Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks across the world. It has been consumed for thousands of years, yet in recent decades, it has been vilified as a stimulant or unhealthy.
So what’s the real answer: is coffee healthy? Should you quit drinking it entirely, or is it okay in moderation?
Luckily, research has plenty to say about coffee, and the good news is, there are lots of benefits!
Read on to determine whether or not coffee could be good for you and what health benefits it might have to offer.
More than half of the adults in the United States drink coffee on a daily basis.
The average coffee drinker consumes a whopping three or more cups per day, too, so we’re not talking about casual coffee drinkers.
Americans are so loyal to their daily cup of joe that they spend more than 40 billion dollars on coffee every year.
Stunningly, the U.S. falls below 21 other countries in the amount of coffee consumed per household. Coffee is an important beverage across the world.
The funny thing is that coffee beans have no taste on their own until they are roasted and prepared.
Roasting coffee is something of an art form, with true coffee drinkers having strong preferences for length and type of roast and even how their cup of joe is brewed and prepared.
Light, medium, and dark roast coffees all have distinctly different flavors. How the coffee is brewed further impacts that and whether you take your coffee black or with cream and sugar dramatically influences the type of beverage it is, too.
People don’t just like coffee for the caffeine or flavor either. Coffee is rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that make it a healthful beverage in many cases.
It’s really only in the U.S., and recently, where coffee has been vilified as a health risk or a “drug” that people should cut back on.
Research actually finds that regular coffee drinkers have lower disease risks in many cases than those who abstain, and that regularly drinking coffee in moderate amounts poses no threats.
Let’s explore the top benefits.
12 Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee is delicious however it is roasted, and the good news is that it’s not just a jolt of energy.
Coffee has actual health benefits that promote good health, longevity, and more. These are the top research-backed benefits.
Of course it’s important to note that just because coffee is healthy doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to drink it loaded with milk, sugar, and other ingredients.
These health benefits pertain to actual plain black coffee.
Diluting it with milk, sugar, and other ingredients reduces the amount of coffee you’re taking in and replaces it with ingredients that could be inflammatory, allergenic, and contributive to weight gain and health problems.
If you don’t drink your coffee black, consider the health benefits of trying it this way or consider looking for healthy alternatives, like low-carb creamers and sugar alternatives, like stevia.
1. Protects DNA from Being Damaged
Every cell in the human body contains DNA, the code that essentially makes us who we are.
Because cells have to constantly replicate over and over, there are numerous chances each day for there to be errors in the process.
The older we get, or the more inflammatory or chronic issues we have, the more chances there are for our DNA to “break” or to replicate with small errors.
Over time, this can result in health problems or degenerative disorders.
Coffee has been shown to protect the integrity of DNA and to promote a flawless replication during the copying process.
This happens primarily because coffee is rich in antioxidants which fight inflammatory and oxidative damage that can interrupt the copying integrity.
Coffee goes to work protecting DNA almost immediately, with positive benefits seen in as little as two hours after consumption. (1, 2)
In order to get the most benefits, however, you need to drink it on a daily basis and the darker the roast, the better. (3)
2. Boosts Energy Levels
Perhaps one of the top reasons why people consume it, coffee helps to boost energy levels and reduces feelings of fatigue.
While it won’t replace a good night’s sleep, it can legitimately increase your energy and ability to function at higher levels. (4) This is, of course, due to the presence of caffeine.
Caffeine gives you a boost of energy because it blocks adenosine in the brain.
Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that is an antagonist to dopamine and norepinephrine. When adenosine is higher, you might feel tired, sluggish, and even more unhappy.
3. Promotes Optimal Brain Function
Coffee doesn’t just make you feel more awake. It also helps to optimize several aspects of brain function including how quickly you can react and think on your feet.
It also boosts mental function and cognition, memory ability, and even focus. (5)
4. Protects Against Neurodegenerative Disorders
There are many neurological conditions that impact the brain and total body health including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
For these conditions there are no cures available and they can dramatically alter the quality of one’s life.
While genetics can play a role in all three, research shows that regular coffee drinkers have a reduced chance of developing them.
People who drink coffee on a daily basis have a 65 percent lower chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which is the leading cause of dementia and age-related brain disorders. (6)
Parkinson’s is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder.
It affects the ability to control muscles and can result in uncontrollable tremors, as well as other complications.
Coffee drinkers have as much as a 60 percent reduced chance of developing Parkinson’s disease. (7)
However the protective benefits are only seen with caffeine coffee, not decaf.
5. Promotes a Healthy Liver
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ that is responsible for more than a hundred essential functions.
