The Benefits of Drinking Coffee and Espresso
“It will stunt your growth” or “It will cause heart disease” are things we heard about drinking coffee in the past. We now have sufficient scientific information to say that not only were admonitions like those false, but in some cases quite the opposite is likely to be true. We can now enjoy the taste of coffee in the morning without guilt, and even know that we are gaining some health benefits.
A growing body of research seems to be indicating that people who drink coffee in moderation as opposed to those who do not drink coffee are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. They are also likely to have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems and strokes. Coffee drinking isn’t proven to prevent these diseases, but studies show that there is a relationship between coffee drinking and a decrease in the occurrence of these diseases.
The studies on coffee and type 2 diabetes are particularly solid. Most of those studies have shown the benefit of coffee on the prevention of diabetes, and even decaffeinated coffee may have the same benefit as regular coffee. It seems that it is the antioxidant effects and nutrients in coffee that prevent tissue damage caused by free radicals. Coffee has a strong antioxidant capacity. Coffee also contains magnesium and chromium, both of which help the body use insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar.
Coffee may also counter several risk factors for heart attack and stroke and lowers the risk for heart rhythm disturbances. Data have consistently shown that higher consumption of coffee is associated with a decreased risk of Parkinson’s, which does seem to be due to caffeine, though the mechanism is not clearly known. Coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk of dementia and liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Again, why that is the case is not yet clear.
Drinking coffee is not without its drawbacks, however. Adding sugar and half and half to your coffee will raise the caloric value from 7 calories to 76 calories. Drinking a lot of coffee will earn you more frequent trips to the bathroom, since caffeine is a mild diuretic. Both regular and decaffeinated coffee contain acids that can increase heartburn pain. Moderation is the key.
What about espresso? If coffee has health benefits, does espresso have the same benefits? The answer is “Yes.” In fact, drinking espresso has some additional benefits, most of which have to do with taste. Espresso is less acidic than regular percolated coffee because of the way the coffee is extracted from the coffee beans. The first cup of coffee through coffee grounds has the best flavor and the most beneficial qualities of the coffee. As more water hot water moves through the coffee beans, the more are the volatile oils and caffeine broken down in the beans and brought into the whole pot of coffee. It is these oils and caffeine that create the stomach-destroying experience for a lot of people.
Espresso is made by forcing a small amount of hot water through the coffee quickly to extract the coffee flavor and the strongest antioxidant properties. The process is so rapid that the volatile oils are not broken down and caffeine is not overly extracted. This results in a drink that is actually more flavorful and actually has five times less caffeine than does a normal cup of coffee. If you need the volume of a full cup of coffee instead of a 2 oz espresso cup, add hot water (espresso Americano) and you will not dilute the taste and add no additional caffeine. Again, drink in moderation to obtain health benefits. To keep the calories down, drink your espresso black, or if you must sweeten and flavor your espresso, use a natural sweeter like Stevia and a liquid non-dairy creamer.