Studies have shown that drinking coffee can lower risk of death as well as the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, liver disease and neurodegenerative diseases. In his new book, The Coffee Lover’s Diet, Dr. Bob Arnot explores why consuming a cup of joe can come with health benefits.
“What is there in the coffee that’s so good? The very simple answer is polyphenols,” Arnot tells PEOPLE. “They’re what make fruits, vegetables, olive oil and red wine so healthy. It’s an antoxidant and anti-inflammatory, and the driving force of most diseases in America is inflammation.”
If you don’t want to overdo it on the caffeine, no worries. A New England Journal of Medicine study found that you can get similar benefits from decaffeinated coffee, as long as it’s a high-quality coffee. Depending on your caffeine tolerance, opting for decaf may be your best bet, especially if you are consuming multiple cups per day.
“Know your caffeine tolerance,” says Arnot. “With certain heart irregularities, that could be no caffeine at all. If you are a slow processor, then one full cup of caffeinated coffee could be your limit. For instance if you get anxious, stressed or can’t sleep, cut back on your caffeine.”
Drinking coffee — decaf or regular — has more than just physical benefits. In his book, Arnot explores the link between coffee and happiness.
“The number one discovery was the tremendous improvement in mood, and that was not linked to the caffeine,” he says.
Arnot also found that coffee consumption can help with weight loss.
“First, there’s an increase in metabolic effect,” he explains. “You’re going to burn 100 more calories a day by drinking coffee than if you haven’t. Second, if you have coffee before your workout, you’re burning many more free fatty acids.”
His research also found that drinking coffee made exercise feel less tedious — cyclists who drank coffee before their ride found their exercise to be easier 30 minutes into it than those who had not.
Drinking coffee can also help to assuage the effects of a fatty meal.
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“Coffee at the end of a big fatty meal decreases the amount of fat that’s absorbed and decreases the amount of sugar that’s absorbed,” says Arnot. “If you give somebody a high-fat meal, their vascular function deteriorates, which over time can be a great risk. With a very high-phenol coffee, we blunted that response and actually improved vascular function.”
However, in order to reap all of these benefits you may have to drink more than your daily cup.
“What matters is the amount if polyphenols in your cup of coffee,” he explains. “A cup of dark roast may only have 6 milligrams, but good coffee can have 1,000 milligrams. To get these benefits, the threshold is 1,000 milligrams of polyphenols every day. You could get that in one single cup of very good Ethiopian or Kenyan coffee that’s been very finely roasted at the right temperature. But the coffee that most people drink, you’re going to need four to six [8 oz.] cups a day.”
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According to the FDA, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of soda or two “energy shot” drinks.
If you want to just consume a single cup and reap all the benefits, ensure your coffee is high in polyphenols by selecting high-quality beans such as Arnot’s Dr. Danger Coffees. If you don’t want to buy specialty coffees, you can still get benefits from store-bought beans.
“Look for Kenyan and Ethiopian coffee,” says Arnot. “In terms of conventional brews that you can buy at a grocery store, Dunkin Donuts got the best score in terms of polyphenols.”