Are you in pain during the course of a typical workday? It’s not that unusual. But, what is surprising is the degree to which many people feel rejuvenated following a coffee break—there’s a reason why. Norwegian researchers observed 48 people performing office work and found those who consumed coffee only declared a pain-intensity level of 41, whereas participants who didn’t drink any coffee reported having a score of 55.
While you’ve probably experienced a headache as a caffeine withdrawal (which are the worst, by the way), coffee can also help relieve them. According to the National Headache Foundation, caffeine contains properties that narrow the blood vessels and restrict blood flow, which in turn helps relieve the throbbing pain you’re experiencing in your noggin. In fact, when you add an actual pain reliever into the mix, you can increase the pain relieving effect by 40 percent.
"Caffeine for treatment of Parkinson disease" Ronald B. Postuma, MD, MSc, Anthony E. Lang, MD, Renato P. Munhoz, MD, Katia Charland, PhD, Amelie Pelletier, PhD, Mariana Moscovich, MD, Luciane Filla, MD, Debora Zanatta, RPh, Silvia Rios Romenets, MD, Robert Altman, MD, Rosa Chuang, MD and Binit Shah, MD. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318263570d August 1, 2012. Abstract. Accessed 15 December 2013.
Long term consumption of coffee has also been shown to reduce, although moderately, the risk of stroke (38). Another study pointed out that drinking about five or six cups of coffee a day is associated with the greatest reduction (39) (36%) in stroke risk, and that coffee also contributes to overall reduction of cardiovascular mortality (a less scary way of saying “heart death”).
"Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With the Risk of Parkinson Disease " G. Webster Ross, MD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Helen Petrovitch, MD; David M. Morens, MD; Andrew Grandinetti, PhD; Ko-Hui Tung, MS; Caroline M. Tanner, MD, PhD; Kamal H. Masaki, MD; Patricia L. Blanchette, MD, MPH; J. David Curb, MD, MPH; Jordan S. Popper, MD; Lon R. White, MD, MPH. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2674. 2000;283(20):2674-2679. Accessed 15 December 2013.
If you’re looking to add an extra health kick to your coffee but still want it to look like, well, coffee, try sprinkling in some ashwagandha powder. You may want to combine this with some cinnamon and coconut oil since it can have a pretty strong flavor, but some people are swearing by this adaptogen trend. While it’s used heavily in Ayurvedic medicine, mainstream health connoisseurs are starting to use it more and are noticing that it may help reduce stress and possibly even increase physical stamina.
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.
Want to lower your risk of death? A National Institutes of Health – AARP Diet and Health study of more than 400,000 people revealed that drinking coffee might be the answer. Between 1995 and 2008, male participants drinking even just one daily cup reduced their risk of death by 6%. Drinking either 2-3 cups or 6+ cups reduced the risk by 10% during the timeframe of the study. The greatest reduction of death risk was 12% in the group drinking 4-5 cups.
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 lust after those frothy frozen coffee drinks at your local coffee shop, then this mochaccino recipe is for you. This easy homemade version uses low-fat milk, cocoa powder, coffee and just a little bit of maple syrup, so it has a fraction of the calories of a traditional version. (A small mocha frappuccino at Starbucks is 270 calories!) Coffee ice cubes, made by freezing coffee in an ice cube tray, make this drink frosty and give it a big, strong coffee flavor. Recipe by Joyce Hendley for EatingWell.
You might think that nonfat, sugar-free vanilla syrup is a healthy choice, but low-calorie doesn’t always translate to health benefits. Swinney suggests weaning yourself off sweeteners completely if you can, but if you can’t, be super picky about the additives you’re putting into your brew. “Pick organic cream to whiten your coffee or make your own packaging-free alternative milk from oats or nuts. Creamers often have artificial flavors, sweeteners, and other additives, so you’re better off using organic milk or cream plus organic brown sugar,” she says. Next, don’t miss these 13 surprising uses for coffee.
Basically, I blend coconut oil and grass-fed organic unsalted butter (yes … butter) into coffee with a dash of vanilla and sometimes a drop of stevia. The blender emulsifies the coconut oil and butter so the texture is more creamy than oily and it is a delicious way to get a boost of beneficial fats. This type of healthy coffee also gives much more extended energy throughout the day without making me jittery.
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While many of us start the day with a big cup of coffee, you actually may be lowering your energy levels by doing this. How is this possible? Well, quite simply, your body releases insulin in response to the caffeine found within coffee. This, in turn, causes a major drop in blood sugar, which leaves you feeling depleted and tired. Not a great way to start your day. Munch on a small snack during your morning cup, or even eat right before you drink. Your body will thank you for it.
If you are already a coffee drinker, it should be reassuring that after decades of research, no strong link can be found between coffee intake and cancer and, to the contrary, a number of health benefits seem to accompany coffee consumption. But, I’m not sure the evidence is powerful enough to recommend an increase in your daily habit. One reason is that we don’t know for sure that coffee consumption actually caused the health benefits observed in these studies. Some other, unmeasured factor could be responsible. Another reason is that the overall effect was small. And, it’s worth noting that some people are quite sensitive to the side effects of coffee.
Other studies have tried to pinpoint exactly what in caffeine is helping to halt the onset of these diseases. A 2014 study (14) found that caffeine blocks various tau receptors (a protein that contributes to brain cell degeneration). Another study found that caffeinated coffee increased GCSF (15) - a substance greatly decreased in Alzheimer’s patients - levels in the bloodstream.