If you're a coffee lover, the benefits of that morning cup o' joe may seem obvious. It's rich, flavorful, comfortingly hot in the winter, icy perfection in the summer—and best of all, it gives you an incomparable energy boost to kick-start your day.
Beyond those significant perks, coffee has some unexpected health benefits. This is good news for a lot of U.S. adults—three-quarters of whom enjoy the beverage daily. Still, as with most things, it's best not to overindulge in your morning coffee. Dietician Jordan Hill told USA Today that the recommended caffeine intake is approximately 400 milligrams (mg) per day. "Hill recommends 300 milligrams per day for adults, especially those who may be more sensitive to the side effects of caffeine," they reported. (And keep in mind that coffee isn't the only food or drink with caffeine in it: that chocolate bar or can of soda counts too!)
Since the average cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine, that means you can still enjoy a cup (or two!) every morning. Read on for five surprising ways it boosts your health.
1It's good for your heart.
Those coffee jitters might not bring to mind a healthy ticker, but it turns out that coffee can be good for your heart health. "Because coffee can quicken heart rate, some people worry that drinking it could trigger or worsen certain heart issues," Peter Kistler, MBBS, PhD, FRACP, said in a statement released by the American College of Cardiology (ACC). "We found coffee drinking had either a neutral effect—meaning that it did no harm—or was associated with benefits to heart health."
According to Kistler, coffee beans contain "over 100 biologically active compounds." "These substances can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, boost metabolism, inhibit the gut's absorption of fat, and block receptors known to be involved with abnormal heart rhythms," he explained in his statement.
2It helps protect against liver disease.
The Liver Foundation reports that over 100 million Americans have a type of liver disease. While 4.5 million adults are diagnosed, "it is estimated that 80-100 million adults in the U.S. have fatty liver disease and many do not know they have it," the site says.
To understand how coffee can benefit your liver health, get ready for a little science lesson.
"When your body digests caffeine, it makes a chemical called paraxanthine that slows the growth of the scar tissue involved in fibrosis," explains WebMD. "That may help fight liver cancer, alcohol-related cirrhosis, non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, and hepatitis C."
3It lowers your stroke risk.
Drinking coffee is just one of the lifestyle choices that potentially reduces your risk of suffering from a stroke, which is a leading cause of death in the U.S.
"Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke," says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also reports that someone dies of a stroke every 3.5 minutes. And researchers have found that "people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die from stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more," says Verywell Health. "People who drank three to four cups per day seemed to benefit the most."
4It's associated with a lower risk of Parkinson's disease.
Numerous studies have shown that drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson's disease (PD), and "may also help those with the condition better control their movements," says Johns Hopkins Medicine.
"A large number of epidemiological studies report an inverse, dose-responsive relationship between coffee/caffeine consumption and the risk of developing PD," explains the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee. "Coffee consumption appears to reduce or delay the development of PD and caffeine is most likely the causal factor."
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5It may help you live longer.
Given the many ways coffee can benefit your health, it's not surprising that longevity is another one of the perks. And the good news for those who like their java caffeine-free or on-the-go: "It doesn't appear to matter if the coffee is caffeinated or decaf, brewed or instant," according to Harvard Health.
"There are many potential beneficial compounds in coffee," Edward Giovannucci, a nutrition expert, told WBUR. "People think of caffeine, but it's likely that some of the most beneficial compounds are not the caffeine."
The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) breaks down the numbers: "All types of coffee were linked with a reduction in death from any cause," the site reports. "The greatest risk reduction seen with two to three cups per day, which compared to no coffee drinking was associated with a 14 percent, 27 percent, and 11 percent lower likelihood of death for decaffeinated, ground, and instant preparations, respectively."