A cup of coffee a day keeps the doctor away? For those of you who can’t part with your morning cup of joe, take heart: Turns out a daily dose of java comes with a number of surprising health perks. Once considered a toxic vice, coffee is now being touted as one of the healthiest beverages on the planet, when consumed in moderation. In honor of National Coffee Day, here are eight health benefits of coffee that will vindicate your morning excursion to Starbucks.
1. Coffee makes you smarter. Feeling sluggish? Didn’t get enough shut-eye? When energy lags, coffee can deliver an instant boost, temporarily increasing cognition, vigilance, reaction time and logical reasoning.
2. Coffee may slash cancer risk. Current scientific evidence suggests that moderate coffee consumption comes with several cancer-fighting benefits, thanks in part to its high level of antioxidant. In men, coffee can help slow the progression and recurrence of prostate cancer. In women, three or more cups a day has been linked with a lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (BCC)—the most common type of skin cancer—by as much as 20 percent.
3. Coffee may ward off depression. Here’s another reason to drink up: Studies have found that coffee may confer protection against depression. Caffeine may bust bad moods by stimulating the production of “feel-good” neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin and noradrenalin. Additionally, a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health reported that coffee consumption appears to lower the risk of suicide in men and women by as much as 50 percent.
4. Coffee enhances athletic performance. Gearing up for a 5K, spin class or tennis match? Two cups of coffee (or the equivalent of about 250 mg of caffeine)might be the magic elixir you need to run faster, pedal longer or hit the ball harder. A natural stimulant, coffee increases physical endurance by increasing the number of fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream.
5. Coffee may protect your liver. More good news for coffee drinkers: That daily pick-me-up could offer a powerful defense for the liver. In studies, increased caffeine intake was linked with slowing the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Paraxanthine—one of the breakdown products of caffeine—is thought to restrict the growth of the type of tissue seen in liver fibrosis, alcoholic cirrhosis and liver cancer.
6. Coffee may lower diabetes risk. Java junkies may have a lower chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. A study of 14,000 people in Finland found that women who drank the most coffee curbed their risk of diabetes by as much as 29 percent (for men, that number was 27 percent). Researchers suspect that the antioxidants in coffee may play a role in improving insulin sensitivity.
7. Coffee can aid with migraine relief. Although caffeine can trigger migraines in some people, sipping coffee may provide instant pain relief when migraines strike. Coffee constricts swollen blood vessels in the brain, which can decrease throbbing pain. In fact, caffeine is so effective as a migraine-fighter that it is used as a main ingredient in many popular over-the-counter migraine medications.
8. Coffee can protect your brain. Coffee may help keep your brain sharp as you age, thwarting the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. A 2012 study conducted by the University of South Florida and the University of Miami examined the effect of caffeine on cognition and found that coffee drinkers had lower risk of developing either of the diseases.