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Diet and Nutrition

Health Benefits of Coffee

For those people who truly love coffee, as I do, the idea that coffee could actually be good for you is welcome news. Among the many benefits attributed to coffee-drinking include possible reduced risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, diabetes type II, cirrhosis of the liver, and gout.

coffee cupThere are several different species of coffee. The most common, coffea canephora, commonly referred to as “robusta,” is the form we most often see in common brands available at your local supermarket. This type of coffee is often high in caffeine and fairly inexpensive to produce. A more prized form of coffee is coffea arabica. Originally found in the highlands of Ethiopia and the Sudan, this is the type of coffee used for expensive gourmet roasts and espresso drinks.

Arabica beans are lower in caffeine, more flavorful...and more expensive. Because we are very serious about coffee in our house, we only buy arabica beans. And while unfiltered coffee contains ingredients called diterpenes which are thought to slightly elevate LDL cholesterol, we use a French press and never filter our coffee with a paper filter. Why? Because in addition to removing removing diterpenes, paper filters also remove beneficial antioxidants thought to have numerous health benefits.

Antioxidants repair cell damage in the body, and coffee has more anti-oxidants per cup that just about any other drink available. Studies have shown that people who consume a moderate amount of coffee, about three to five cups per day, are at decreased risk of developing dementia, prostate cancer, and other chronic illnesses. Coffee can also help alleviate mild depression and can act as a beneficial "pick me up" when you are having trouble starting your day.

The greatest health risk associated with drinking coffee appears to be acid reflux, more commonly referred to as heartburn. Switching to a coffee bean variety that is naturally low in acidity may help reduce the risk of developing acid reflux. Coffee beans grown in the South Pacific and Asia, for instance, such as Sumatran and Hawaiian varietals, are naturally low in acidity, while African coffees such as Ethiopian and Kenyan have much higher levels.

If you are a naturally nervous person and easily stressed, you may be tempted to try switching to a decaffeinated coffee. Be aware, however, that the process that removes caffeine from decaffeinated coffee also removes many of the beneficial antioxidants as well. It can also be useful to know that high quality darker roasts tend to be lower in caffeine than cheaper, lightly roasted blends.

So if you are someone who loves coffee as much as I do, feel free to enjoy your two to four cups a day. There are many health benefits you can enjoy without giving up one of the world's favorite beverages.