Because the liver handles toxins and can be damaged from things like alcohol, prescription drugs, and other chemical exposures, it can be prone to damage and disease.
Coffee protects against certain types of liver damage or disease, including cirrhosis. This is especially true for anyone who drinks at least three or four cups per day. (8)
6. Lowers the Risk of Depression
Depression is a disorder that can be caused by numerous factors.
While it seems to only involve the brain, it can be tied to many other areas of health including the gut, the thyroid, other hormones, and more.
Mental health is just another aspect of physical health.
Research shows that depression has roots in inflammation in many cases. Coffee is rich in antioxidants which can combat the negative and damaging effects of inflammation problems.
More than four percent of the general population in the United States are dealing with clinical depression, but research shows that people who drink three to four cups of coffee per day have a more than 20 percent reduced chance of becoming depressed or having a recurrence of depression. (9)
7. Helps the Body Burn Fat
Caffeine is sometimes taken in pill form as a fat-burner. This method causes the body to be exposed to excessive doses and caffeine in and of itself can pose health risks.
Caffeine in coffee, however, when paired with the antioxidants and other benefits, is less harmful for those who are not sensitive to it.
Caffeine in coffee can boost your metabolic function by as much as 11 percent, helping to encourage your body to burn more fat for energy. (10)
8. Reduces Risk of Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most epidemic health problems across the world.
It can increase the risk of other health problems, like heart disease and cancer, and causes a number of problems on its own.
Regular coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing this type of diabetes, by as much as 67 percent. (11)
Every cup of coffee consumed each day represented a more greatly reduced risk, up to about three or four cups.
9. Downgrades the Risk for Certain Types of Cancer
While cancer is a terrifying word, it is not in and of itself a disease, but rather a breakdown of healthy cell function.
Cells replicate in certain controlled and organized manners.
When cells have changes to them that remove checks and balances or that allow certain problematic cells to grow without being destroyed, cancer can occur.
Coffee does not protect against all types of cancer, but research shows it can defend against certain types, including:
10. Protects Heart Health
Coffee also protects heart health because of the antioxidants. They can protect the cells of the heart from being damaged by oxidative stress.
Coffee also increases blood flow, which can boost circulation and promote cardiovascular wellness. (14)
11. Boosts Longevity
Coffee can increase the overall chance of living longer, partly because of all the health benefits already mentioned.
By reducing the chances of many chronic and degenerative diseases, coffee could help you live longer. Antioxidants are another reason why they could increase your lifespan—reducing oxidative damage makes cells live longer.
People who drink three to four cups of coffee per day have been shown to have as much as a 15 percent reduced chance of death, with those drinking four cups having a greater benefit. (15)
Over the course of a few decades, coffee drinkers can also experience a general reduced chance of mortality. Men experienced a 20 percent reduction and women a 26 percent reduction. (16)
Even people who already have chronic disorders like type 2 diabetes can experience a reduced mortality rate because of coffee.
One study showed that those who drank coffee and had diabetes experienced a reduced chance of death—by 30 percent! This study spanned 20 years. (17)
12. Reduces the Risk for Stroke
While people who claim that coffee is bad for you will say that it increases blood pressure, this effect only seems to be noted in people who irregularly consume it.
Regular coffee drinkers don’t have sustained blood pressure changes. (18)
Beyond that, coffee has been shown to reduce the risk for having a stroke since it increases circulation and promotes overall healthy blood flow.
The risk for stroke in regular coffee drinkers can be reduced by as much as 20 percent. (19)
Reasons Why Coffee Might Not Be Good For You
While there are clearly many benefits of coffee, it is not good for everyone. Some people experience bad reaction when drinking it, either because of the coffee bean itself or because of caffeine.
It has also been deemed problematic for certain health conditions, such as:
- Bladder cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Sleep problems or insomnia
The bottom line is that coffee might be great for you, or it might not be.
It has some demonstrated health benefits that prove coffee in and of itself is not bad, nor do you have to limit to just one cup per day to keep it healthy.
Keep in mind, however, that you could be sensitive to caffeine, not coffee itself.
If this is the case, trying decaf would still give you most of the protective benefits, but be sure to choose an organic, water-processed decaf to ensure that it’s as healthy as possible.
This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
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Spiller, M. A. 1998. “The Chemical Components of Coffee”. In Caffeine, Edited by: Spiller, G. A. pp. 97–161. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
James, J. E. 2004. Critical review of dietary caffeine and blood pressure: A relationship that should be taken more seriously. Psychosom. Med., 66: 63–71.
McCusker, R. R., Goldberger, B. A. and Cone, E. J. 2003. Caffeine content of specialty coffees. J. Anal. Toxicol., 27: 520–522.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.