Although this latest news about the potential health benefits of coffee involves just a single animal study, tea drinkers might well feel they are coming out on the wrong end of the coffee equation. According to the National Coffee Association, 64 percent of Americans 18 and over drink at least one cup of coffee a day, with an average daily consumption of 3.2 cups. Three cups of a typical breakfast tea contain less than 150 milligrams of caffeine, compared with the nearly 500 milligrams in the same amount of brewed coffee. So tea drinkers might wonder if they are missing out on a potential health benefit and should start drinking the other stuff.
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What I do instead is use either a very small touch of organic maple syrup or a half packet of natural stevia to just lightly sweeten my coffee. I've also become a big fan of coconut sugar recently, and this is healthier than plain sugar because it does contain some minerals and other nutrients, and has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. On the other hand, if you like your coffee black with no sweetener at all, that's the healthiest way.
In 2009, a study of 83,700 nurses enrolled in the long-term Nurses' Health Study showed a 20% lower risk of stroke in those who reported drinking two or more cups of coffee daily compared to women who drank less coffee or none at all. That pattern held regardless of whether the women had high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and type 2 diabetes.
There’s no need to try anything crazy; the only performance enhancer you really need is coffee. Research has shown its ability to give workouts a boost and increase athletic performance, and that’s exactly why you’ll find so many Olympians drinking it: One report from the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found the majority of the 20,686 Olympic athletes analyzed had caffeine in their urine.
Independent studies on the coffee consumption patterns of men and women suggest that drinking coffee regularly reduces the risk of developing gout. Researchers in the Nurses’ Health Study analyzed the health habits of nearly 90,000 female nurses over a period of 26 years and found a positive correlation between long-term coffee consumption and a decreased risk for gout. The benefit was associated with both regular and decaf consumption: women who drank more than four cups of regular coffee daily had a 57 percent decreased risk of gout; gout risk decreased 22 percent in women who drank between one and three cups daily; and one cup of decaf per day was associated with a 23 percent reduced risk of gout when compared to the women who didn’t drink coffee at all. Similar findings have been documented for men: another large-scale study, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, found that men who drank four to five cups of coffee per day decreased their risk of gout by 40 percent, and that those who consumed six cups or more lowered gout risk by 60 percent.
This trick may seem obvious, but you would be shocked to learn just how many popular versions of coffee are loaded with artificial sweeteners and refined sugar. For example, a chai tea latte (found at a popular coffee store that shall not be named) has 15 more grams of sugar than a Snickers bar does! Even less obvious versions of sweetened coffee may be packed with artificial sweeteners or extra sugar. A salted caramel mocha (again, found at an unnamed coffee chain) hits your bloodstream with a whopping 56 grams (!) of sugar.
Believe it or not, vanilla has been a medicinal food used for centuries—not just a beloved ice cream flavor. It’s touted for being a brain superfood in its ability to boost mental performance, mood, and overall brain health. Vanilla is also used to calm stomach aches (due to hunger pangs and digestion), reduce joint pain, relieve stress, even cure male impotency.
Coconut milk is the perfect add-in if you’re lactose intolerant, cutting out dairy for dietary purposes (i.e. the Paleo diet), or just want a low-calorie milk substitute. Of course coconut milk adds a light coconut flavor to coffee and lightens up your brew, but it’s also closest in texture to whole milk. You can add vanilla extract to coconut milk to create a homemade, lower calorie creamer. Just be careful and use coconut milk sparingly as it still contains a fair amount of fat.
In fact, coffee shows more antioxidant activity than green tea and cocoa, two antioxidant superstars. Scientists have identified approximately 1,000 antioxidants in unprocessed coffee beans, and hundreds more develop during the roasting process. Numerous studies have cited coffee as a major — and in some cases, the primary — dietary source of antioxidants for its subjects.
Need a little boost to get you through your HIIT workout? A 2013 study from PLoS One shows that athletes who consumed coffee an hour before exercise had greater performance than those who drank decaffeinated coffee. Plus, a 2015 study from the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that people who drink coffee before a workout burn more calories after exercise, also known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This means that even if your spin class is over, your body will continue to burn more calories. We’ll drink to that! ☕