The average American drinks about three cups of coffee a day, so it’s particularly advantageous that it’s packed with a number of health benefits. While the beverage is notorious for jolting people with energy, its natural antioxidants can boost your well-being, too.
“Coffee sometimes gets a bad rap,” says Donald Hensrud, M.D., associate professor of nutrition and preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. But it can be “exceptionally good for you.”
Here’s what you need to know about the popular drink, including coffee varieties, potential drawbacks and six science-backed benefits that may be good for your health.
What Is Coffee?
Coffee comes from berries that grow on the plant Coffea, according to the National Coffee Association (NCA). Commercially grown coffee comes from the world’s coffee belt region along the equator, where trees enjoy rich soil, mild temperatures and frequent rain and sun.
Different types are classified by bean, roast and grind, notes the Harvard School of Public Health. These are the four categories coffee types fit into:
Type of bean: The main types of beans are Arabica (Coffee arabica) and Robusta (Coffee canephora), notes the NCA. Arabica beans grow at higher elevations, making them more expensive to harvest, but they’re also the most popular type worldwide as they account for 70% of the world’s coffee production. Robusta beans are more economical to grow and have more caffeine. Used largely in instant coffee blends, this bean makes up the other 30% of the world’s production, according to the association.
Type of roast: Coffee beans start out green and are roasted to produce a rich aroma and flavor. Roasts fall into four categories, says the NCA: light, medium, medium-dark and dark. Lights contain more caffeine and are more acidic, and the opposite for dark roasts.
Type of grind: Finer grinds are used for deeper flavors like espresso, while medium grinds are used for most automatic drip machines, the association explains. The smaller the grind, the faster it needs to be prepared.
Decaffeinated: Growers use one of four methods that removes 97% or more of the caffeine in coffee beans before they’re roasted, reports the NCA. Beans are then washed, steamed and roasted to remove chemicals left by the decaffeination process. “Decaffeinated coffee offers the same health benefits as regular coffee,” says Dr. Hensrud.
6 Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee is packed with antioxidants that fight against oxidative stress in the body caused by aging, exposure to pollution, chemicals, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, poor quality food and alcohol, write the authors of a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Daily coffee consumption may offer the following health benefits:
1. May Lower Risk of All-Cause Mortality
People who drank coffee were less likely to die from any cause than non-drinkers, according to a large umbrella 2017 study in the British Medical Journal. As a general rule of thumb, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consuming no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.
2. May Reduce Risk of Cancer
Coffee is associated with a lower risk for prostate, endometrial and other cancers, and may reduce the chance of some neurological, metabolic and liver conditions, the findings show.
3. May Help Fight Against Type 2 diabetes
Drinking high versus low amount of coffee is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the study notes. Risk was lower for each dose of increased consumption, and the authors found no difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.
4. May Lower Risk of Liver Disease
Drinking any amount of coffee versus no coffee was associated with a reduced chance of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver fibroids and liver cirrhosis, according to the data. There was also a significant association between drinking coffee and a lower risk for gallstone disease.
5. May Reduce Risk of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s Disease and Depression
Coffee was consistently associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, the research shows. Consumers were also less at risk for depression and other cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s.
6. May Boost Cardiovascular Health
The beverage comes with a number of cardiovascular benefits, too, according to a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Having two to three cups a day was associated with significant reductions in the risk for developing coronary heart disease.