I am not sure when this happened, but at some point the media projected this idea that coffee was bad for you. Most likely this idea stemmed from the fact that the majority of people turn their morning coffee into a morning milkshake. Hopefully, you aren’t doing the same, rather, you are drinking your coffee the old fashioned way, pure black, and enjoying the benefits we have discussed over the past couple of weeks. To recap, we have discussed how coffee improves your mood and focus by increasing your excitatory neurotransmitters, including dopamine, noradrenaline and acetylcholine, and we talked about how this feeling can be addicting, but isn’t necessarily bad for you, provided you don’t have any adverse reaction to caffeine. .
Coffee isn’t for everyone; for some, it does wonders and for others it doesn’t. But for me, it is my saving grace and my go to beverage. In fact, I am drinking a cup of coffee right now, it is a ritual for me and a way to jumpstart the writing process. But I digress, you didn’t come here to learn about the writing process, you came here to learn about the benefits of drinking coffee. And by the end of this post you will learn two more benefits that will convince you not to give up your favorite beverage.
Benefit #1 Coffee Has More Antioxidants Than Wine
Coffee is more than just water and caffeine. It is one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the human diet and it even has more than red wine! (1, 2) Antioxidants play a crucial role in human nutrition by protecting our cells and DNA from oxidative stress. Put simply, every time you breathe and use oxygen to create energy, the body produces pro-oxidants as a byproduct. These pro-oxidants (free radicals) aren’t a bad thing in moderation. They are needed for the body to function properly, but an excessive amount of free radicals can damage your DNA and lead to a host of problems, including chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation can lead to weight gain, injury and aging. Luckily, the antioxidants found in coffee can keep this balance in check. Coffee contains hydrocinnamic acids, potent antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals and protect your DNA from damage (3).
If you look at the chart above, you can get a better sense of how coffee stacks up. It has the second highest amount of antioxidants behind espresso (which is also coffee, just brewed differently). Granted, this list is only focusing on beverages, and fruits and vegetables provide much higher amounts of antioxidants, but we have to be realistic with our diets. The majority of the population doesn’t consume four to six palm fulls of fruits and vegetables.Therefore, it is a good idea to make coffee or espresso your main beverage (after water) to fight off free radicals.
So not only does coffee put you in a good mood and increase your focus, but it also protects your DNA from being damaged, which means less wrinkles and less injuries. Pretty cool, right? But the benefits don’t end there, coffee has even been shown to stimulate your metabolism.
Benefit #2 Coffee Increases Your Metabolism
As I stated in the beginning of this post, when you consume coffee it increases excitatory neurotransmitters that are responsible for waking you up and making you alert. One of the main messengers in this process is called noradrenaline (norepinephrine). Noradrenaline is responsible for the fight or flight (stress) response in the body. When noradrenaline is secreted, your heart rate, blood flow and fat breakdown (fat oxidation) will increase. This mild adrenal response from coffee is responsible for an increased metabolic rate and increased fat oxidation. But is this increased metabolic rate enough to offset the short stack of pancakes you had for breakfast?
To figure this out, I searched the web and came across a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the study, the scientists gave lean and obese individuals 100 mg of caffeine every two hours for 12 hours, totalling 600 mg of caffeine over the 12 hour period. By the end of the study, lean subjects increased their metabolic rate by 150 calories, while the obese subjects increased it by 79 calories (4). Another study done in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition came to the same conclusions. Coffee was taken with a 3080 kJ meal versus the same meal taken with decaffeinated coffee. The study found that the coffee stimulated the metabolic rate more than the decaffeinated coffee. The authors concluded that coffee greatly stimulates the metabolic rate of normal/obese subjects, but increases fat oxidation more in normal weight individuals versus obese. (5)
Now this doesn’t mean that coffee is going to save you from those pancakes. So make sure you are still consuming whole, real foods on a regular basis. Nevertheless, coffee deserves a spot with those whole foods because I consider it to be a part of a healthy diet. The research is clear, coffee is rich in antioxidants and can help speed up your metabolism and fat oxidation. However, this increase in fat oxidation will only lead to fat loss if you consume less calories then you use and actually exercise. So yes, coffee can help you lose weight, but you still need to exercise and eat a healthy diet.
Therefore you should wake up tomorrow, drink some antioxidant rich black coffee and go workout.