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11 Unexpected Health Benefits of Coffee

an image of a couple drinking coffee

We all know why we’re here. We want to see all the amazing advantages of drinking that hot, brown work-water. That way, we can justify our absolute addiction for gulping down a cup (see: whole pot) of the good stuff on the daily.

All kidding aside — are we kidding, though? — these beans native to tropical Africa have a wide range of benefits that make our cravings a little less… psychotic.

Here are some of the amazing benefits of drinking a cup of coffee.

But First, Why Coffee?

Coffee is a process. Coffee is cultural. This bean (although technically a dried fruit seed that is roasted) means so much to the human race. The popularity alone is borderline concerning; on average, 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year. This translates to a multi-billion dollar industry¹ that has a solid grip on the adult morning psyche.

However, certain cultures covet the brew more than others. Some areas prefer various types of tea, others don’t touch any stimulant beverages at all.

So why is coffee so prevalent in the westernized countries?

There are two major reasons why the saying “But first, coffee” is a thing. For one, coffee is an excellent source of caffeine, the number one stimulant of choice for groggy teens and working adults across the industrialized world. Each standard cup (8 ounces) nets you 95 mg of caffeine. As a rule, a human adult can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine² in a 24-hour period. That equates to a little over four cups, giving us something to drink throughout the morning and gives our brains something to work with.

The other big reason is the social aspect of it all. Coffee is an experience, without question. It’s the go-to meet-up excuse — Hey, wanna get coffee together? The multitude of espresso drinks, member cards, free refills and overall atmosphere creates a feeling unlike anything else. Coffee is so ingrained in the Western experience it’s almost sacrilegious to shun the stuff.

So you get a buzz and a way to catch up with your mom on the weekend. Is that all coffee provides?

Not even close.

Here are the benefits, some of them well-known, others…not so much. But first, there are a few final details that need to be covered on the subject of coffee.coffee process infographic

The Caveats of Coffee

Your coffee beans need to be organic.

Now, we realize “need” is a strong word, and that’s intentional. When you choose to consume conventional coffee (i.e. non-organic), you’re subjecting yourself to a slew of pesticides and chemicals, like everything else that isn’t allowed to be deemed “organic.” These poisons have been correlated to some pretty nasty stuff, including neurotoxicity, abnormal fetal development and certain cancers.

In short, go for organic. It’s simply better for your health.

On top of this, how you brew your coffee plays a role in how many of the benefits you get. For instance, some brewing methods — especially those that include a filter of some sort — deplete the coffee of its more beneficial nutrients. Therefore, select a steeping method that allows you to get everything out of the coffee: an Aeropress, French press, a siphon brew, and a pour over with a metal filter are all terrific selections.

Now, with these two vital distinctions in mind, let’s dive into some liquid gold rewards.

1. Coffee Is Packed with Polyphenols and Antioxidants

These aren’t just buzzwords. Polyphenols³ are plant-based chemicals, while antioxidants are nutrients like vitamins C and E, as well as carotenoids4. They are both dietary reducing agents, which have been found in studies to protect the body’s tissues against oxidative stress and inflammation5.

RELATED: 7 Dietary Deficiencies That Are Ruining Your Sex Life

Coffee has been found to be the main contributor of antioxidants6 in certain diets. When your body’s tissues are devoid of oxidation and inflammation, your body functions at a higher level, not to mention it prolongs your life. Antioxidants specifically eliminate free radicals, which are atoms that basically put a clock on your lifespan…and not a very nice one, either.

Coffee is one of the best sources of both of these compounds, making it an elixir for your length of life.

an image of a whimsical coffee mug

2. Coffee Naturally Decreases Disease Risk

You may know of coffee’s ability to decrease your risk of common illnesses, but you may not be aware of the sheer scope of diseases coffee covers.

This bean reduces your risk of the following bodily issues, according to extensive research:

  • Numerous types of cancer, the most prolific being colorectal cancer7
  • Alzheimer’s8
  • Dementia9
  • Parkinson’s disease10, 11
  • Stroke12 and heart disease
  • Depression13
  • Multiple sclerosis14
  • Type 2 diabetes

This last one is particularly intriguing. There have been two15, 16 giant studies on the effects of coffee on Type 2 diabetes incidences. It turns out, the caffeine content in coffee results in a 3-11 percent increase in your metabolic rate, all other things held constant. This ramped-up metabolism should aid with insulin sensitivity, keeping your system running correctly and not building up a resistance to insulin.

To summarize: Take preventative measures by drinking coffee and avoid degenerative diseases.

3. Coffee Livens Up Your Liver

Research17, 18 has shown that coffee could protect your liver from cirrhosis, including alcoholic cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is basically a damaged liver, which leads to terrible adverse symptoms, like scarring and liver failure. This is a bad thing, considering your liver needs to be healthy to support a handful of bodily functions. (Functions that are tough to live without.)

The top causes of cirrhosis include hepatitis and alcohol abuse. And while it can’t be reversed, further damage can be avoided.

Enter coffee. While you can drink it to keep your liver from ever going down cirrhosis road, you can also stop its progression if you already have it.

Tack this on top of the polyphenols and antioxidants already in the brew. Coffee is an all-around protectant, keeping your entire body safe from a plethora of age- and lifestyle-related illnesses.

4. Your Brain Gets a Boost on Coffee

Coffee has been extensively studied19 to find it has a serious impact on cognitive function. You can concentrate better and stay focused with precision when on the go juice. And it isn’t simply the caffeine — it’s coffee as a whole.

