Coffee

(Picture courtesy of PetjaTouru at wikipedia commons.)

Most of us start off our day with a cup, usually more, of coffee. The health aspects of it aren’t foremost on our minds when we fill the grounds basket and start the pot brewing. It’s a ritual, and the smell of brewing coffee is wonderful, plus without a cuppa there’s an emptiness about the morning.

For me, as part Cajun, it’s been part of morning since I was a toddler, the cafe au lait was a special treat, and there was never any thought of doing without. For you who are tea drinkers, all the best, but to us coffee drinkers, I can’t help thinking that you’re missing the stuff of life. 

For me, getting the roasted beans fresh ground makes it altogether a wonderful brew. If you’re okay with a can of pre-ground, more power to you, but I’m spoiled and really want the fresh taste. I’m not so pampered as to get the beans, roast and grind them myself and really fill the house with the best of scents, but my Costa Rican Father in Law did that every morning.

Coffee also, of course, is a big business and you can pick up freshest brewed on the way in to work from a variety of coffee shops and breakfast servers.

However you find it, if you’re not already on at least the second cup, you’re unusual, and if reading this didn’t make you brew a fresh pot, you don’t have the usual love of the bean, as I do.

Coffee is a brewed beverage prepared from the roasted or baked seeds of several species of an evergreen shrub of the genus Coffea. The two most common sources of coffee beans are the highly regarded Coffea arabica, and the “robusta” form of the hardier Coffea canephora. The latter is resistant to the coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix), but has a more bitter taste. Coffee plants are cultivated in more than 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin AmericaSoutheast Asia, and Africa. Once ripe, coffee “berries” are picked, processed and dried to yield the seeds inside. The seeds are then roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor, before being ground and brewed to create coffee.

Coffee is slightly acidic (pH 5.0–5.1[1]) and can have a stimulating effect on humans because of its caffeine content. It is one of the most popular drinks in the world.[2] It can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways. The effect of coffee on human health has been a subject of many studies; however, results have varied in terms of coffee’s relative benefit.[3] The majority of recent research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults. However, the diterpenes in coffee may increase the risk of heart disease.[4]

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According to Cancer Research UK, the results of a large-scale study published in 2012[122] provided insight into the effect of coffee drinking on cancer, highlighting that there was indeed no association between the two. Study results showed that drinking coffee “had no effect on the risk of dying from cancer.”[124]

Other studies suggest coffee consumption reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,[125] dementia,[125] Parkinson’s diseaseheart diseasediabetes mellitus type 2non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,[126] cirrhosis,[127] and gout.

The fact that decaffeinated coffee also exhibits preventative effects against diseases such as prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes suggests that coffee’s health benefits are not solely a product of its caffeine content.[128] Specifically, the antidiabetic effect of caffeine has been attributed to caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid.[129]

The presence of antioxidants in coffee have been shown to prevent free radicals from causing cell damage, which could lead to cancer.[130] Antioxidant levels vary depending on how the beans are roasted as well as for how long. Evidence suggests that roasted coffee has a stronger antioxidant effect than green coffee.[131]

Coffee is no longer thought to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease.[132] A 2012 meta-analysis concluded that people who drank moderate amounts of coffee had a lower rate of heart failure, with the biggest effect found for those who drank more than four cups a day. [133] Moreover, habitual coffee consumption is associated with improved vascular function.[134][135] In a ten year study among 50,739 US women (mean age, 63 years) free of depressive symptoms at baseline (in 1996), coffee consumption was negatively correlated with risk of developing clinical depression.[136] A review published in 2004 indicated a negative correlation between suicide rates and coffee consumption.[137] It was suggested that the action of caffeine in blocking the inhibitory effects of adenosine on dopamine nerves in the brain reduced feelings of depression.[137] Coffee consumption is also associated with improved endothelial function.[138] Coffee extracts have been shown to inhibit 11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1, an enzyme which converts cortisone to cortisol and is a current pharmaceutical target for the treatment of diabetes type 2 and metabolic syndrome.[139]

Hope your morning includes a good, bracing and aromatic cuppa. The caffeine can be too much, and I always have cream in mine, also usually breakfast comes along with the second cup. Or the third, depending on how gradually my day is going.

Wishing you the best cup you can find, a truly wonderful start for your day. I raise my cup to you.

(Picture courtesy of FCRebelo at wikipedia commons.)

Coffee beans under cultivation in Brazil