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The Health Benefits of Coffee


Way back in the 14th century, the Arabs began teaching the world the “serious” enjoyment of coffee. 

For these Arabs, the pleasure of having a cup of coffee was so special that they invented a place dedicated solely to experiencing that pleasure: the coffee house. These first coffee houses were established in Mecca and called kaveh kanes. The coffee house was a new place, a new experience for most people back then. The comfortable surroundings encouraged social interaction, conversation, debate and business dealings—all for the price of a cup of coffee. 

Fast forward to the present day and we still find that we enjoy our coffee the same way that the Arabs did more than 500 years ago. We still drink our coffee mainly for the pleasure we derive from the experience. 

Pleasure Principle

Sight, smell, taste all play a part in our taking pleasure in our coffee. What these senses experience, when taken together, create a total sum of enjoyment when we drink our coffee. But have you ever wondered if there are other benefits to feel this type of pleasure, besides making us feel good?

Researchers have found that pleasure has effects that reach deep down into our body—reducing our stress levels, relieving our anxiety and making our immune system healthier. How does pleasure do all these for our body?

Whenever we experience stress, the levels of the hormone cortisol rise in our blood. Cortisol, also called the “stress hormone,” is activated as part of our natural “fight or flight” response—levels of cortisol in our blood increase whenever we perceive that we are under threat. 

Cortisol helps us during threatening situations by: a) Facilitating the quick burst of energy for survival reasons; b) Boosting our memory functions; c) Temporarily improving our immunity; d) Increasing our pain tolerance; and e) Maintaining the balance of our body functions.

Unfortunately, too much cortisol also damages our body. Ideally, once the threat has passed, our body needs to relax and lower its cortisol levels. If we are constantly stressed, however, we fail to relax and cortisol levels remain high. In this case, our immune system is weakened. Our blood pressure and sugar levels go up. More fat may be deposited in the body. 

This is why pleasure is important in relieving stress. When the body experiences pleasure, the body relaxes and stress levels go down. Coffee drinkers have long known that a cup of coffee elevate one’s mood and helps one become more alert, as well as more focused. Now, research is showing that this mood-improving effect and the pleasure felt over drinking coffee may also help reduce stress. 

This is also the reason why talking to friends about our problems and difficulties over coffee can be a relaxing experience. By venting our stresses verbally and drinking coffee, we are harnessing our body’s psychological and metabolic resources to relax and counter stress. 

Antioxidant Power

Researchers have been discovering in the past few years that coffee contains substances known as “antioxidants.” Antioxidants are naturally occurring molecules in plants, fruits and vegetables, as well as other living things. These antioxidants act as natural protectors against damage caused by oxidation.

Oxidation is a naturally occurring reaction that happens when molecules are exposed to oxygen. When this reaction occurs in living things, there are toxic effects and damage done to the organism. Fortunately, human beings and other living things developed natural defense mechanisms that protect them from oxidation. That protection, however, is not 100 percent.

Scientists believe that oxidation is one of the factors responsible for the effects of aging as well as degenerative diseases that happen with aging—including heart disease, cancer, cataracts, the age-related decline in the immune system and certain degenerative diseases of the nervous system.

How does one boost the body’s defenses against oxidation? The best way is through proper nutrition. 

Be sure to eat foods that are sources of essential minerals. Minerals like Selenium, Copper, Manganese and Zinc are involved in processes in the body—mainly in the enzymes—that fight oxidation.

Some of the well-known vitamins that function as antioxidants are Vitamin E, Vitamin C and carotenoids. 

Foods known to have antioxidants include soya beans, green and black tea, coffee and red wine. Fruits, especially the citrus variety, as well as onions and olives, and spices like rosemary and sage, are also sources of antioxidants. 

Coffee is actually rich in antioxidants, mainly the type known as “polyphenols.” The most potent polyphenol in coffee is chlorogenic acid (CGA). Depending on the method or preparation, a cup of coffee can contain from 15mg to 325mg of CGA. In fact, a cup of coffee contains more antioxidants than cocoa or tea (according to the study “Comparison of the Antioxidant Activity of Commonly Consumed Polyphenolic Beverages (Coffee, Cocoa and Tea) Prepared per Cup Serving” conducted by J. Agric. Food Chem, 2001). 

Scientists believe that a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, together with a healthy lifestyle—including getting enough exercise, sleep and a positive outlook—can help slow down the signs of aging and reduce the risk of inflammatory and degenerative diseases. 

Coffee, which is made from beans harvested from the coffee berry, is a natural source of antioxidants. It’s good to know that a cup of coffee doesn’t only give us pleasure and improves our mood and concentration—but is actually rich in antioxidants that are good for our health. 
Source: Manilatimes.net
Image Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=901




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