If you can’t imagine life without a morning cup of coffee, there’s some good news. It’s not only a delicious and energizing way to wake up. It’s linked to a growing list of health benefits. “Studies credit coffee with decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, liver disease, gallstones, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes,” says Leann Poston, MD, medical advisor for Impakt Fitness.
Yes, that’s right. Your humble cup of joe is jampacked with valuable compounds like antioxidants that tackle harmful free radicals, reduce inflammation, and guard against disease.
10 coffee benefits
The health benefits of coffee are wide-ranging from reducing your risk of stroke and cognitive diseases to weight loss. Here are some reasons to add two or three mugs to your daily routine:
- Enhanced energy levels
- Reduced body fat
- Increased physical activity
- Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Reduced risk of liver disease
- Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s
- Reduced risk of Parkinson’s
- Enhanced heart health
- Improved sperm health
- Better skin
1. Enhances energy levels
Coffee is rich in the stimulant caffeine. “Caffeine may boost your energy levels when taken moderately because it enhances your metabolic rate and the release of adrenaline, the hormone in the brain responsible for energy release,” says Daniel Boyer, MD, a researcher at the Farr Institute in West Des Moines, Iowa.
“It also acts against fatigue by temporarily impairing the action of adenosine, a central nervous system stimulant that decreases the activity of the neurons, making you feel tired,” Dr. Boyer adds. Caffeinated coffee also boosts dopamine, your brain’s feel-good chemical. Yes, the side effects of coffee drinking may include an increased risk of happiness.
2. Reduces body fat and promotes a healthy weight
“Caffeine may also promote a healthy weight, reducing the risk of certain conditions linked to [being] overweight like heart problems by supporting gut health and altering fat storage, which is all linked to weight management,” Dr. Boyer says. And the evidence agrees.
In a 2019 review, researchers found that higher levels of coffee consumption were associated with lower body fat levels, particularly in men. Further 2020 research shows a similar effect in women.
3. Increases physical activity
Researchers in a 2018 study linked coffee consumption to increased physical activity. They found that female coffee drinkers consuming one to two cups of coffee daily were 17% more likely to meet recommended physical activity levels than those who drank less.
4. Lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body uses sugar. When blood sugar remains high, it can lead to potentially serious health problems. Drinking coffee may help reduce the risk of developing this condition.
A 2018 review found that your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes drops when comparing a high-consumption coffee group of individuals (median 5 cups per day) to a low-consumption group (median 0 cups per day)—and this holds true whether the coffee consumed is caffeinated or not. This effect may be because coffee protects the function of the beta cells in the pancreas., which produces the insulin that regulates blood sugar levels. Coffee also contains magnesium, which helps the body break down sugar.
5. Reduces the risk of liver disease
Liver disease is a serious condition that can lead to life-threatening health complications, including cirrhosis. However, it seems that coffee may support liver health.
A 2017 review noted that a daily cup of coffee could lower the risk of dying from chronic liver disease by 15%. Coffee lovers may be pleased to know that drinking four cups per day equates to a 71% lower risk. Additionally, “Taking 2 cups of coffee may lower the risk of liver scarring in people with liver problems,” Dr. Boyer adds.
Drinking two cups of coffee has also been linked to a reduced risk of liver cancer of up to 43%.
6. Lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that leads to memory loss and impaired thinking. There is currently no cure, but early diagnosis and treatment can help slow its progression.
In a large 2016 review of studies totaling more than 29,000 participants, the results suggested that the more coffee people consume, the lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that leads to problems with movement and balance. Like Alzheimer’s, there is no cure, but treatments exist to slow disease progression.
However, regular coffee drinkers appear to have a significantly lower risk of developing the disease, according to a 2020 review. It may also slow disease progression.
8. Enhances heart health
Coffee may help protect against heart disease and improve heart health. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. By protecting heart health, coffee may also reduce the risk of death.
A 2018 review noted that people who drink three to five cups of coffee per day were 15% less likely to develop heart disease. Another large 2021 study of more than 21,000 people supported these findings and concluded that increased coffee intake significantly decreased the risk of heart failure.
It may also decrease blood pressure. In a 2017 study, researchers found that drinking 7 cups per day meant a 9% reduced risk of hypertension, with a further 1% decrease for each additional cup.
9. Improves sperm health
A 2005 study found that average sperm motility increased in line with coffee consumption. Even men who drank more than six cups per day had higher sperm motility than those who didn’t drink coffee.
Coffee has also been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. One study showed a decrease in risk in men who drank regular or decaffeinated coffee.
10. Boosts skin health
Coffee also has perks for your skin. Coffee beans contain caffeine and polyphenols like chlorogenic acids (CGA) that may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects and protect from photoaging.
Applying liquid coffee to the skin or as a scrub made from the grounds may help skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Coffee consumption is also associated with a lowered risk of basal cell carcinoma, a common skin cancer.
Different types of coffee
When it comes to drinking coffee, you have options. Coffee with milk and black coffee benefits are similar, so adding dairy is purely down to personal preference. Since the caffeine content is responsible for some of the benefits of drinking coffee, decaf coffee benefits are more limited.
If the idea of traditional coffee doesn’t appeal, you can opt for coffee alternatives such as mushroom or chicory coffee. Mushroom coffee uses medicinal mushrooms such as Chaga and Reishi blended into regular coffee. These mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years and are associated with a range of health benefits. Some suggested mushroom coffee benefits include improved sleep and energy levels, decreased stress, stronger immune system, memory support, and reduced inflammation.
Conversely, chicory coffee is made from the roots of a plant in the dandelion family. It’s a caffeine-free alternative to regular coffee that may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.
Coffee side effects
Coffee is rich in caffeine which, as a stimulant, can cause side effects such as:
People who experience these effects may want to reduce their coffee consumption, stop altogether, or switch to decaffeinated coffee.
Some people may also experience undesirable digestive effects. Firstly, coffee is usually acidic, which can irritate the stomach and increase gastric acid, leading to diarrhea. Additionally, coffee stimulates the body to release the hormones gastrin and cholecystokinin, which trigger bowel movements. “It can also cause your acid reflux to flare up,” Dr. Poston added.
Another thing to consider is that although some studies show that coffee can help with fat loss and weight management, some people may find it has the opposite effect. A benefit of black coffee is that it’s calorie-free, but you could gain weight if you regularly add high-calorie creamers or sweeteners. On top of that, coffee may interfere with healthy sleep patterns if you consume it later in the day. Researchers have linked poor sleep with higher body weight.
Caffeine can also interact with certain medications. For example, caffeine can affect the absorption of levothyroxine (a thyroid medication). In larger amounts, it can also exacerbate side effects of certain drugs like Adderall. When starting a new medication, ask your healthcare provider about possible drug and food interactions.
Lastly, certain individuals should limit their intake. “Coffee should be consumed in moderation and only by adults. Caffeine can cross the placenta, so pregnant people should talk to their doctor about their caffeine intake,” Dr. Poston says. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant individuals limit their caffeine consumption to 200 mg of caffeine per day or around one 12 oz cup of coffee.
Bottom line: Is coffee healthy?
Coffee appears to provide various beneficial effects for health, including boosting energy, increasing fat loss, and protecting against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
For most people, it’s safe to drink coffee every day, and moderation is best. So, sticking to around three cups daily is safe for most adults.
If you’re looking for a healthy way to enjoy coffee, consider using sweetener instead of sugar and adding a tablespoon of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil to help promote feelings of fullness and reduce food intake. Alternatively, you could opt for herbal tea and other non-caffeinated options instead of regular coffee.