By Cal Orey
Lose weight, fight cancer and help your heart. The author of The Healing Powers of Coffee tells why a good ol’ cup of Joe is being recognized as a hot new health food.
Americans love coffee. And according to some sources, we drink an astounding 400 million cups every day. But few consume it without some guilt. For years, it’s been suspected as a culprit for various conditions, from high blood pressure to ulcers. But research is now proving the opposite. In fact, there are hundreds of compounds found naturally in coffee beans that have decidedly healing properties, perhaps more so than cocoa, tea or even renowned antioxidant-rich fruits, such as oranges and blueberries. In her new book, The Healing Powers of Coffee, Cal Orey pours over the research to brew up some incredible facts about these magical beans. Here, she sits down for a little coffee Q&A, where she shares insights and tips on how coffee can wake up your wellness routine, helping you to not only stay trim, but also reduce your risk of chronic diseases—even substantially lowering your risk of a heart attack.
|Quick TipStop the Pain. Have a Cup. If you’re prone to migraines, a cup or two of strong, black coffee may be the cheapest and most effective remedy, since caffeine can reduce pain by constricting blood vessels.|
Q: What inspired your interest in coffee?A: I have penned the Healing Powers series—books on superfoods. Since coffee gets a bad rap, I thought it would be fascinating to write about a vice that has gone to virtue. The health benefits of java are controversial, but groundbreaking research shows that it’s got perks. Coffee has been touted as the “newest health food.”
Q: Why is coffee such a popular beverage worldwide?A: Its energizing benefits are probably the main reason why coffee has made its mark and is here to stay. Actually, according to legend, an Ethiopian goat herder was the first to discover the energizing benefits of the coffee bean plant centuries ago.
Q: What gives coffee its many health benefits?A: Coffee’s amazing antioxidant power is what makes it special. Two mighty antioxidants—chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid—have been given credit for its health benefits. Coffee boasts other health-boosting antioxidants, including benzoic acids, flavonoids and proanthocyanidins.
Q: Does decaf have the same effects?A: According to Joe A. Vinson, Ph.D., from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, decaf has 20% less polyphenols than caffeinated coffee, but this is not significantly lower.
Q: Do certain types of coffee have more benefits than others?A: Drinking freshly ground coffee from whole beans can help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Q: What about the benefits of green coffee beans?A: Green coffee refers to the new or unroasted [beans] of Coffea fruits. It has been praised for its weight-loss benefits on the popular “Dr. Oz Show.” One study published in January 2012 in the Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity Journal shows 16 adults using green coffee bean extract lost an average of 17 lb in just 22 weeks. It’s believed that chlorogenic acid slows absorption of fat from food intake and also boosts metabolism of extra fat. Evidently, it may be a better source of chlorogenic acid than traditional brewed coffee.
Q: What about coffee’s effect on the Big C?A: Researchers are quick to point out that cancer-fighting antioxidants (in both caffeinated and decaf) may help lower the risk of developing some cancers, including breast, prostate and liver. Antioxidants in coffee act as disease-fighters to hinder the cancer process and reduce certain cancers.
Q: What’s an interesting fact about coffee that most people don’t know?A: You can cook and bake with coffee. You can incorporate coffee in recipes like Cappuccino Biscotti, Thai Coffee Spiced Chicken Sates, Coffee Cheesecake and Maple Espresso.
Q: What are coffee’s benefits for weight loss?A: Coffee can provide extra energy to help you exercise (burning calories and boosting metabolism at rest), and help to stave off muscle aches and pains after a workout. Also, caffeine in coffee can act as a natural diuretic, increasing the amount of urine you’ll excrete by temporarily losing pounds or water weight. What’s more, coffee can help women and men get and stay slim because it contains caffeine—and may beat bloat as well as keep you regular. But note, it’s a cup of regular coffee that can help you lose the unwanted pounds, not the junk added to coffee. That means stay clear of creams, flavored syrups, whipped cream, half-and-half and whole milk.
Q: How much coffee do you need to reap the benefits?A: The exact amount varies, depending on your heart health and tolerance. Some doctors believe if you have any heart problems or anxiety woes, stick to decaf or one cup of coffee per day. Other coffee gurus do not have a problem with drinking three cups of coffee per day—and that was the average for Americans back in the 1950s. If you’re concerned about caffeine, drink decaf.
Q: Can drinking coffee really be heart healthy?A: According to research, drinking two cups of coffee daily could reduce heart failure by 11%. Researchers didn’t determine why, but evidence suggests regular coffee drinkers may build a tolerance to caffeine, lowering their risk of high blood pressure. The antioxidants in coffee may also help to lower the risk of high blood pressure and cho- lesterol. However, unfiltered coffee and brewing in a French press or percolator may raise cholesterol.