Senior Health

10/14/2021 | By Kari Smith

Good news, my coffee-loving friends! If the caffeine naysayers have you feeling guilty about that daily cup (or cups, as the case may be) of joe each morning, I have some good news! Researchers have actually discovered health benefits of coffee. For many, it’s hard to imagine starting a morning without a cup. Coffee brings us together socially, too – just peek into a coffee shop. You may see colleagues meeting over a cup, college students huddled over laptops, or moms meeting to commiserate about life. But there’s more: in addition to being a delicious beverage that brings folks together, coffee offers important health benefits.

1. Cardiovascular Benefits

A study by the European Society of Cardiology, which was conducted on subjects without heart disease, suggested that not only was regular coffee consumption safe, but that coffee was associated with lower stroke risk and death from heart disease. Perhaps surprisingly, the study – which followed subjects for up to 15 years – revealed that regular coffee drinkers actually had healthier hearts than those who did not consume coffee.

2. Caffeine and other nutrients

Sure, coffee has caffeine, and that may be the biggest motivator for most folks to drink it, but coffee also contains more beneficial elements: healthy antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B, and niacin. Although the amounts of these may be negligible in comparison to other foods, they add up, especially when several cups are consumed daily. In addition, the caffeine can help increase energy and improve your mood, memory, reaction time, and brain function.

3. Diabetes

Daily coffee drinkers have been known to have a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. Although the reasons why may not be fully understood, studies have shown that coffee have significantly reduced the risk for this disease that affects millions.

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4. Liver & colon health

Studies have found that coffee drinkers have a healthier liver and lower risk of colorectal cancer. In fact, one study showed that drinking two cups of coffee per day demonstrated a 43% reduction in the risk of liver cancer. Additionally, people who drink 4 or more cups daily may experience up to 80% lower risk of cirrhosis.

5. Antioxidants

You may have heard the word – probably in an advertisement or television commercial. But what are antioxidants? They are compounds in our body that are found in foods. They fight against free radicals – harmful particles that damage DNA and cell structure – in our body. There are many foods, such as blueberries, dark chocolate, strawberries, and kale, that are high in antioxidants. Although coffee may not be as rich in antioxidants as some foods, it is more consistently consumed. In other words – you may not eat kale and dark chocolate daily, but you may consume several cups of coffee a day, making it a more consistent source.

6. Laxative Properties

Although it’s not really water cooler conversation, you may have heard that the laxative properties of coffee can keep you regular. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not just the caffeine that causes that reaction in some people. The acidity and higher temperature of coffee also play a part. In fact, some people experience the same laxative effects with decaffeinated coffee – or even hot water! The chemical makeup of coffee can stimulate colon muscles, which in turn can stimulate bowel muscles – causing that trip to the bathroom. Keep in mind that if this is a problem for you, these effects could also be caused by what you are adding to your coffee, such as dairy products and sugar.

Health benefits of coffee … and words of caution

Moderation is key. Although coffee can boost your mood and metabolism, it can also cause headaches, racing heart or palpitations, anxiety, and more. Caffeine intake should not exceed of 400 mg daily. Most cups of coffee (8 ounces) contain between 80-100 mg of caffeine, so keep that in mind when considering how much to drink. This is a total recommended daily amount, so remember to include any other food or drinks that you consume daily that contain caffeine, such as soda, tea, chocolate, or energy drinks. Even decaffeinated coffee has small amounts of caffeine! Also, keep in mind that all “cups” are not created equal – a Venti latte with its 5 shots of espresso is certainly not the same as an 8-ounce cup of coffee – or even equivalent amount of plain black coffee.

Heading out for a round of golf, a hike with friends, a tennis match, or a busy day at work – anytime you are exhausted and trying to get through the day, drink up, knowing that the caffeinated beverage is not the growth-stunting, evil beverage you may have been told about. In fact, coffee may even be good for you!

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith