13 Ways Coffee Can Improve Your Health

A picture of Ways Coffee Can Improve Your HealthI love coffee.

I honestly believe that the best part of a new day is starting it with a warm, strong cup of quality coffee.

If someone were to make me quit drinking it, they would have to pry the cup out of my cold, dead hands.

Still, to be honest, there are some negative effects.

If I don’t get my caffeine one day then I will get a headache and feel tired. It is addicting and leads to withdrawal, that is a fact.

Also, if you’ve got a high blood pressure or are pregnant, then you may want to avoid coffee or at least talk to your doctor about it.

Still, for otherwise healthy people, coffee may provide a range of health benefits.

Here are 13 ways coffee can improve your health.

1. Coffee Can Improve Cognitive Function

In a large cross-sectional study of 9003 british adults, coffee was associated with improved performance in all metrics measured. Tea also provided a small effect (1).

Many studies have confirmed that it does produce significant cognitive benefits, at least in the short term (2).

I can vouch for this myself, as I feel that coffee drastically improves my focus when studying (or writing blog posts – yes, I have a cup in my hand right now).

2. Coffee May Improve Physical Performance

Coffee may improve physical performance in the short term, especially during endurance exercise, although not all studies show an effect (3, 4, 5, 6).

For this reason, it may be a good idea to have a strong cup of coffee right before a workout.

3. Coffee Increases the Metabolic Rate and Enhances Fat Burning

Caffeine is a stimulant, and one of its effects is to raise the metabolic rate, primarily mediated by an increase in fat oxidation. Unfortunately, it is less pronounced in obese individuals (7, 8, 9).

This is most likely due to caffeine raising epinephrine (adrenaline) levels in the blood.

If you look at the ingredients labels, you will find caffeine in most commercial fat burning supplements (which I don’t recommend).

4. Coffee Reduces All-Cause Mortality (Your Chances of Dying)

I know of several people who believe coffee to be harmful to health.

However, this has never been proven and is one more example of “conventional wisdom” being at odds with what the actual studies reveal.

In fact, coffee consumption is inversely related to the risk of death. What this means, is that a person who drinks coffee is slightly less likely to die at any given time point (10, 11).

5. Coffee Does Not Increase Heart Disease Risk

It is often claimed that coffee is bad for your heart.

This has never been confirmed, and the long term studies usually do not show a significant association between coffee and heart disease.

However, heavy coffee consumption does slightly elevate heart disease risk in a few studies, while moderate consumption may actually decrease the risk of heart disease (12, 13, 14).

6. Coffee May Decrease Your Risk of Stroke

Despite mildly elevating blood pressure, coffee consumption has been associated with a slight reduction in the risk of stroke (15, 16).

7. Coffee Drastically Cuts Type II Diabetes Risk

Type II diabetes is a disease that is reaching epidemic proportions in affluent nations around the world.

Interestingly, consumption of coffee has a large protective effect against type II diabetes, with numbers ranging from 23% to 67% reduction in risk. This disease affects almost 300 million people around the world (17, 18, 19).

One large meta-analysis found that, for each additional cup of coffee per day, the risk of type II diabetes decreased by 7% (20).

8. Coffee Reduces Chances of Getting Parkinson’s Disease

You’ve probably heard of Parkinson’s disease before. It is a degenerative disease in the central nervous system, caused by the death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Most pronounced are movement difficulties, followed later by cognitive impairment and dementia.

Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, after Alzheimers, and afflicts about 1% of the population above 60 years of age (21).

Caffeine seems to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, with coffee and tea (not decaf) providing a protective effect, ranging from 25% to 58% risk reduction (22, 23, 24).

Interestingly, smoking also seems to lessen the chances of getting Parkinson’s, but it will kill you by other means, of course.

9. Coffee is Good For Your Liver

Coffee may be protective for your liver, an organ that performs hundreds of different functions in the body and is vulnerable to modern insults such as alcohol consumption.

Several studies show an inverse relationship between coffee and liver cancer, with a risk reduction of up to 31% for people without a family history, and 44% for those who do have a family history of liver disease (25).

Coffee is also highly protective against liver cirrhosis, which can be caused by excess alcohol consumption, fatty liver and hepatitis. Those who drink 4 or more cups per day are 80% less likely to develop cirrhosis (26, 27).

10. Coffee May be Protective Against Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, and dementia is becoming an increasingly larger problem as the population grows older.

Caffeine is inversely associated with the risk of developing both Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in several epidemiological studies, some of them showing a risk reduction as high as 65% (28, 29, 30).

11. Coffee May Lessen Your Risk of Getting Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death, and the second and third most common cancer diagnosed in women and men, respectively (31).

Coffee may reduce chances of getting colon cancer by up to 27% for those who drink 4 or more cups per day, compared to those who drink none (32, 33).

Given that 0.5 million people die every year from colon cancer, this is a significant finding.

12. Coffee Contains Some Vital Nutrients

There are some nutrients that coffee contains in small amounts.

According to Nutrition Data, a cup of coffee provides 11% of the RDA of Riboflavin (B2), 6% of the RDA for Pantothenic Acid (B5), 2% of the RDA for Niacin (B3), Thiamine (B1) and Magnesium, as well as 3% of the RDA for Manganese and Potassium.

These are not large numbers, but if you consider someone who drinks 3 cups per day, then you can multiply these percentages by 3.

This can make a significant difference for people who don’t eat a nutritious diet.

13. Coffee Contains a Lot of Antioxidants

Surprisingly, coffee is the largest source of antioxidants in the western diet (34, 35).

Conclusion

Most of the studies above are epidemiological in nature, and it is impossible to prove an association with these sorts of studies, but all those studies suggest that coffee provides significant health benefits and protection against disease.

I’d like to mention that filtered coffee is best. Unfiltered coffee may contain harmful substances known as diterpenes, which can have an adverse effect on blood lipids. Paper filters effectively remove these substances.

It also goes without saying, that if you load your coffee with sugar or other sweeteners then you’re probably going to negate some of the health benefits you may get from the coffee.


 

53 Comments

  1. I agree with you that coffee is awesome. I can’t imagine starting my day without it and i can only imagine the withdrawal symptoms if i suddenly stopped.
    In your first paragraph, you wrote “quality” coffee. From what i understand coffee bean crops are heavily sprayed. Therefore, do you recommend organic coffee?

    • The studies didn’t make a distinction between regular coffee and organic coffee. Organic might be healthier.

    • Jeff, organic coffee rarely tasts good. The coffee beans are just too tempting for bugs. as soon as a small percentage has been spoiled by bug invasion it all tasts bad. Anyway whybwould you not trust coffee from Guatemala and Vietnam to be genuinely organic. Why would they lie to you? They dont sell fake goods on any street corner or rip you off if you are a gringo. :)

  2. Excellent! You will never have to many reasons for a wonderful cup of coffee in the morning. I´m actually going to take a walk and fetch my self a cup right now!

    But drinking coffee also has a few cons, for example I heard of a research which proved that 60% of drivers involved in car accidents did have a cup of coffee in the morning :)

    • Hello Freyr. You can also be pretty sure that 99% of drivers involved in car accidents ate food the day before, but that doesn’t indicate that food caused the accident, if you know what I mean :)

      If anything I could imagine coffee improving driving skills, as there are studies showing how it can improve focus, reaction times, etc.

  3. Tapati Patnaik says:

    Thanks Kris! I also cannot imagine beginning my day without coffee. Thanks for letting us know that it has so many benefits. As always your posts are really interesting and different from the regular stereotype ideas about healthy lifestyle.

  4. Hi Kris, what can you tell us about the acrylamide content of brewed coffee?

  5. Hi Kris! But how come coffee keeps me awake during the night. It does not matter what time I take it. Or maybe u can suggest what I can take.

    • This is common. Caffeine is a stimulant, and can interfere with sleep.

      You can try avoiding coffee after 2-3pm, or even after lunch if you still have problems.

    • I used to have the same problem. One sip of highly diluted green tea would keep me wired all night. I learned that that is a sign of magnesium deficiency. I started supplementing with epsom salts and now I can go right to sleep after a drinking coffee all day. It’s important to provide fuel (sugar) for the liver at the same time as drinking the coffee or the adrenals kick in to provide the glucose…very stressful on the body.
      The”jitters” is a sign the body doesn’t have enough potassium, I supplement with cream of tartar for extra.

