Coffee Isn’t Just A Necessity: It’s Good For You Too

by Karen Johnson
Aleksandr Zubkov/Getty

If you ask my husband or kids, “What’s one thing Mommy can NOT live without?” They’ll all immediately respond with the same answer: “coffee.” Does Mommy love her chips? Sure. Wine? You bet. Netflix late at night and sleeping in on Saturdays? The beesssst. But if a major catastrophe ever hit and my family was on the run being chased by zombies, I know I can survive without wine. And chips. And I’ll long for Friends re-runs or a Schitt’s Creek binge, but I’ll endure. However, I can promise you this. I could be running for my life from a brain-eating zombie, but I guarantee I’m gonna still bitch about the fact that I didn’t get any coffee that morning.

Because coffee is life and seriously the last thing I’d ever give up—after wine, snacks, chocolate even. Just make sure I get a hot cup of Joe and I’ll be okay.

So finding out that coffee actually has health benefits is absolute music to my ears since I borderline inject it into my veins on the daily.

As The New York Times reports, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that coffee consumption is linked to a reduced risk of all sorts of undesirable illnesses and diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

Also, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, drinking coffee may also help protect against a disease that plagues women in large numbers—Alzheimer’s disease.

“Almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are women,” the article explains. “But the caffeine in two cups of coffee may provide significant protection against developing the condition. In fact, researchers found that women age 65 and older who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were less likely to develop dementia in general.

Also, not only is drinking your morning latte apparently helping you stave off illness, but it also literally helps you escape death. Yes, really.

“In a study of more than 200,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, were 15 percent less likely to die early from all causes than were people who shunned coffee,” reports The New York Times.

And Johns Hopkins Medicine echos the same sentiment! “Recent studies found that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from some of the leading causes of death in women: coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease,” their article states.

So moms, on those long-ass never ending days when you’re like “coffee is literally keeping me alive,” you might actually be speaking the truth! What a win, right?

Also, certain chemicals in coffee have proven to affect the body in positive ways—including polyphenols and antioxidants. “Polyphenols can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes; antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects, can counter both heart disease and cancer, the nation’s leading killers,” The New York Times reports.

In addition, Cleveland Clinic shares this tidbit: “Coffee is a source of nutrients, including B vitamins, potassium and riboflavin. The beans are also rich in antioxidants, compounds that protect cells against damage.”

In this article, Andrea Dunn, RD, even goes so far as to say that “Surprisingly, coffee is the single best source of antioxidants in the American diet.” Yessssss antioxidants! Yessssss coffee beans!

This is surprising, yet glorious news, and makes me very appreciative of my coffee habit.

Experts do want to ensure, however, that readers understand this: medical experts are not saying we should drink coffee in the hopes of preventing diseases. We should absolutely take far more reliable, more scientifically-backed steps to keep ourselves healthy like eat a good diet, drink water, exercise, get a good night’s sleep, avoid smoking, wear sunscreen, and see a doctor regularly for check-ups.

However, this study in The New England Journal of Medicine is saying that even though in years past, we were warned that coffee was bad for our health, this new study is saying—turns out, you’re good, coffee drinkers!

The NYT article also adds that excessive caffeine intake can be harmful during pregnancy as it crosses the placenta into the fetus, increasing the chance of miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature birth. Therefore, doctors often recommend pregnant women switch to decaf or drink at most 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. (I chose the latter and still slowly sipped a yummy cup, sometimes cup-and-a-half per day while preggo and popped out giant, fat babies, so do with that information what you will.)

Also, too much caffeine can be harmful to your health, can keep you up all night, and can get in the way of good nutrition. And I can attest to that. Back when I was in my 20s, working double shifts as a waitress with endless coffee at my disposal all day long, I got into the habit of drinking a full pot a day and eating and/or drinking not much else. I was skin and bones and would fall asleep walking if I didn’t constantly feed my caffeine habit. I was extremely unhealthy and not at all the type of of coffee drinker these articles are referring to.

So yes, when experts say “there are health benefits to coffee!” they mean in moderation. And that we should also drink water and eat real meals too. And that we need to get some sleep. I know, I know, we’re moms—what is sleep? But if you want to be part of the “healthy coffee drinkers club,” you can’t function on four hours of sleep a night every night and pound coffee all day. You gotta get some rest, Mom. Sleep first, then coffee. I get it—that’s not always feasible. I had a bunch of toddlers and babies a few years back and definitely relied on coffee to function. But once I was able to get some shut-eye, I definitely took the opportunity immediately in order to rest my weary body and mind.

But now that my kids sleep through the night and I start my day (every. single. day) with a cup of coffee (or two—sometimes three, depending on life), but I also drink water, eat some carrots and chicken on occasion, and exercise a bit here and there, I feel better knowing that my morning “coffee routine” is part of what’s considered a healthy lifestyle! Woohoo. (Even if that “routine means no one’s allowed talk to Mommy until at least sip #5 and even then, it’s a gamble.)

Now, I’m not naive enough to think that the flavored creamers I indulge in (hello coconut cream pie) to make my coffee taste more like dessert and less like… well, coffee… are healthy too. I am fully aware that they add all sorts of not-so-good-for-me elements to my morning java, but I seriously could not care less and you will have to pry my salted creamer from my cold, dead hands, Martha, so step off.

But as for the other bits—the bits that help stave off depression and liver cancer and heart disease?! Those, I’ll celebrate. In fact, I think it’s time for another cup right now. Aaaahhhh I can feel the health benefits coursing through my veins already. Bring it on, antioxidants!