Are you in pain during the course of a typical workday? It’s not that unusual. But, what is surprising is the degree to which many people feel rejuvenated following a coffee break—there’s a reason why. Norwegian researchers observed 48 people performing office work and found those who consumed coffee only declared a pain-intensity level of 41, whereas participants who didn’t drink any coffee reported having a score of 55.
“Absolutely not,” says Donald Hensrud, medical director of Mayo Clinic's Healthy Living Program. “You have to enjoy life, and if you enjoy tea, keep on enjoying it. It’s all good. There are health benefits to coffee, to black tea and to green tea.” But there can also be problems associated with higher doses of caffeine, he notes. The amount in more than two cups of coffee a day, for example, can interfere with conception and increase the risk of miscarriage. And, he says, because individuals metabolize caffeine at different rates, slow metabolizers may be more susceptible to side effects such as heartburn, insomnia, heart palpitations and irritability.
Not only does coffee help enhance your athletic performance, but it can also help reduce muscle pain after you do spend some time at the gym: A 2003 study in the Journal of Pain found those with high caffeine consumption had significantly reduced muscle pain after working out, which could be explained by caffeine’s ability to decrease sensitivity to pain, opposed to those who drank a placebo.
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 has been dubbed the “queen of spices”—and it’s not just because of its rich, warm taste. In some ancient medicinal traditions, this powerful spice was used to treat everything from gum infections to tuberculosis. And while we’re not recommending you try to whip up a DIY cardamom cure for either of those, one recent study suggests the spice may have antimicrobial properties so you can fight off pesky bacteria like E. coli. And adding it to your coffee might just improve your social health, since it’s been used as a natural breath freshener and, well, coffee breath is a thing.
The healthiest way to take your coffee is, of course, black. But if you can’t stand the taste of the bitter grounds on their own, we have a few pieces of good news for you. Firstly, some studies show that probably means you’re not a psychopath — congratulations. But secondly, there are other healthy options out there to add flavor to your beverage — without adding heaps of sugar.
What I do instead is use either a very small touch of organic maple syrup or a half packet of natural stevia to just lightly sweeten my coffee. I've also become a big fan of coconut sugar recently, and this is healthier than plain sugar because it does contain some minerals and other nutrients, and has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. On the other hand, if you like your coffee black with no sweetener at all, that's the healthiest way.
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.