It's not hard to guess that we LOVE coffee! Over 1 billion people worldwide regularly enjoy the versatility and myriad of benefits that the humble coffee bean provides. Coffee is widely accepted as a quick, easy and enjoyable way to get a daily (or twice daily!) hit of caffeine, boosting energy and clarity, but did you know it’s actually beneficial for you in other ways too?
The stimulating properties of the coffee bean, found on the Coffea plant, were first noticed in the 9th century by dancing goats of all things! Herders noticed the vitality increase in their flocks when they grazed on the Coffea plant and quickly picked up on the correlation that consumption = energy. Over the decades, cultures around the world began to refine the brew that we can now pick up at our local cafe or select from our supermarket shelves.
Caffeine is widely known to be a source of stimulation and is the most commonly consumed psychoactive product in the world. A psychoactive is a substance that influences the working of the brain and promotes changes in both mood and behaviour. Caffeine works by stimulating the cardiovascular and nervous system while also increasing brain activity, leading to a spike in energy, alertness, awakeness and that elevated feeling we know and love.
As well as providing a physical energy boost to power through the day or perform better in a sports setting, coffee can also give you a mental leg up to get through, well, life! Coffee is widely reported to enhance concentration, memory and does so pretty quickly. Caffeine is absorbed rapidly due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and its benefits peak within an hour of consumption. Caffeine absorbs more rapidly into the body on an empty stomach, but can also cause jitters so don’t over caffeinate on an empty stomach.
It is widely accepted within the scientific community that caffeine increases general arousal (no, not that sort) and improves higher cognitive functions such as reaction time, problem solving and decision making. So next time your boss dumps a heap of work on you as soon as you walk in the door, remind them that also bringing coffee could help your quality and speed of work ;)
Studies have shown that a daily cuppa can help ward off Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and there is even some evidence that the right amount of caffeine daily can protect the brain from developing Alzheimer's disease. Coffee is also a fantastic source of antioxidants, protecting your cells from free radicals and preventing damage.
For women specifically, a cuppa a day might even keep the cardiologist away! Numerous studies have shown that women who consume a moderate amount of coffee on the daily have a significantly lower risk of contracting coronary heart disease. (LINK INSERT Wu JN, Ho SC, Zhou C, Ling WH, Chen WQ, Wang CL, Chen YM. Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: a meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies. Int J Cardiol. 2009 Nov 12;137(3):216-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2008.06.051. Epub 2008 Aug 15. PMID: 18707777.)
These positive benefits are nearly all, however, counteracted if you load your coffee with sugar and cream, sorry!
If this wasn’t enough to convince you to go put the kettle on, coffee (both regular and decaf) can boost liver enzyme levels to a more healthy range and dark roasts can even prevent damage to your DNA strands, reducing the risk of cancer and tumors.
How much is too much?
This is a tricky question as it depends on a huge range of factors. For some people, a single shot (around 60mg caffeine) of coffee can keep them buzzing all day and struggling to sleep at night. Others can consume the equivalent of a whole gram of caffeine (do not try this at home) and sleep like a baby. To put that into context, that would be roughly 8.5 double shot espressos!