Although this latest news about the potential health benefits of coffee involves just a single animal study, tea drinkers might well feel they are coming out on the wrong end of the coffee equation. According to the National Coffee Association, 64 percent of Americans 18 and over drink at least one cup of coffee a day, with an average daily consumption of 3.2 cups. Three cups of a typical breakfast tea contain less than 150 milligrams of caffeine, compared with the nearly 500 milligrams in the same amount of brewed coffee. So tea drinkers might wonder if they are missing out on a potential health benefit and should start drinking the other stuff.
So how much coffee is healthy, and how much is too much? Two to three eight-ounce cups per day is considered moderate; heavy coffee drinkers consume four cups or more daily. Remember, the amount of caffeine per coffee beverage varies depending upon the preparation and style of beverage. Eight ounces of brewed coffee may contain as little as 80 to as much as 200 mg of caffeine per cup (an “average” cup probably contains about 100 mg).
Cardamom is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, because it helps neutralize the stimulating effects of caffeine, but that’s not the only reason to add the spice to your java. A two-tablespoon serving has just 36 calories, is loaded with fiber, essential minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds; research published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention found cardamom contains compounds with the potential to kill cancer cells and stunt new cancer cell growth. Cardamom has also been known to improve blood circulation in the body, help control cholesterol, cure dental diseases, and infections like gonorrhea. It’s even been said to cure impotency, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation.
If black coffee isn’t your thing, considering adding a little kick to your morning cup of joe with a little dash of cinnamon. Not only do the flavors mesh well together, but having a teaspoon of cinnamon every morning can help fight inflammation and lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, among other benefits. “Cinnamon improves the way fat cells respond to sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity and helping to maintain blood sugar levels,” says Erinn Gregory, RDN.
It’s enough to make a tea drinker buy an espresso machine. In a new study scientists in Germany report they were able to modify a common age-related defect in the hearts of mice with doses of caffeine equivalent to four to five cups of coffee a day for a human. The paper—the latest addition to a growing body of research that supports the health benefits of drinking coffee—describes how the molecular action of caffeine appears to enhance the function of heart cells and protect them from damage.
If you don’t like coffee, there is no current recommendation to drink it anyway. However, if we can figure out why coffee might have health benefits, it’s possible that a medication can be developed that provides those benefits without the side effects (or taste) of coffee or caffeine. Or, faced with a choice of a new medication or coffee, one might choose the latter.
Other studies have tried to pinpoint exactly what in caffeine is helping to halt the onset of these diseases. A 2014 study (14) found that caffeine blocks various tau receptors (a protein that contributes to brain cell degeneration). Another study found that caffeinated coffee increased GCSF (15) - a substance greatly decreased in Alzheimer’s patients - levels in the bloodstream.