In the U.S., more than half of people drink at least one cup of coffee daily (1). For the majority of us, it’s the familiar warmth, aroma, and taste, enhanced by its jolt of energy, that make this ritualistic habit one of the most anticipated parts of the day.

So it’s only more pleasing to learn that studies now suggest that drinking coffee daily offers the additional reward of long-term health benefits in the form of a lower body weight, better blood sugar control, and better cardiovascular health (1,2).

But how can something so common provide such health benefits? It has to do with coffee’s natural, health-benefiting components that are hard to get in the diet and from elsewhere.

Coffee’s flavor is actually made up of a naturally complex masterpiece of phytochemicals. It’s this complexity that makes it delicious, healthy, and when consumed in moderation can be an integral part of a healthy diet (1-3).

If you take a coffee bean and grind it down to its individual, naturally occurring components, here’s some of what you’ll find:

  • Caffeine – The most familiar component of coffee is an effective ergogenic aid that can enhance both cognitive and physical performance (5-8). It’s also thermogenic and, if taken before a workout, can improve mood, reduce the perception of effort, and increase the enjoyment of exercise (9).
  • Melanoidins Brown-colored compounds that result from the roasting process of coffee beans that have antioxidant properties (3).
  • Chlorogenic acid – A phenolic compound (a type of phytochemical) that is abundant in coffee with antioxidant and blood sugar-supporting properties (10, 11).
  • Niacin – Naturally present in coffee in small amounts, is an essential vitamin necessary for normal metabolism, and is important to overall cardiovascular health (12).
  • N-methylpyridinium (N-MP) – A compound that is a by product of roasting with potential benefits in supporting glucose utilization (14).
  • Trigonelline – A plant alkaloid responsible for a large part of the bitter flavor of coffee has antioxidative properties and is shown to support healthy blood sugar levels and nerve function (15, 16).
  • Pyrogallol – A crystalline phenol, with weak acid properties, that has been shown to support digestion and appetite (13).

Over your next cup of coffee, you might take a moment to contemplate how all these different phytochemicals create coffee’s complexity. Go ahead, take a sip of a preferably premium or organically roasted blend! Enjoy that flavor and what it has to offer your body.

References

  1. National Coffee Drinking Trends 2010, National Coffee Association. Accessed February 17, 2015, http://www.ncausa.org/
  2. Bhaktha G et al. J Clin Diagn Res 2015;9(1):BC01-3.
  3. Kempf K et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91(4):950-7
  4. Smrke S et al. How does roasting affect the antioxidants of a coffee brew? Exploring the antioxidant capacity of coffee via on-line antioxidant assays coupled with size exclusion chromatography. Food Funct 2013;4(7):1082-92.
  5. Desbrow B et al. The effects of different doses of caffeine on endurance cycling time trial performance. J Sports Sci 2012;30(2):115-20.
  6. Graham TE. Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med 2001;31(11):785-807.
  7. Hogervorst E et al. Caffeine improves physical and cognitive performance during exhaustive exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2008;40(10):1841-51.
  8. Davis K et al. Caffeine and anaerobic performance: ergogenic value and mechanisms of action. Sports Med 2009;39(10):813-32.
  9. Schubert M et al. Caffeine Consumption around an exercise bout: effects on energy expenditure, energy intake and exercise enjoyment. J Appl Physiol 2014;117:745-754.
  10. Ma Y et al. Chlorogenic Acid improves high fat diet-induced hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance in mice. Pharm Res 2015;32(4):1200-9.
  11. Nediani A et al. Relationship Between Metabolites Composition and Biological Activities of Phyllanthus niruri Extracts Prepared by Different Drying Methods and Solvents Extraction. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2015.
  12. Robinson J et al. Meta-analysis of the relationship between non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol reduction and coronary heart disease risk. Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews. 2009.
  13. Rubach M et al. Multi-parametric approach to identify coffee components that regulate mechanisms of gastric acid secretion. Mol Nutr Food Res 2012; 56(2):325-35.
  14. Riedel A et al. N-methylpyridinium, a degradation product of trigonelline upon coffee roasting, stimulates respiratory activity and promotes glucose utilization in HepG2 cells. Food Funct 2014;5(3):454-62.
  15. Zhou J et al.. Curr Med Chem 2012;19(21):3523-31.
  16. Mowla A et al. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med 2007;6(3):255-61.