      • Hi Jenny, I’m very curious why you don’t buy a Magnesium or Potassium supplement and that you use Epsom Salts and Cream of Tartar? My dad used to take Epsom Salts everyday until he ended up in hospital with a blocked bowel – I was told it is very harsh on the body. I take Magnesium most nights to help me sleep, but doesn’t work wonders unfortunately. I get the jitters as well, didn’t know that it could be low potassium – will have to look into that and get a supplement.
        Thanks – Denise

        • Epsom salts is not a substitute of proper digestion and assimilation.
          I try to get my nutrition from my food. Cream of tartar comes from grapes, a by product of the wine making industry. Far too many supplements are a waste of money or are harmful because the body doesn’t recognize them as food and doesn’t know what to do with it.
          For sleeping at night, you also need to make sure your liver has the fuel it needs to do it’s job….glucose/sugar/minerals, protein and saturated fat. I like a small glass of OJ with a pinch of salt….or gelatin broth…or a little ice cream.

  6. Hi Kris,

    Excellent website, I’m an avid reader.

    Tell me one thing, do all these studies control for the effect of a third factor, f.x. a difference in lifestyle between the cirrhosis patients that drink coffee vs. those who don’t? It’s a question I asked myself regarding many of these studies, which is why I’d rather ask you then click the link of each and every one of them and find out for myself. :)

    • Kristjan says:

      Hello Lilja, and thanks.

      Yes, they usually adjust for confounding factors in these sorts of studies.

      • I know they usually do, however, I’ve learned from experience that reading with a critical eye is essential, peer-reviewed or not.

        • I didn’t see any major flaws and usually I checked for several studies to see if they were unanimous in their findings, which they were.

          But I definitely agree. A critical eye is necessary.

  7. Michelle says:

    I always start the day with fresh coffee or a good instant one (if there is such a thing ;)) It truly beats any sugar high. I miss Latte’s on the low carb plan, but feel it’s worth doing without, just while I find out what I can and can’t eat.

    Thanks for a great update.

    Michelle

  8. Hi Kris,

    Another diet I was looking at (low carb – real food similar to this one) cut out caffeine saying that it raises your blood sugar -> releases insulin -> interferes with losing fat. Is this something to pay attention to if you’re trying to lose some weight too? Thanks for your excellent blog!

    • Kristjan says:

      Hello Angie, I don’t buy it. There is no reason to cut back on caffeine if you’re trying to lose weight.

      But if the caffeine is coming from soft drinks or sweetened tea/coffee then that’s a different story! Every reason to avoid those if you’re trying to lose weight.

  9. Christine says:

    For something different, add a teaspoon of healthy coconut oil to your coffee and a splash of whole cream. So yummy!

    • Better yet, add 1 tblsp coconut oil and 2 tblsp Kerry Gold unsalted butter to 16oz quality coffee. Blend with stick blender until frothy. Enjoy!

  10. I roast my own coffee most of the time. I have an espresso machine, so I make a single Americano in the morning. Occasionally I’ll have another in the afternoon–or make it iced in the summer. I love good coffee! With cream, and sometimes with coconut oil…or coconut rum ;)

  11. Ryan Travers says:

    I drink coffee every day. Everybody around says it’s unhealthy and hey – it’s not true :)

  12. Kris,

    Does Coffee make you age quicker? My boyfriend always advises me not to drink coffee everyday because he thinks it will make me look older quicker…….(Note: I am only 23 years old)…Please let me know if this is true??

  13. Haukur Palmason says:

    According to recent studies at Reykjavik University coffee does not really improve your function, but if you drink coffee regularly, then the absence of coffee reduces your abilities. It would be interesting to hear your view.

    • Kristjan says:

      This is not an actual study, but a news piece and interview with a professor who studies the effects of caffeine.

      I definitely agree with part of what he says. A regular coffee drinker who has coffee in the morning mostly experiences an energy rush due to alleviating the withdrawal symptoms.

