20 Surprising Health Benefits of Coffee

Coffee often gets a bad rap, based on everything ranging from its caffeine content to the stains it leaves on your teeth. But the truth is that the benefits to this beverage far outweigh many of the perceived negatives associated with it. What’s often overlooked is the fact that coffee is so much more than just caffeine.

In its original form, it’s a whole food that contains a plethora of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. The key is knowing where to find high-quality coffee and how to avoid losing any of its health benefits by decreasing its nutrient content or adding harmful substances, like artificial ingredients.

Since I’ve been an expat living in places like Panama and Costa Rica, home of some of the best coffee in the world, I’ve had access to some of tastiest brews you’ll ever find. The availability of such amazing coffee beans makes opting for coffee an easy choice.

But here are a few reasons you should seek out delicious roasts no matter what part of the world you live in.

1. Drinking coffee helps you burn more calories.

In one Spanish study, athletes who drank the equivalent of 12 ounces of coffee before working out burned roughly 15% more calories for as much as three hours after exercising. Even if you don’t work out, drinking coffee has also been proven to boost your metabolism by 10 to 20%, for those who drink one to two cups per day.

2. Coffee improves your circulation.

Drinking a five ounce cup of coffee has been proven to cause a 30% boost in capillary blood flow, according to a Japanese study. This level of increased blood circulation results in better oxygenation of your body’s tissues which has a number of benefits, such as improved performance in physical activities.

3. Coffee may have a pain-reducing effect.

Research from the University of Illinois determined that two to three cups of coffee can decrease participants’ perceived level of pain, in this case following a workout. These findings were repeated in a University of Georgia study where participants reported a 48% decrease in muscle soreness, vs. 30% and 25% with naproxen and aspirin, respectively.

4. Drinking coffee can also improve your endurance.

Not only can coffee decrease your perceived level of pain during physical exertion, it can also decrease your perceived level of exertion. By reducing the amount of energy you feel you’re expending (by more than 5%), your exercise actually feels easier. As a result, drinking coffee before working out can improve exercise performance by more than 11%, since you feel like you’re exerting less energy.

5. Coffee helps preserve your muscle tissue.

When you drink coffee, your brain releases a substance called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which supports the powerhouse of your muscles. Without this essential factor, muscles are more likely to experience atrophy. Essentially, the caffeine in coffee helps stave off age-related strength loss, which can also reduce your risk of injuries.

6. Coffee makes you smarter.

In addition to the important chemicals coffee causes your brain to create, it’s also useful in blocking others, since as the inhibitory neurotransmitter Adenosine. This allows for the increase of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine, which improve the firing of your brain’s neurons. What results is an improvement in various areas of brain function, such as reaction times, vigilance, and general cognitive function.

7. It also improves your memory.

Another important brain function supported by coffee consumption, so important it’s worth mentioning separately, is enhanced memory. Drinking two eight-ounce cups of coffee per day has been proven to improve long-term memory.

8. Coffee lowers your risk for depression.

Coffee has also been linked to a lower rate of depression, especially in women. Those who consume as many as four eight-ounce cups per day have been found to lower their depression risk by as much as 20%. This lowered risk is due to the fact that coffee also has an impact on the production of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

9. Coffee can reduce your risk of some cancers.

So far, coffee has been linked to a lowered risk for both liver and colorectal cancer, the world’s third and fourth most common. Coffee drinkers appear to be at a 40% lower risk for liver cancer and a 15% lower risk of colorectal cancer if they drink four to five cups per day. Links have also been found between coffee drinkers and a lower risk of basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

10. Coffee does NOT cause heart disease and may, in fact, reduce your risk.

Studies over the years have claimed that consuming caffeine can increase your blood pressure. While this is true, the effect has been determined to be quite small and generally only present in those who don’t drink coffee regularly. Studies have not supported the idea that coffee increases the risk of heart disease, and in fact there’s evidence that it can reduce the risk in some individuals, particularly in women. Coffee drinkers are also at a 20 percent lower risk of stroke.

