Believe it or not, vanilla has been a medicinal food used for centuries—not just a beloved ice cream flavor. It’s touted for being a brain superfood in its ability to boost mental performance, mood, and overall brain health. Vanilla is also used to calm stomach aches (due to hunger pangs and digestion), reduce joint pain, relieve stress, even cure male impotency.
Similar to adding grass-fed butter, coconut oil is loaded with healthy fats, specifically medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These MCTs have been linked to improved weight loss in multiple scientific studies. When it comes to brain health, coconut oil may also be largely beneficial. Some studies have examined the potential links between reduction in Alzheimer’s disease rates and daily ingestion of coconut oil.
Previous research had suggested as much. For example, a 2017 report in the Annual Review of Nutrition, which analyzed the results of more than 100 coffee and caffeine studies, found coffee was associated with a probable decreased risk of cardiovascular disease—as well as type 2 diabetes and several kinds of cancer. The new paper, published Thursday in PLOS Biology, identifies a specific cellular mechanism by which coffee consumption may improve heart health.
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.
When a group of volunteers received a dose of 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, about as much contained in a single cup of coffee, Austrian researchers found a surge in the volunteers’ brain activity, measured by functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI), as they performed a memory task. The researchers noted that the memory skills and reaction times of the caffeinated volunteers were also improved when compared to the control group who received a placebo and showed no increase in brain activity.
It’s no secret that antioxidants are good for you. Antioxidants (32) help to limit a chemical called free radicals, which have been associated with cell degeneration as well as a number of deadly diseases. By increasing the amount of antioxidants in your diet you can limit free radicals in the body, and limit your risk to some of these diseases.
You might think that nonfat, sugar-free vanilla syrup is a healthy choice, but low-calorie doesn’t always translate to health benefits. Swinney suggests weaning yourself off sweeteners completely if you can, but if you can’t, be super picky about the additives you’re putting into your brew. “Pick organic cream to whiten your coffee or make your own packaging-free alternative milk from oats or nuts. Creamers often have artificial flavors, sweeteners, and other additives, so you’re better off using organic milk or cream plus organic brown sugar,” she says. Next, don’t miss these 13 surprising uses for coffee.
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.
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).
Feeling a little slow lately? All it might take to get your body back to working at a normal pace is a little coffee. A 2005 study from the Radiological Society of North America found it doesn’t take much—just a couple cups—to improve your reaction time, making you better at everything from noticing something scary like smoke in your home (and realizing you need to grab the fire extinguisher ASAP) to breaking your car for a stop sign.