Cinnamon actually comes from the bark of a tropical evergreen called the Cinnamomum tree, and it has one of the highest antioxidant contents of any spice, according to research from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It’s been known to reduce inflammation, help lower sugar and triglyceride levels in the blood, soothe nausea, and aid in fat burning. The antiviral and antibacterial properties in the spice are also said to boost your immune system (and ward off colds.) It’s also packed with manganese, iron, calcium.
“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.
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.
It’s true: In addition to lowering the risk of liver cancer, coffee consumption has been linked to a lower incidence of cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrated an inverse correlation between increased coffee consumption and a decreased risk of cirrhosis — a 20-percent reduction for each cup consumed (up to four cups).
Over the past decade, studies have found a link between coffee consumption and a lower risk of dementia. It’s thought that the drink’s high caffeine content might be responsible for the brain-boosting benefits. One small study of subjects who showed signs of memory problems found that, over a 2- to 4-year period, people with lower blood levels of caffeine were more likely to develop dementia than those with higher levels. (Want to brew up a tastier cup of joe? Consider trying some of these six ways to flavor your coffee without added sugar.)
To support this argument, consider this. A recent in-depth research done in Turkey last year revealed an inverse relationship between consumption of coffee and blood levels of all liver enzymes. Conventionally, increased levels of liver enzymes reflect damage and inflammation to the liver. Simply, the more coffee drank, the lesser their enzyme levels.
If you want a caffeine boost, but get too jittery or anxious with the two to four shots of espresso typically found in coffee drinks, order a tea latte with one shot of espresso. A typical shot of espresso contains around 64 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of tea can range from 30 to 75 milligrams. Combining both can give you that energy boost without so much intensity.
Already think the benefits of coffee are endless? Well they pretty much are: It can even strengthen your DNA. A small 2014 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found drinking coffee regularly significantly reduced the oxidative damage in the body’s white blood cells, which can hurt your DNA. Instead, the coffee—dark roast, in this case!—helped keep the DNA strong.
Bladder and pancreatic cancer. Studies performed more than 30 years ago suggested a potential link between coffee consumption and cancers of the bladder, pancreas, and possibly others. Since then, better research has largely refuted these concerns. In fact, some of the older studies raising red flags about a cancer link have since been used as examples of “fishing expeditions” and weak research methodology.
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.
If you’re constantly resisting down the urge to hit your bloodstream with caffeine, relax. It’s really okay to get a steady stream of java—so long as you’re stopping at a reasonable time before bed (typically 2 p.m., since coffee has a half-life of 8-10 hours), not swallowing a pot a day, and avoiding syrups and artificial sweeteners (check out these 15 ultra-healthy add-ins instead). And we’re not just saying so because the energy jolt is just that good. Coffee also has a slew of health benefits.
Coffee has also been linked to lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A 2009 study from Finland and Sweden showed that, out of 1,400 people followed for about 20 years, those who reported drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared with nondrinkers or occasional coffee drinkers.
"Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With the Risk of Parkinson Disease " G. Webster Ross, MD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Helen Petrovitch, MD; David M. Morens, MD; Andrew Grandinetti, PhD; Ko-Hui Tung, MS; Caroline M. Tanner, MD, PhD; Kamal H. Masaki, MD; Patricia L. Blanchette, MD, MPH; J. David Curb, MD, MPH; Jordan S. Popper, MD; Lon R. White, MD, MPH. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2674. 2000;283(20):2674-2679. Accessed 15 December 2013.
The study builds on earlier work in which the two scientists showed caffeine ramps up the functional capacity of the cells that line blood vessels. The drug does so by getting into cells and stoking the mitochondria, structures within the cells that burn oxygen as they turn glucose into energy.“Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells,” Haendeler says. One of the things they run on is a protein known as p27. As Haendeler and Altschmied discovered (and describe in the current paper), caffeine works its magic in the major types of heart cells by increasing the amount of p27 in their mitochondria.
Coconut milk is the perfect add-in if you’re lactose intolerant, cutting out dairy for dietary purposes (i.e. the Paleo diet), or just want a low-calorie milk substitute. Of course coconut milk adds a light coconut flavor to coffee and lightens up your brew, but it’s also closest in texture to whole milk. You can add vanilla extract to coconut milk to create a homemade, lower calorie creamer. Just be careful and use coconut milk sparingly as it still contains a fair amount of fat.