11. Coffee also protects your liver.

In addition to preventing cancer of the liver, coffee has also been shown to prevent other common diseases affecting the liver, such as hepatitis and fatty liver disease. Coffee can also protect against cirrhosis of the liver, where the organ is majorly damaged by scar tissue, by as much as an 80% lower risk in people who drink four or more cups each day.

12. Coffee helps to combat gout.

Gout is a condition caused by an increase in uric acid in the blood. Drinking six cups of coffee lowered the risk of gout in men by a whopping 59%.

13. Drinking coffee can lower your risk of type 2 Diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes is an affliction that currently affects around 300 million people across the world. And coffee drinkers have the ability to reduce their risk with every cup of coffee they drink. Results from various studies seem to indicate around a 7% reduction in risk for every cup consumed, with the heaviest coffee drinkers lowering the risk by as much as 67%.

14. Coffee makes you feel less tired.

This benefit seems pretty obvious. It’s the reason many people turn to their morning cup of joe. And there’s no doubt coffee can give you that extra boost you need, especially when you’ve had insufficient sleep. This is due to the caffeine which acts as a stimulant that helps you feel more alert and focused. It also gives you a boost in energy and helps you keep going when you’re low on stamina.

15. Coffee can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.

Studies at both the University of Miami and the University of South Florida have found a proven link between coffee consumption and a reduced risk in dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is one type. In fact, those who consumed around three cups each day were also 65% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Coffee drinkers also have a lower risk, around 32 to 60%, of developing Parkinson’s disease, another top neurodegenerative disease.

16. Drinking coffee may help you live longer.

While it’s uncertain in exactly what ways drinking coffee lowers your risk of death, there definitely seems to be a correlation. Research performed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) determined that people who drink three or more cups each day are at a 10% lower risk of death. Perhaps the most important ramification of this study is that drinking coffee does not seem to adversely affect your health, as earlier research seemed to indicate.

17. Coffee contains numerous nutrients and antioxidants.

There’s more to love about coffee than just the caffeine it contains. In fact, there’s much more. Coffee has been found to contain a tremendous amount of antioxidants. In fact, many people in Western culture get more antioxidants from coffee than they do from fruits and vegetables combined! Other important ingredients include riboflavin (11% of the RDA), potassium (3%), magnesium and niacin (2% each). These amounts are increased if you drink more than one cup per day.

18. Drinking coffee has the added benefit of promoting sustainability.

Recent years have seen the increasing popularity of fair trade coffee, which protects small coffee farmers worldwide. As fair trade organizations work to improve farmers’ rights and earning potential, they also promote social, economic, and environmental sustainability. They also encourage shade-grown and organic coffee, part of what makes the beans grown in places like Costa Rica superior to those you might get from larger commercial distributors.

19. Merely smelling coffee can make you feel less stressed.

There’s even good news for those of you who don’t prefer the taste of coffee. Researchers at the Seoul National University found that sleep-deprived rats who were exposed to the scent of coffee experienced a decrease in brain proteins that cause stress. It’s worth noting that this reduction in stress was tied specifically to stress resulting from sleep deprivation. For now.

20. It just makes you happier.

Being happy is healthy, right? And for those who love coffee, there’s nothing better than that familiar warmth and taste that gets you going each morning, or any time of the day.

Health Benefits of Dandelions

The health benefits of dandelion include relief from liver disorders, diabetes, urinary disorders, acne, jaundice, cancer and anemia. It also helps in maintaining bone health, skin care and is a benefit to weight loss programs. These and other health benefits are currently being studied for complete validation by a number of international institutions.

Despite the health benefits of dandelions, they are traditionally more popular as ornamental flowering plants than as medicine, because the flowers of dandelions look brilliant and are frequently seen in gardens and parks. There are many varieties of dandelion, but the common dandelion is scientifically known as Taraxacum Officinale. In terms of history, the plant is believed to have evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia.

