Beneficial beverages


The message in this painting by Paul Heath is legit: coffee can be enjoyed, by most of us, anyway, without health worries. (photo by Dan Barton)

When it comes to health habits, what’s bad can turn good. If you’ve resolved this year to give up a beverage with a naughty reputation, you might want to rethink. If you’re having trouble keeping any New Year’s resolutions to stay away from coffee, tea or wine, you may want to consider giving yourself some slack. They might be good for you.

Coconut water and fresh vegetable juice aren’t the only healthy beverages around. Recent findings on the libations we love show that they could be giving us many unexpected health benefits.

About 100 million Americans drink coffee daily, with the average intake being about 3.1 cups a day. If you’re restraining yourself from the Joe because of health concerns, know that various studies have shown that coffee may be effective against heart failure and other cardiovascular problems, plus cirrhosis, kidney stones, gallstones, exercise-induced asthma, dental decay, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, pain and depression. It’s said to raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.

Coffee contains thousands of chemicals that haven’t yet been analyzed that affect its flavor and act as antioxidants. Several controversial studies have pointed out that — unlike some other beverages — the more coffee the better, with more benefits with increased intake, up to about a dozen cups a day!

Recent findings have found that coffee’s polyphenols may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, as well as some aggressive types of prostate cancer, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Although coffee has been a suspect in high blood pressure, and does raise it a little momentarily, regular coffee drinking may lower it in the long term. It has been lauded for helping with metabolism, weight loss and cognitive function as well.

Coffee is our richest and most common source of antioxidants. The polyphenols in the cup help decrease inflammatory processes that can lead to diseases like cancer, but that content can vary according to how long the beans are roasted and how. If the beans are soaked and drained before roasting, then returned to the liquid afterwards, polyphenol content is retained. In some cases it’s the caffeine that provides the benefit, and other compounds in coffee may increase enzymes in the body that detoxify, protecting us from DNA damage. Coffee can also increase and revs up bifidobacteria, a beneficial bacteria in our intestines that boosts immunity.

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