7 Health Perks of Coffee

7 Health Perks of Coffee
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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). 










What's Really Causing Your Belly Bloat

If your pants are a bit snug around the waistline, or your stomach resembles an inflated balloon, you’re not alone. While it may not show up on the scale, it sure seems as if you’ve put on about 10 extra pounds — seemingly overnight.

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Bloating affects between 10 to 30 percent of us, according to experts at the University of North Carolina, who report that this bothersome condition can interfere with your job, your social life (and in all likelihood, your choice of clothing).

What's Really Causing Your Belly Bloat

Even though that feeling of fullness might make you swear you’ve consumed every single sweet treat from Dunkin' Donuts, bloating happens for other reasons. 

Here are some of the most common culprits.

1. Swallowing large amounts of air. About 50 percent of the gas in your digestive system is swallowed air, say experts at the University of Utah; if not "passed" via burping or flatulence, it builds up and your body retains it (usually in the abdominal region).

2. Fatty Foods. Pizza, donuts, burgers, fries (and those aforementioned donuts!). Foods high in fat can delay stomach emptying and make you feel uncomfortably full, according to the Mayo Clinic.

3. Too much salt. A diet high in salt causes your body to hang onto extra water. And many of us get too much sodium: although the American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams a day, most people average about 3,400 mg. 

4. Chewing gum. While you do it, you're also swallowing air while you’re chomping away — which can lead to bloat (see #1). Tough to break the habit? Try alternating gum chewing with sucking on a piece of hard candy, or munching on some healthy high-fiber veggies (like carrots or celery) or fruit (like apples or raspberries).

5. Constipation. A plugged-up or backed-up intestinal tract can lead to bloating. Constipation generally means you have fewer than three bowel movements a week, or they are hard, dry and small or painful to pass. To counteract it, make sure you get enough fiber, fluids and exercise, and don’t ignore the urge to “go.”

6. Excessive use of artificial sweeteners. They may be just the thing you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, but these no-calorie sweeteners are not so kind to your tummy: Excessive amounts can leave you bloated. Known as “sugar alcohols,” they have many aliases, like mannitol, sorbitol, lactitol, maltitol, isomalt and hydrogenated starch (HSH), and are found in diet sodas, cookies, candies and sugar-free gum. Some even hide out in toothpastes and mouthwashes.

7. Smoking. Just in case you need an incentive to kick butts, how about this one? A 2016 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology found an association between smoking and bloating. 

8. Medical conditions. Lactose intolerance or celiac disease can make it difficult for your intestines to properly digest and absorb certain food components. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be aggravated by foods like beans, broccoli and cabbage. And if you suffer from celiac disease — which can be diagnosed through blood tests and bowel biopsies — you may experience bloating from gluten (proteins found in whole grains and certain foods like salad dressings, beer and more).