We hope you’re sitting down.
If you were into coffee because of its naturally robust vitamin profile, you’re in for a letdown. Vitamin C? Nope. Vitamin B12? Sorry. And if you’re jonesing for a Vitamin B6 kick, you’re actually better off with beer. The simple fact is, coffee contains none of the vitamins and widely known minerals that people normally associate with a healthy diet. No Vitamin A. Negligible magnesium. No calcium.
And yet, in many ways, coffee is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink. The secret to coffee’s unique healthy profile is in its complex combination of chemical compounds, some of which are helpful on their own, and some of which combine with other agents in the body to produce a healthy benefit.
For example, two lesser known compounds found in coffee, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, have been shown to help fight Type 2 diabetes (along with caffeine). These acids found in coffee actually protect the pancreas, allowing for better production of insulin. Of the three, caffeine is the least effective; and since the caffeic acid content in decaf coffee is generally higher, researchers suggest this variety may be the more effective in fighting Type 2. (Incidentally, caffeic acid is found in much higher concentrations in thyme and sage. Just in time for that Thanksgiving dressing.)
Coffee’s usefulness in fighting diabetes has wider implications. Researchers have concluded, for example, that the lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, the lower the risk of heart failure. One study indicated people who drink two cups of coffee per day are 11% less likely to develop heart failure. Not bad for a beverage mostly known for being a stimulant.
Better known is coffee’s high content of antioxidants, known to fight cancer and dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee is the main source of antioxidants in the American diet, even though foods like berries and dates have a much higher antioxidant content. (Dates have the highest.)
Speaking of cancer-fighting, the most well-known component of coffee, caffeine, has been shown to limit risk of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. There’s also the weight-loss benefits associated with caffeine, as well as reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease in men.
There really is quite a bit to love in your cup of joe. Just save the vitamin C for the OJ.