      However, for those who do not have a full tolerance towards caffeine, it will increase energy. Caffeine is a stimulant, that is a fact.

  14. Reason #14: The social aspect. I often catch up with friends over a cup of coffee. This in turn leads to reduced stress levels. I would definitely miss the social aspect, if I was to give up coffee.

    • Kristjan says:

      I agree! I thought about naming this post “XX ways coffee can improve your life” but then I’d probably have to write an entire book about it!

  15. Hell yeah!
    No coffee no workee….

  16. Hey Kris,

    ditto here on the coffee lovin’, I’m right fond of my big strong cup of coffee, and here’s what I do:

    I buy freshly roasted organic coffee beans (kaffi tár, Brasilia), and the I grind them with a manual coffee grinder just before I brew it. Delish.

    I only use organic since coffee crops are otherwise heavily sprayed…not good.

    So, coffee is great for your health, BUT…too much of a good thing, know what I mean?

    What I do is I de-caffeinate one day a week, usually on my carb day. During high insulin times you don’t want a lot of cortisol floating around as well.

    So, no coffee all day once a week, be strong; it tastes even better tomorrow! :-)

    Mark

  17. Hi Kris, just a few questions for you. I read that we should cut back on coffee, maybe just have 1 cup of caffeinated coffee. Coffee is one antioxidant rich drink that may not be good. There is no question that it raises homocysteine levels quite substantially. Dr. Verhoef at the Wageningen Centre for Food Science showed that 2 cups of regular coffee increased homocysteine by 11% after only four hours, whereas caffeine tablets alone increased it by 5%. So there’s something other than cafffeine in coffee that also raises homocysteine. Coffee drinking is associated with reduced circulating levels of folate, B6 and B2 possibly by increased excretion.

    I consume 1 cup of caffeinated tea / coffee in the morning as i can’t function (wake up) properly without it, but then change to decaf for the rest of the day. I think 1 cup is ok but too much is not a good thing.

    Is stevia zero cals, and zero carbs, ok to use as a sweetner in coffee??

    • Kristjan says:

      Homocysteine is considered a risk factor for heart disease, but not a causal factor. That means that homocysteine doesn’t cause heart disease although it is associated with it.

      In the epidemiological studies above they measure death or disease as the end points, not some numerical value from a lab test. So I definitely wouldn’t dwell too long on the fact that coffee may elevate homocysteine.

    • IMO, stevia is NOT a good form of sweetener. You give your body the sensation of sweetness/energy without the nutrition to back it up, lying to your body, in essence. Coffee works with your liver to detox your body. Drinking coffee without providing fuel for your liver to work (energy) is a recipe for disaster. Always drink coffee with sugar. Doesn’t have to be table sugar in the coffee, could be a piece of fruit on the side, but you need something with it so the liver can do it’s job. IMO ;)

  18. Thanks for that Kris, i am struggling to lose weight although i am following a low carb high fat diet and exercising 4 days a week, i should be grateful if u could advise me if 1. full fat milk and 2. whey protein and 3. full fat coconut milk might be stopping me from losing? or do u consider these to be healthy foods? Thanks for all your help Kris, you are very knowlegable.

    • Ditch the whey, it’s not a balanced form of protein for an adult. ;)
      Low carb is not for everyone. If you FEEL better going low carb, great. I LOST 30lbs when I started listening to my body and ate what I craved…low fat, high carb….but little to no STARCH.

      Full fat coconut milk is a great source of fat….but I peronally had issues with the guar gum and stabilizers, really messed with my digestion. I did find a coconut milk with no stabilizers and my body likes it.

  19. I really disliked this article because I think coffee is not good for you.
    I have never drank coffee and so happy I don’t because I think it is kind of like a drug based on what it does to people around me who drink it.
    I don’t think it is normal if you have to get a cup of coffee just to get started when you wake up or get focused. I wake up and eat healthy food and I exercise if I like to be more focused. I also know a lot of people who have quit drinking coffee and they feel so much better. They sleep better, have less headaches, whiter teeth, are more focused through the whole day but not just after a cup of coffee and they’re heart rate and blood pressure is more stable throughout the day. Haven’t you seen any research about that?

