3. Boosts brain health (if you don't overdo it)
Can a coffee habit reduce your risk for dementia? Scientists aren’t sure, but some research suggests that regular caffeine consumption may indeed offer protection.
A long-term study published in 2021 in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that coffee-drinking participants with no memory impairments at the start of the study had a lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment — which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease — or Alzheimer’s itself over the course of the 10-year study, compared with those who didn’t drink coffee. Participants were almost 70 years old on average.
Careful on the refills. “New data suggests that having over five or six cups a day may have an adverse health impact on the brain,” Kirkpatrick says, citing the results of a large study published in 2021 in Nutritional Neuroscience.. Researchers who studied the brain scans of more than 17,000 people ages 37 to 73 found that drinking six or more cups of coffee a day was associated with smaller total brain volume and an increased risk of dementia. The researchers pointed out that the study couldn’t confirm the underlying reason for the association, just that the more coffee people drank, the more brain shrinkage their scans showed.4. Improves your mood — for longer than you'd guess
4. Improves your mood — for longer than you’d guess
You don’t need an expert to tell you how much better that first jolt of morning java can make you feel. But what you may not know is that the effects could be more than fleeting. Drinking coffee may reduce your risk of depression by nearly one-third, according to research from Harvard Medical School. The effect may be related to coffee’s anti-inflammatory properties, Weisenberger explains. “Researchers suspect that both coffee and some antidepressant medications lower the body’s levels of inflammation, which may have an effect on depression. What’s more, coffee has phytochemicals that feed the good bacteria in our guts. The good bacteria may produce or enhance other compounds that act on the brain and have beneficial effects on mood.”
How much do you need to drink to reap the reward? At least four cups per day, suggests one study, published in 2018 in Nutrients. Participants who drank four or more cups a day showed a lower risk of depression than those who drank a cup or less. (But don’t forget the caution about six or more cups a day.)
5. Gives your workout a measurable assist
It’s not your imagination: Downing a cup of joe before you head off to the gym can make a difference in your workout. Why? When consumed before working out, coffee improves circulation, endurance and muscular strength — plus, it may reduce pain, according to a review of research published in 2019 in Sports Medicine. Keep in mind, though, that coffee can also act as a diuretic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that caffeine lovers drink extra water during exercise to avoid dehydration, especially in the heat. How long before your workout should you drink coffee to maximize the benefits? Most research suggests drinking coffee within an hour of your start time, though at least one study shows drinking coffee a half-hour before you work out may boost fat-burning in particular.
6. May help you live longer
Considering all the heart-healthy benefits in your morning brew, it’s no surprise that coffee is linked to a longer lifespan. It’s protective in other ways, too. A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day — whether it’s caffeinated, decaffeinated or instant — not only reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, it also lowers the risk of dying from any cause. Caffeine doesn’t get all the credit. As the researchers pointed out, coffee also contains more than 100 biologically active good-for-you components.
How to Pick the Best Creamer
Add-ins — whether a powdered creamer or a high-calorie, sugar-laden flavoring — can quickly strip coffee of its good-for-you status. “Coffee with a couple pumps of vanilla or hazelnut syrup and heavy cream is an indulgence we should save for the rare treat,” notes Weisenberger, who recommends a nonfat latte or a cup of coffee with a splash of low-fat milk as a healthy standard.
Beyond that, be sure to check the label on any creamer. A lot of store-bought options aren’t dairy products, and you’ll want to skip those with ingredients such as carrageenan, a thickener believed to cause inflammation and digestion problems. The best options, says the Cleveland Clinic’s Kirkpatrick, will have only one or two ingredients.
From there, be sure to scan the Nutrition Facts label for added sugars and saturated fats. “Both should be as low as possible,” Weisenberger says. If you really want sweetness, consider stevia, a sugar substitute. Finally, know that the serving size listed in the Nutrition Facts on most coffee creamers is typically one tablespoon. So be sure to do the math if you’re adding creamer to multiple cups of coffee or, say, a jumbo 24-ounce cup. Not only do the calories add up, but so does the sugar — especially, Kirkpatrick notes, with many plant-based options such as oat milk or almond milk.
5 Surprising Health Benefits of Coffee