For better or for worse, some people simply need a cup of coffee -- or four -- to get going in the morning. But which one is it: for better or for worse? Coffee doesn't have a sterling reputation when it comes to your health, but your daily pick-me-up might actually be better for your body than you expect.
Even though fruits and vegetables are both excellent sources of antioxidants, coffee is actually the No. 1 source in the American diet of these beneficial components that help neutralize free radicals, according to research presented at the 2005 national meeting of the American Chemical Society. Regular coffee consumption can provide other benefits, too – it can help protect against Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, liver cancer and liver cirrhosis, according to Harvard Medical School. It can also be of use if you're suffering from a headache; the caffeine in coffee causes blood vessels to constrict, which can provide you with some pain relief.
Skip the Joe
Coffee has long held a bad rap for negative health effects, and not all of the reputation is undeserved. The problem with coffee generally stems from its high caffeine content, which means you can also experience these side effects from other beverages; however, the 135 milligrams per 8 ounces in coffee -- versus 25 to 40 milligrams in tea or 75 to 80 milligrams in energy drinks -- means it's more likely to appear after a cup of Joe. According to Michigan State University, caffeine is a diuretic and can increase dehydration. It can also interfere with sleep and cause you to feel jittery or restless. Beyond the caffeine, the acid in coffee can exacerbate ulcers. Coffee can also raise both blood pressure and cholesterol and speed up your heart rate, according to Brown University.
All Things in Moderation
As the saying goes, all things are OK in moderation, and that includes coffee. Moderate doses of caffeine, equal to about 200 to 300 milligrams per day, is safe for adults, according to Michigan State University. However, even up to six cups a day hasn't been proved to be harmful, Harvard Medical School states. Caffeine is an addictive substance, though, so cutting back might lead to withdrawal symptoms such as extreme fatigue or headaches.
Take Into Consideration
Not all "cups" are created equal. When experts say up to 6 cups a day is OK for your health, that means six 8-ounce cups for a total of 48 ounces. Additionally, that amount isn't safe for everyone; pregnant women or people who are attempting to control their blood pressure or blood sugar should stick to a lower amount or avoid coffee entirely. Java is also its healthiest when served black -- adding sugar or cream can increase the calorie count significantly, leading to weight gain and diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.