Each morning and evening when I was a child, I watched as my parents prepared their coffee with loving care; filling the coffeepot with tap water, then carefully measuring out the ground beans from the yellow can they kept stashed in the refrigerator. When the flame from the stove hit the metal of the pot with a brief sizzle, I knew that coffee was not far behind. Sure enough, just minutes later, the air was thick with a silky, aromatic fragrance that was both foreign and familiar to me. I longed to drink it, but dared not touch the stuff, lest it stunted my growth (a time-worn myth) or led to sleeplessness, nervousness, dependence, intestinal distress or worse.
Today, it’s hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t a coffee shop just about everywhere. I am at a loss to figure out where else we all went to carry out the routine of everyday life; working, socializing, resting, holding a meeting, conducting an interview or any other reason to slip into a nearby Starbucks.
And it seems that as the popularity of coffee grew, so did its stature. As the world’s leading beverage (after water) with a worldwide trade value in excess of $10 billion, it must be doing something for somebody.
It may be heralded as the “world’s most popular drug,” but done right, coffee is a drink you want to keep around. Coffee is no wonder drug – like anything else, its effects vary widely by individual. But, overall, it’s a very healthy drink: compared with non-coffee drinkers, people who drank four to five cups a day had the lowest cause of death, according to researchers.
But remember: if you add cream and sugar to your coffee, you might be in for a lot of extra calories. And steer clear of those fancy coffee drinks, some of which can cost you upwards of 500 calories).
1. Coffee helps sleep deprived people stay more alert. It can help keep you alert by blocking certain sleep-inducing brain chemicals and pumping up adrenaline. (But keep in mind that the effects can last six hours or even longer, so don’t drink too close to bedtime!)
2. Coffee enhances memory. Scientists at Johns Hopkins found that caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory. Their findings, which were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found the memory enhancement to persist at least up to one full day after the caffeine was consumed.
3. Coffee improves physical performance. Drink it one hour before you exercise, and you may see a big bump in your endurance.
4. Coffee helps relieve headaches. Due to its ability to cause blood vessels to narrow and limit blood flow, coffee could help relieve the pain of a headache or migraine, during which blood vessels tend to enlarge.
5. Coffee can prevent gallstones. According to research, coffee consumption may help reduce the risk of developing gallbladder disease and gallstones; benefits may be seen after just one cup a day.
6. Coffee may help protect against various diseases. Many research studies have found coffee may help prevent type-2 diabetes, certain cancers, liver disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Coffee could guard against heart failure. The greatest protection is seen at a moderate intake (between three and five cups a day).