The good side of coffee

Having coffee after food sparks digestion by stimulating the acid levels in the stomach.
Having coffee after food sparks digestion by stimulating the acid levels in the stomach.

AUSTRALIANS drink close to 20million cups of coffee each day. And it’s not a bad habit to have.

It’s generally accepted that moderate coffee consumption – which varies from person to person, but is no more than two to four cups a day – seems to be a healthy habit rather than a dangerous vice.

‘‘Find out what’s right for you. There are genetic differences that seem to predict how quickly people metabolise caffeine. Some people need less caffeine than others,’’ said Harris R. Lieberman, a research psychologist with the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Massachusetts.

Its many benefits include improving our heart health, reducing the risk of diabetes and even perking up our performance in the bedroom.

It’s best to have your brew between 10am and noon or between 2pm and 5pm in sync with the body’s rhythms. Having it before 9am can wreak havoc on your cortisol levels, while leaving your latte until late in the day can mess with your sleep cycle by confusing your body clock.

But, our daily brew does more to our bodies than affect our sleep.

The chemical drip-down affects everything from our eyes and lungs, our bowels and brainpower. Here is how.

Five minutes: Compounds in coffee kickstart the waste removal process making us want to go to the loo – sometimes as quickly as five minutes after our first sip. This is good if we have our coffee after food. It sparks our digestion by stimulating the acid levels in the stomach. Drinking on an empty stomach however can irritate the gut lining, causing discomfort and bloating. Coffee opens our lungs making it easier to breathe and slightly raises blood pressure slowing down the heart (although drink too much and you will notice it has the opposite effect). We’ll also notice a fairly immediate spike in energy, but only for about three hours before the effect fades and we can experience a caffeine come-down. ‘‘This is because the caffeine in coffee doesn’t actually make you more energetic, it just makes you less able to feel that you’re tired,’’ Dr Owen Bain  told The Telegraph, London. ‘‘So unless you are well rested you will start to feel tired again.’’

Twenty minutes: Within half an hour of drinking a cup, our brainpower gets a boost as the caffeine sharpens our concentration and our eyesight as the adrenaline dilates our pupils. ‘‘Caffeine is a stimulant and 20minutes after drinking a coffee you can start to feel more alert, with increased concentration, and are less likely to make mistakes,’’ Dr Bain said. ‘‘A recent study showed that coffee could enhance your memory 24 hours after consumption. This may not appear to be long, but most memories are lost within a few hours after learning.’’

One to 12 hours: Our mood lifts within the first hour. ‘‘An hour after drinking coffee there is a reduction in anxiety levels and increased feelings of contentment,’’ Dr Bain said. ‘‘Women who are regular coffee consumers have been shown to have less depression.’’  That said, Dr Bain said that too much coffee causes anxiety.  Your espresso – and its effects – has staying power: ‘‘A single cup of coffee has rapid absorption with caffeine uptake to the blood in just over 20 minutes and will stay in the bloodstream for over 12 hours.’’

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