What’s more, java can give you a boost with short-term memory20 and higher brain function, particularly useful for young adults during their non-optimal active hours. If you drink it strategically, you can get through that afternoon slump without experiencing any sort of crash.

This is beneficial as we age in life. Coffee has been studied to decrease the risk of cognitive impairment throughout an adult’s older years.

And to that, we say, “Thanks, coffee.”

5. Coffee Could Save Your Life (Literally)

Not gonna lie: This one is pretty impressive.

There have been multiple studies21, 22 on coffee and how it affects the risk of suicide (especially in women). Weirdly enough, there is a strong inverse association between drinking coffee and risk of suicide.

Your daily morning rocket fuel makes you feel 50 shades of great, and it’s all chemical. Coffee stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin in your brain, both of which produce euphoria. Then the polyphenols and antioxidants strike; your oxidative stress goes down, making your entire body feel better, period.

So if life ever has you or a loved one down, brew up a pot of lightning. It’ll make you feel better almost instantaneously.

An image of a person drinking coffee

6. Coffee Can Help Your Hair Grow

Good news, men with male-pattern baldness! Coffee could put hair back on your head, along with other areas on the body. (This was found in both men and women.22) Also, your morning ritual can double as a hair growth stimulant if you have androgenetic alopecia, a common type of male hair loss.

The growth of hair follicles stimulated by caffeine increased by 46 percent, while the life cycle of the hair extended by 37 percent. So if you deal with a lack of hair, that’s an excuse to pour yourself another cup.

7. Coffee Suppresses Appetite

This advantage has become more mainstream recently. Coffee has been found23 to help your body think it’s full, increasing leptin (the “I’m full” hormone) and decreasing ghrelin (the “I’m hungry” hormone) at the same time.

Tricking your brain and body like this is actually wonderful at keeping your caloric intake lower throughout your day. By reducing your calories, that means your body has to deal with less food mass overall in a 24-hour period. This means less digestion, giving your system more time to do other repairing processes elsewhere in your body.

(It’s also a tremendous aid for those who do intermittent fasting.)

8. A Cup Improves Everything About Your Eyes

It isn’t super crazy that coffee affects our eyes. What is nuts is the range of things our cups of coffee do for our peepers.

For one, if you had the gall to put your cold used coffee grounds in the area under your eyes for 15-20 minutes, you can reduce the puffiness of your skin. True story. Caffeine constricts the blood vessels under your eyes, reducing swelling and making you look less like the walking dead.

MORE: These Food Naturally Lower Blood Sugar

For another, a study on coffee24 has found that the potion can help prevent retinal degeneration, which can involve impaired vision or night blindness or light sensitivity.

Lastly, you can combine coffee grounds with a dab of coconut oil to erase the dark circles under your eyes as well. This concoction takes 10 minutes to remove the discoloration and improve your skin tone. Speak of which…  

9. Your Skin Looks Beautiful on Coffee

Believe it or not, some say coffee could actually tighten your skin. Seriously! That coffee ground/coconut oil mixture in the last section isn’t just for the under-eye area; you can reduce the appearance of cellulite anywhere on your body by continuously moisturizing with the duo.

This concoction also helps make your skin smooth because of the gritty texture. Use it in the shower and your skin will become super silky.

Plus, you can potentially remove embarrassing dandruff with the same stuff. Who knew used coffee grounds and coconut oil could be so great for any and all skin ailments?

An image of a barista making coffee

10. Coffee Enhances Performance and Recovery

This is for the fitness freaks and athletes. Coffee is known to speed up your metabolism, but it’s also been found to improve athletic performance25. The all-natural, completely legal stimulant is used by weekend warriors and Olympic athletes alike, giving them that extra oomph to break through plateaus and set PRs.

As well, coffee has been found to improve your reaction time26 (critical for certain sports and activities). Then, when your workout or event is over, stick with coffee to help reduce post-workout muscle pain27, also known as DOMS. Caffeine decreases your sensitivity to pain, meaning you can handle more.

So screw those fancy, expensive supplements! All you need to be your best self is a cup — or two…or twelve… — of coffee.

11. Coffee Might Help With ED

This final benefit might make you snicker, but this is super vital for those with lowered testosterone, a now-common epidemic in older men.

IN-DEPTH: Is Caffeine the Secret Behind Higher Testosterone?

Research claims28 coffee aids in bumping up blood flow, a major dilemma for those with erectile dysfunction. Another study29 found that drinking two to three cups of the good stuff significantly reduces your chances of getting ED in the first place.

Having trouble in the bedroom? Consider bringing Joe in…and by that, we mean your cup of Joe, not some random guy named Joe.

Conclusion: Have a Cup!

Hooray! We’ve normalized the American infatuation with a liquid that causes us to go to the bathroom more often. Rejoice!

The advantages of coffee cannot be overstated. However, which coffee you consume affects the overall benefits you experience. Remember, opt for organic coffee beans, as well as a steeping process that gives you the most bang for your brew.

We hope you were meta enough to drink a cup of coffee while reading all these benefits. But if not, we implore you to make some right now. It may just save your life (in more ways than one).

Citations and Sources

 

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Jake Lyda

Jake Lyda is a freelance fitness and nutrition writer who loves to travel, train, and play team sports. He's a true workout nerd and enjoys educating people about their bodies and how to optimize their physique. Visit his site for more information on his freelance writing services.
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