Cappuccino (6 ounces) 60 - 120 milligrams - Hot cocoa (6 ounces) 2 - 8 milligrams - Tea, brewed (7 ounces) 60 milligrams - Iced tea (12 ounces) 70 milligrams - Coca Cola (12 ounces) 45.6 milligrams

Can You Consume Too Much?

Yes you can. Side effects of over-consumption include nervousness, insomnia, and tremors. Excessive caffeine consumption can produce overly rapid heartbeat, mental stress, gastric discomfort and anxiety. The human lethal dose of caffeine is equal to approximately 66 five-ounce cups of coffee. Some people do not tolerate caffeine. If caffeine makes you jittery, sweaty, sick or uncomfortable, then it isn't your drug.

Coffee and Your Brain

Coffee's greatest effects are exerted upon the brain and mind, for coffee is the great, bold awakener. As a caffeinated beverage, coffee stimulates the brain, facilitating cognitive function overall. Coffee stimulates the flow of blood in the brain, and invigorates the mind. It enhances alertness and motivation, facilitates thought formation and concentration, and decreases mental fatigue. Coffee rouses the mental faculties as surely as streaming sunshine and hilarious birdsong awaken the sleeping.

Within a daily dosage range of 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, coffee improves negative moods which occur in the morning upon waking, dispelling the sullen and gloomy clouds which fog the mind upon rising. Coffee, as the most flavorful and potent caffeine-bearing beverage of all, increases general happiness and feelings of pleasure, and increases positive mood overall. Coffee promotes an upbeat positive sense of self, and an overall feeling of well being.

Coffee drinking even appears to reduce the risk of Parkinson's Disease. Coffee drinkers have between 3 to 6 times lower risk of developing Parkinson's as compared with non-coffee drinkers.

Coffee - Take Heart

Research into the natural chemical properties of coffee shows that the daily brew is a potent protective antioxidant potion.Coffee is especially high in one group of antioxidants called flavonoids. These compounds exhibit protective power against cardiovascular disease by reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby helping to protect against atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.

Coffee and Digestion

Coffee exerts well known effects upon the digestive system andstimulatesgastric secretion. For this reason a cup of coffee after lunch or dinner may be consumed to punctuate and help digest a meal. The morning cup of coffee not only awakens the body and mind, but stimulates bowel activity as well. A strong cup increases peristalsis, the wave-like motion of the intestines. This stimulates intestinal elimination. Many people rely on a morning coffee for thorough elimination. While coffee shouldn't substitute for a good amount of fiber in a healthy diet, its contribution to proper intestinal elimination is beneficial.

Coffee not only offers welcome laxative activity, but also plays a role in preventing some digestive disorders. Drinking two to three cups of coffee daily can reduce the risk of developing gallstones by as much as 40 percent. Coffee consumption also shows a strong protective effect against cirrhosis of the liver. Daily intake of 3 to 4 cups of coffee can reduce thr risk of cirrhosis by as much as 80 percent. Even more impressively, coffee exhibits a protective effect against colon and rectal cancers, reducing the risk by as much as 24%.

Coffee and Cancer

If you worry that drinking coffee is going to result in some form of cancer that will take you down, you can relax. For with regard to coffee and its association with other types of cancer, again the news is good news. Several major studies have failed to show any link between coffee consumption and prostate cancer, breast cancer or bladder cancer. Nor has any link been found between coffee consumption and fibrocystic breast disease. Coffee consumption is not known to increase the risk of any type of cancer.

What about coffee and bones? Caffeine has a negative effect on calcium metabolism. And one study has found that women who consume more than 817 milligrams of caffeine per day are at three times greater risk of hip fractures than women who consume no caffeine. But other studies show that moderate consumption of coffee is not associated with bone loss, increased risk of osteoporosis, or any higher rates of bone fractures.

Women have long felt concern over their consumption of coffee and its effects on fertility and pregnancy, and any possible increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects. Again the news appears to be good. Most studies do not show any link between coffeeand decreased or delayed fertility.

Athletes who eschew coffee may think again. A few studies have shown that caffeine enhances the body's ability to utilize body fat for exercise, and increases the body's ability to work out before fatigue. A cup of coffee before working out can do you good, enhancing both performance and endurance.

A simple pleasure - coffee provides a pleasant lift, and offers protective benefits to health. If you are going to drink coffee, do so happily, without guilt. After all, it's good for you.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at