Good Eatin’: Health Benefits of Coffee

“Coffee linked to lower risk of death”

So said the headline in today’s Los Angeles Times. “A study that tracked health and coffee consumption finds that coffee-drinkers had a lower risk of death,” continued the story. “Subjects who averaged four or five cups per day fared best, though it’s not clear why.”

Cuppa longevity
I know why, I think. People who enjoy life — who like the kinds of things we like: interesting companions, food and drink, music and art, exotic travel — have a firmer grip on life. Good coffee is a pleasure, an indulgence, a blessing. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising to find out that it isn’t coffee that makes for a longer life, but that many people inclined to a long, full life include coffee as one of its satisfactions.

Still, this isn’t the first time coffee has found favor with scientists. As long ago as 2005, as I wrote at the time, a study by a University of Scranton professor, Jon Vinson, found that coffee is the best natural source of the antioxidants that help protect cells in the body from damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Among other harms, free radicals may cause cancer. So, more antioxidants, fewer free radicals, less cancer, longer lives.

There was plenty of other good news for people who relish eating and drinking, I said then: that red wine improves cardiovascular health and life expectancy and wards off the common cold; that dark chocolate helps prevent diabetes and lowers blood pressure; that virgin olive oil is not only good for the heart, but fights cancer, diabetes, asthma and arthritis, and obesity, and that garlic, the staff of life, will cure everything from cardiovascular disease to the plague.

Throw in shellfish and mushrooms, and that pretty much describes my diet. It’s gratifying to find out you’ve spent so many years doing the right thing.

Given what she was told, your mother was doing the best she could when she tried to get you to eat your broccoli, but she might have done better to have poured a little vino on your Cocopops.

For it to turn out that java is superior in the antioxidant department to such fodder as carrots, collard greens, wheat germ and kale that we have been made to feel guilty our whole lives for not eating is sweet revenge. It only remains for someone to document the incontrovertible health benefits of Häagen-Dazs coffee & almond crunch….

Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart? (Mayo Clinic)
Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality (New England Journal of Medicine 2012-05-17)
Studies show wine is heart healthy, but what about the calories? (WebMD)
Source Of Major Health Benefits In Olive Oil Revealed (ScienceDaily 2009-04-01)
Garlic (NIH: National Center for Complementary and Alternative medicine)
Dark Chocolate Lowers ‘Bad’ Cholesterol And Blood Sugar Levels When Eaten In Moderation: Study (Huffington Post 2012-04-30)

Extra reading:
6 Surprising Facts about Oysters (Rodale Press)
Mushrooms for Good Health? (Weil 2012-03-27)

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