Dandelion, which literally translates into “lion’s tooth” in French, is rich in vitamin-A, C, iron and calcium and detoxifiers which explains its common inclusion in medicines. Below, we will discuss the different things that benefit can do for us, besides decorating our gardens.

The health benefits of dandelions include the following:

Bone Health: Dandelions are rich in calcium, which is essential for the growth and strength of bones, and they are rich in antioxidants like vitamin-C and Luteolin, which protect bones from age-related damage. This inevitable damage is often due to free radicals, and is frequently seen as bone frailty, weakness, and decreased density.

Liver Disorders: Dandelions can help the liver in many ways. While the antioxidants like vitamin-C and Luteolin keep the liver functioning in optimal gear and protect it from aging, other compounds in dandelions help treat hemorrhaging in the liver. Furthermore, dandelions aid in maintaining the proper flow of bile, while also stimulating the liver and promoting digestion. Proper digestion can reduce the chances of constipation, which in turn reduces the risk of more serious gastrointestinal issues.

Diabetes: Dandelion juice can help diabetic patients by stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas, thereby keeping the blood sugar level low. Since dandelions are diuretic in nature, they increase urination in diabetic patients, which helps remove the excess sugar from the body. Diabetics are also prone to renal problems, so the diuretic properties of dandelion can help removing the sugar deposition in the kidneys through increased urination. Furthermore, dandelion juice is slightly bitter to taste, which effectively lowers the sugar level in the blood, as all bitter substances do. Consistently lower blood sugar and a more regulated system of insulin release prevents dangerous spikes and plunges for diabetic patients, so dandelion extracts can be a perfect solution!

Urinary Disorders: Dandelions are highly diuretic in nature, so they help eliminate deposits of toxic substances in the kidneys and the urinary tract. The disinfectant properties of dandelions also inhibit microbial growth in the urinary system. In fact, the diuretic properties of dandelions are so strong that in France, the flower is also called “pissenlit” which means “urinate in bed”.

Skin Care: Dandelion sap, also known as dandelion milk, is useful in treating skin diseases which are caused by microbial and fungal infections. This treatment stems from the fact that the sap is highly alkaline and has germicidal, insecticidal and fungicidal properties. You should be careful while using this sap, and avoid any contact with the eyes. This sap can be used on itches, ringworm, eczema, and other skin conditions without the risk of side effects or hormonal disturbances commonly caused by pharmaceutical skin treatments.

Acne: Dandelion juice is a good detoxifier, diuretic, stimulant and antioxidant. These four properties make it a great treatment for acne. Before we know how it treats acne, we must know what causes it. Acne typically arises during the teenage years, when the body undergoes many physiological and hormonal changes. The flood of new hormones that bring about the changes in the body must be regulated, but if they don’t remain at a healthy ratio, they tend to deposit somewhat toxic substances into the body. These toxins tend to come out along with sweat through the sweat glands or sebaceous glands on the skin.

During these hormonal changes, these glands secrete more oils which, when mixed with dead skin, block the pores and the secretion of toxins is obstructed. Therefore, the toxic substances cannot escape and eventually result in acne. This situation is exacerbated by the microbial infections on the effected places. Dandelion juice, being a stimulant, diuretic and detoxifier in nature, can help regulate proper secretion of hormones, increase sweating and widen the pores. All of these factors help to facilitate the removal of toxins through sweat and urine. Furthermore, dandelion sap, if externally applied to areas with acne, can inhibit microbial infection and reduce the frustrating signs of acne. Also, it can speed up healing due to its vitamin-C content, so the scars and ugly red inflammation that traditionally follows acne treatment will be less noticeable.

Weight Loss: Our urine consists of up to 4% fat, so the more we urinate, the more water and fats are lost from the body. Dandelions, being diuretic in nature, promotes urination and thereby helps lose the dreaded “water weight” without causing any side effects. Furthermore, dandelions are low in calories, like most leafy greens, but for the small expense of calories (~1oo cal./4 cups), you get a huge amount of beneficial side effects. This is also why dandelions are sometimes used as sweeteners, because they are not packed with unhealthy sugars.

