Amanda Foti, Columnist
For college students, coffee is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It’s all around us from Jazzman’s, Starbucks and the Latte Lounge, to seeing coffee cups and traveler mugs in almost every hand, at nearly every hour of the day. So what’s the deal? For a while coffee was getting a bad reputation in the health field. Health professionals were dispensing cautionary advice when it came to a cup of joe. However, good news for you coffee lovers, the research may be proving otherwise! Not only are they finding that coffee’s bad reputation may be invalid, but it may actually be providing healthful benefits, and that’s good news because coffee consumption is only increasing! According to the 2008 National Coffee Drinking Trends Study, coffee for the first time has surpassed the total consumption of soft drinks. Ages 18-24 take the lead at drinking on average 3.2 cups a day. A few terms to be aware of are “fair-trade certified” and “organic.” Fair trade certified is ensuring that those coffee beans came from a farm where the workers involved were paid a fair wage, and that harmful pesticides were prohibited. Organic is ensuring that there was no exposure to harmful pesticides.
Has coffee consumption been affected by the economic downturn over the past few years? Research suggests that although coffee consumption remains steady, people are opting to brew at home or select less expensive items from the menu. Starbucks Company has closed nearly 900 under performing coffee shops since 2008 to adjust to this change.
We agree that this beloved beverage isn’t getting cut from our diet anytime soon, so what’s the deal? From cavities to stroke, there has been research done to expose the truth. Although more research still needs to be invested, coffee is taking a turn for the better. According to more than 15 studies, regular coffee consumption may lower the rate of type II diabetes. It is hypothesized that caffeine slows the absorption of carbohydrates in the intestines. Other studies have found health benefits with lowering risk of disease including liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer, as well as improving cognitive function, migraines and endurance. However, more research needs to be done to fully understand the mechanisms behind these theories. There is no conclusive data to prove or refute these findings.
However, antioxidant activity is apparent in coffee. In fact the greatest source of antioxidants from the American diet comes from coffee. Antioxidants are molecules in the body that prevent cell death and damage, which leads to various health concerns. Furthermore, antioxidants in coffee may inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol (which is the unhealthy cholesterol). If you’re looking to increase your antioxidants and be a little healthier coffee should not be your first option, as plant sources are the best way to go. They offer great anti-oxidant levels as well as other health promoting substances including vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals.
In a country that consumes high caloric meals and drinks, coffee may be a low calorie alternative, and therefore contribute to weight loss. Coffee is naturally minimal in calories. It’s when you add all the sugar, flavor and creams that it starts to rack up the calories and fat. Lattes, although considered “coffee” really consist of mostly milk, sugar, fat and a little bit of espresso. For example, a typical small 12-oz. caramel latte (made with skim) is racking up about 235 calories. If you’re going for a large 20-oz. caramel latte made with the typical 2 percent milk, it comes to about 420 calories. That could be an entire meal! It’s not to say you can’t enjoy an indulgence once in a while, but think of it as a treat and not a daily routine.
Although coffee has its potential health benefits, it doesn’t mean you should go out today and start chugging java. If you don’t already drink coffee or enjoy it, then there’s no reason to start. Keep coffee consumption to less than 24 oz. a day, avoiding all the cream and sugar. Remember to keep those loaded lattes to a minimum.
Go ahead, enjoy a cup or two of good quality coffee with no worries of damaging your health. When you’re cramming between tests, projects, work, class, volunteering, clubs and whatever else you have on your plate, if a cup of coffee helps you perk up and get through the day, then go for it!