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A little of what you fancy does you good: the real benefits of coffee.

Posted in Food & Entertaining, Health, and Women's issues

havent-had-coffeeI start most every day the same way: with a cup of coffee and peanut buttered whole-wheat toast (which I share with Jack). My cuppa must be medium roast, extra hot, extra strong, black and full of sugar (three). I prepare my brew in a single cup French Press and, for half an hour, sit contentedly on the sofa reading the news and weather on Teletext.

Living large and dangerously, eh?

Well yes, according to headline grabbing news over the past few years regarding coffee and it’s myriad bad effects: high blood pressure, heart disease, liver damage, anaemia, breast cancer. Not to mention the potential of addiction to caffeine. Friends who are heading into their mid-fifties also report alarming repercussions from their cappuccinos – light-headedness, anxiety, rapid heartbeat and sleeplessness. And many articles on menopause recommend that women give up drinking coffee altogether … especially now when the risk of breast cancer is higher.

My beloved French Press, goes on holiday with me
My beloved French Press, goes on holiday with me

But lately the good news about coffee has been pouring in ….(sorry)

According to a paper recently published in the US, new research refutes all these dire warnings. This 2012 study shows no increased risk of any of these things … or any type of cancer for that matter. In fact it demonstrates that coffee may help prevent diabetes, colon cancer, endometrial cancer, protect against Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s and …  tah dah, may even increase your lifespan.

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health in the US reported in May last year that people who drank three or more cups of coffee a day had a 1% lower risk of dying over the course of the 12-year study than those who didn’t drink it. But smoke with your coffee and all bets are off – the nicotine etc al in ciggies destroys all the benefits. The news applies to decaf too – the good stuff come from the beans and not the caffeine – which – the study says, contain hundreds of protective phytochemicals and antioxidants.

I’m loving this.  In moderation, of course.

The reduce risk of Parkinson’s comes courtesy of coffee’s most reviled ingredient – caffeine. And researchers from Harvard School of Public Health discovered that women who regularly drink two or more cups of regular coffee per day have a moderately lower risk of depression. In Parkinson’s – caffeine stimulates the brain, helping to improve motor functions. And with depression it activates some of the same neuro-transmitters as antidepressants. However, says Alberto Ascherio M.D. the study co-author, where “long-term consumption is associated with a lower risk of depression, it is probably due to the caffeine. As the same benefits are not seen with de-caf.”

Vzd CoffeeThat works for me.

The Study also names a reduced risk of basal cell carcinoma as an additional benefit. This is one of the most common types of skin cancer – and very prevalent in sunny South Africa. According to the study one cup a day could equal a 20% reduction. This doesn’t mean we can skip the sunblock though.

Lastly – coffee apparently gives you the edge when you exercise – but I wouldn’t take it to my yoga mat. According to Walter Willit M.D. (Chair of Dept Nutrition Harvard School Public Health), caffeine enhances performance for active types because it improves the strength of muscle contractions. Plus it puts you in a good mood and makes you feel more energetic, which gets you off the sofa and into your running shoes. Your caffeine shot is best taken, according to Dr Willit – a couple of hours before you hit the gym.

As ever – the good doctors recommend we drink within our limits, and for me that is one cup a day – maybe two at a push. Especially when they bookend a busy time.

As to my French Press … therein lies a small downside. Filtered coffee appears to be healthier because the paper filter skims off something called cafestol – which boosts blood cholesterol. But I’m willing to take the risk.

Thanks for to Vogue US who brought all this research to my attention. I read the magazine on the sofa, in my favourite coffee shop, whilst drinking a perfect Americano and eating a piece of lemon polenta cake. Who says small moments of happiness can’t be bought?

(images from here, here, here and here)

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  1. Just discovered Cuban coffee in Miami. Here is the skinny: a generous shot of espresso, extremely creamy on top, with the addition of hot milk and already sweetened. That’s the key – perfectly sweetened and balanced. Good thing it’s not to be found in LA or I would be put the “coffee is good for you” to a serious test.

    March 8, 2013
    • Sounds delicious … it’s like the coffee you get in Morocco – also sweetened, flavoured with cardamom and strong. But no milk. We make a local version has condensed milk in it – called ‘moerkoffie’ which means beaten up coffee. Ever the pacifists us Safricans.

      March 9, 2013
  2. silvia

    I’m sure somewhere there’s a bit of wilderness in reading the paper sipping coffee too.
    It’s the Perfect start up for every morning. Simply love it and Jack is the added value to that moment

    March 7, 2013
    • Indeed – small happinesses – that’s key.

      March 7, 2013
    • And anything that involves love … is to be encouraged

      March 7, 2013
  3. Interesting post, Sofagirl! I drink one cup of Bravo Greek coffee, and throughout the day, two more cups from my French Press. I’ve always considered coffee one of my few vices, so it was good to see the magic number “3” in your article, especially since I always say I should stop at two; my third is the one that accompanies my dark chocolate, so it’s really a necessity! Thanks for the info and sources; now I won’t feel so guilty!
    Greekgirl 🙂

    March 5, 2013
    • Eh – guilt is a waste. If it works for you – go for it. But glad you liked the article!

      March 7, 2013

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