Cancer: Dandelions are high in antioxidants, such as vitamin-C and Luteolin, which reduce the free radicals (major cancer-causing agents) in the body, thereby reducing the risk of cancer. It also detoxifies the body, which further helps protect from the development of tumors and various cancers. Luteolin actually poisons essential components of cancer cells when it binds to them, rendering them ineffective and unable to reproduce. This characteristic has been demonstrated most notably with prostate cancer, although there are other studies being done.

Jaundice: Jaundice is primarily a disorder of the liver in which the organ starts overproducing bile, which ultimately enters the bloodstream and wreaks havoc on the body’s metabolism. The excess bile is also reflected through color of the skin, and eyes, which typically develop a yellow tint. The treatment of jaundice includes three main steps. First, you need to curb the production of bile. Second, you must remove the excess bile from the body, and third, you have to fight the underlying viral infection.

Dandelions are very helpful in all of these steps. It promotes liver health and regulates bile production. Being diuretic in nature, it promotes urination, where the excess bile can be eliminated. Finally, as an antioxidant and disinfectant due to the presence of vitamin-C and Luteolin, it fights viral infections as well. It is most beneficial when taken with sugarcane juice, since it replaces the sugar in the body that is significantly lowered due to the impact of excess bile. A lack of sugar can cause extreme fatigue and weakness, so dandelions help boost your energy levels after infection!

Gall Bladder Disorders: Dandelions are very beneficial for the gall bladder and liver, because they improve their general functioning, protects them from ill effects of oxidants and infections, and regulates the various secretions from both organs.

Constipation: Certain components of dandelion, namely the high levels of dietary fiber, make it a beneficial aid for digestion and proper intestinal health. Dietary fiber stimulates healthy bowel movements by adding bulk to stool, and also reduces chances of constipation as well as diarrhea. It regulates bowel movements, which can prevent more serious gastrointestinal issues. It is commonly prescribed for children who are experiencing constipation, as it is relatively soothing on the stomach. It has also been used to stimulate the appetite, particularly following trauma or surgery.

Anemia: Dandelions have relatively good levels of iron, vitamins, and protein content. While iron is the integral part of hemoglobin in the blood, vitamins like vitamin-B and protein are essential for the formation of red blood cells and certain other components of the blood. This way dandelion can help anemic people keep their condition in check.

High Blood Pressure: Urination is an effective way of lowering blood pressure. In fact, most of the modern medicines for lowering blood pressure are based on this phenomenon. Dandelion juice, being diuretic in nature, increases urination, both in quantity and frequency. Therefore, it helps lower high blood pressure. The fiber in dandelion is also helpful in reducing cholesterol and thereby assists in lowering blood pressure, since cholesterol is one of the factors that increases blood pressure. Finally, there is the high potassium content of dandelions, which is very effective in lowering blood pressure by replacing sodium.

Other Benefits: Dandelions can also be used as a vegetable and is a good source of fiber. It promotes digestion, and in the past, it was used to treat scurvy, because of its high levels of vitamin-C. It also has healing effects on dyspepsia, infections in the stomach, intestines and urinary system.

A Few Words of Warning: Dandelions can be helpful to diabetics by lowering blood sugar, but for patients already taking blood-sugar modulators, this can result in hypoglycemia, an equally dangerous condition. Consult your doctor before adding dandelion supplements on top of your normal treatment. Also, the milk sap of dandelions has been known to cause itchiness, irritation, or allergic reactions on the skin, and should be kept away from the eyes. Finally, there is a rare type of fiber in dandelions called inulin, and some people have a predisposed sensitivity or allergy to it which can be quite severe. When first adding dandelion greens to your diet in any way, start small and closely monitor your body’s response.

Other than that, pick some delicious dandelion greens and get healthy!