More Than Just The Best Part of Waking Up

Nothing beats the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning. The aroma itself is enough to get some people going. Millions of people feel like they can’t start their day until they have their first cup. I know, because I’m one of them.

Coffee has been enjoyed for centuries all over the world, from royals to peasants and everyone in between. A main reason for its popularity is the energy boost provided by the caffeine. Whether you need the boost to get you moving in the morning, or you just need a pick-me-up to make it through the rest of the afternoon at work, coffee is a great choice.

Coffee is a very low calorie beverage (about 5 cal/8oz cup) and is full of antioxidants. These two perks have been known about for years. More recently, however, other benefits of coffee drinking have started to surface. A recent study from Harvard University shows a relationship between drinking coffee and a decreased risk of prostate cancer. The exact reason for this relationship isn’t completely understood, but the evidence is strong enough to encourage coffee drinking.

Another possible advantage of downing a few more cups of joe daily is about to be published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Caffeine has long been thought to help protect the brain from developing Alzheimer’s disease, but according to researchers at the University of South Florida there appears to be “something” else in the coffee that interacts with the caffeine to produce an even greater benefit. The “something” isn’t completely known yet, but according to the study, the added effect was seen only in the mice given the caffeinated coffee. As someone who has watched family members suffer with Alzheimer’s, I’m willing to do anything I can to reduce my risk of developing this terrible disease. And if drinking more coffee is going to help, it’s a win-win type of situation.

If you’re a black coffee person, drink up. The benefits are many, and the negatives are few. If, however, you are a member of the cream and sugar crew, you need to take a step back.

The coffee industry is booming around the world. There are Starbucks going up all over the place. Dunkin Donuts have popped up in areas other than Boston, and more are on their way. Even McDonalds touts their new McCafé with all their specialty flavors. These days, if you’re not drinking coffee, you are in the minority. But most of this new crop of coffee drinkers load their cup up with cream, sugar, and/or syrup. These additions turn coffee from a healthy choice to a ticking calorie bomb. The biggest bomb at Starbucks is a 670 calorie monster for 24 ounces. Whatever health benefit you might get from the coffee Is completely undone by the damage done to your waistline. And if you’re drinking two or three of these a day, you’re getting your entire calorie count from drinking coffee. Not exactly healthy, eh?

If you’re the kind of person that struggles to drink black coffee, I understand. I’ve been there. But black coffee is an acquired taste. If you drink it enough, you’ll learn to like it. Until then, a dash of skim or soy milk and a little Splenda might help.

The benefits of coffee are known, and more are discovered all the time, but you need to remember that all coffees are not created equal.

Consider yourself warned.

Tread lightly, friends.


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