If drinking a cup or two of coffee tends to make you feel good mentally, there’s a reason for that: A 2013 study published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry found drinking coffee actually acts as a mild antidepressant by boosting feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. After examining 44,000 men and 74,000 women, they found a few cups of brew reduced the risk of suicide by 50 percent.
This trick may seem obvious, but you would be shocked to learn just how many popular versions of coffee are loaded with artificial sweeteners and refined sugar. For example, a chai tea latte (found at a popular coffee store that shall not be named) has 15 more grams of sugar than a Snickers bar does! Even less obvious versions of sweetened coffee may be packed with artificial sweeteners or extra sugar. A salted caramel mocha (again, found at an unnamed coffee chain) hits your bloodstream with a whopping 56 grams (!) of sugar.
In addition to the jolt of energy and focus you can get from the caffeine in coffee, the drink has a number of other health benefits. Coffee can lower your risk of liver disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and even some cancers. Multiple studies have shown that drinking multiple cups of coffee per day — yes, even three or four cups is OK — could prevent early death.
If you don’t like coffee, there is no current recommendation to drink it anyway. However, if we can figure out why coffee might have health benefits, it’s possible that a medication can be developed that provides those benefits without the side effects (or taste) of coffee or caffeine. Or, faced with a choice of a new medication or coffee, one might choose the latter.
If you regularly imbibe (2 to 3 alcoholic drinks per day), drinking more than 2 cups of coffee daily was shown to protect the liver from damaging diseases, like cirrhosis (or alcoholic liver disease). According to a Finish study, jointly conducted by Seinäjoki Central Hospital and the University of Tampere, coffee consumption decreased the liver-damaging enzyme GGT (or gamma-glutamyl transferase) levels by up to 50-percent.
For a long time, research showed drinking coffee was associated with a higher risk of conditions like heart disease. Later, scientists identified a problem with many of the studies: they didn’t control for other behaviors. Coffee drinkers, it turns out, are also more likely to smoke, drink, and be inactive, all behaviors that raise the risk of many chronic diseases.
Remember, coffee from popular chains can be loaded with hidden sugars and many other artificial ingredients. Going with black coffee, or making your own, is a much healthier choice. Be sure to use filtered water and organic beans for homemade coffee. If you need a little more spice, try adding grass-fed butter, coconut oil, cinnamon, cocoa or collagen. Remember, healthier coffee doesn’t have to be boring. You can still get your morning caffeine fix – just do it in a more Paleo-friendly way!
While they say that the results support moderate coffee drinking as a relatively healthy habit, both Poole and Guallar say the findings don’t go far enough to prompt anyone to change their coffee-drinking habits in the hopes of improving their health. The study did not confirm, for example, that people who do not currently drink coffee should start adding a cup or two a day in order to lower their risk of getting heart disease or any of the other chronic conditions studied. The data also do not support the idea that current coffee drinkers should drink even more coffee to enhance whatever benefits they might be receiving. Too much coffee, the data suggest, starts to bend the benefit curve back down.