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Ever since we began to learn of the correlation between caffeine and high blood pressure, that morning dietary staple, coffee, has gotten a bad rap. In recent years however, studies have shown java to have a net benefit to your health, so long as you don’t consume it in excess.
Joe A. Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton, determined in a 2005 study that not only is coffee high in antioxidants, but is responsible for the highest daily antioxidant load for most Americans—on average 1299 milligrams of polyphenols. Compare that to the next closest source, tea, at 294 milligrams and you can see the impact coffee has on a typical American’s health.
Coffee has also been shown to protect the blood-brain barrier, which is essentially a coating that protects the brain from potential harmful elements, such as cholesterol. Other studies have shown coffee to reduce the incidence of uterine and breast cancer in women as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s also been linked to a reduction in the risk of liver cancer in men. Both decaffeinated and regular coffee has been shown in studies conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health to reduce the risk of Type II diabetes by up to 50%.
While the correlation between coffee intake and good health could potentially be due to ancillary lifestyle habits of the various studies’ participants, the evidence makes for a compelling reason to drink the brew. How much coffee you should drink each day is a matter of speculation, but a team of Japanese researchers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that three to four cups of coffee daily provided greater protection against liver cancer than did one or two.
We probably don’t need to mention the most immediate benefit of coffee to the fit-minded: it’s energy-boosting properties. An 8-ounce cup of coffee contains on average 65-95 mg of caffeine (concentration varies depending on type, whether it’s instant, drip or percolated, etc.)—enough to jumpstart a workout even on days when your get up and go has gotten up and gone.
We suggest one to four cups of coffee per day, but recommend no more than two caffeinated cups. Of course, if you’re caffeine sensitive you’ll want to stick purely with decaf, which has also been shown to provide ample antioxidants. So, drink up, java man! Just hold the sugar.