    • Thelma, that is anecdotal evidence and doesn’t prove anything.

      I’m sure there are some people who do better without coffee. It is not a necessity, and I don’t recommend that non-coffee drinkers start drinking coffee for the health benefits. It does have negative effects, such as being addictive, like I mentioned in the article.

      I’ve tried quitting all caffeine myself for several weeks/months at a time. I definitely did not feel better and experienced a severe lack of motivation.

      Coffee isn’t bad for you. This is just one of the things people think is true because they’ve heard other people say it. “Conventional wisdom” at its best, at exact odds with the actual truth.

  20. Tom Parker says:

    Great post Kris. I’m a bit of a coffee addict myself but surprisingly I actually managed to go most of last week without drinking coffee (I think I had 2 cups in the last 10 days). I was on holiday and didn’t have a kettle where I was staying, so most days I just went without. A couple of days I bought a cup but I was expecting to have withdrawal symptoms on the first morning. I was quite impressed with myself haha :).

    Now I’m back though, I’m definitely looking forward to more regular cups of coffee.

  21. Johnny F says:

    Sorry Kris but give me tea every time! Mind you I’m English and we love the stuff!

  22. I gave up coffee many years ago because I was addicted to it. I have tried to give up everything that has caused strong, difficult to control cravings. I also gave up alcohol and sugar and am now working on gluten. I don’t want to have something that I feel takes control from me/whose cravings I can’t resist. It seems similar advice is listed as one of the benefits for cutting sugar and wheat on this site, so I’m sure that is understandable rational. That said, I have read this and other articles that mention the health benefits of coffee. What I wonder, is there a substance or substances in the coffee that is causing the health benefits. I’m not interested in the stimulant benefit of caffeine, I already know that one. I am just wondering if there are other things in a coffee bean that perhaps can be found outside of coffee or extracted from the bean?
    Thanks for your insightful blog and sharing your observations from the studies you read.

    • Kristjan says:

      Hello Katie. Decaf doesn’t always show the same benefits, but in many cases it should though. If I were you, I wouldn’t start drinking coffee again just for the health benefits.

      These studies are done on people who eat the standard western diet. If you already live a healthy lifestyle I doubt adding coffee to the mix will bring a lot of additional benefit.

  23. Does this relate to all coffee (decaf. included?). Or is it the caffeine that causes all the benefits? Often people say “coffee” but really mean “caffeine”. ie “If you’re pregnant avoid coffee.” They really mean to avoid caffeine. I’m just asking because I only drink decaf coffee because my body doesn’t tolerate caffeine very well.

    • Some of it only applies to caffeinated coffee.

      If you don’t tolerate caffeine well then I’d definitely stay away from caffeinated coffee. It’s not worth it in that case.

      If you already have a healthy lifestyle, then adding coffee into it is probably not going to change anything.

  24. I love coffee too, but why would you drink de-caffinated coffee – the process it goes thru to become de-caffinated is is really, really bad or am I behind the times, have they got a new way of doing it without using a lot of harsh chemicals?

  25. Chemicals? The process I’ve seen uses water.

    • Just had a look on the net, seems to be 2 types of processes, one is the Swiss method and doesn’t use any chemicals & the other is European which does use chemicals. If you are drinking coffee from the Swiss method, then that’s fine. I haven’t drunk de-caf in ages because it tasted horrible and I’d also heard about the harsh chemicals which I thought was worse than the caffeine.

  26. chinonye says:

    I love coffee but since I am pregnant I stopped. Hoping to start again.

  27. See, now you’re just encouraging me to continue this addiction.

  28. What about the coffee with creamer and sugar which i love the most. Can it still be healthy?

  29. Sounds like something I want to hear :) I usually drink instant Nescafe, I should perhaps get myself a coffeemaker to make sure I get all these advantages. Thanks!

  30. Hi

    On the subject of coffee. I need to know. What is the effect of stuff like coke zero, fanta zero, sprite zero? Are you allowed to have them? Will this turn into sugar as soon as it hits my system?
    And then what about artificial sweetners?

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