Living a healthy, all-natural lifestyle doesn’t mean giving up everything we’ve introduced into our food supply. In fact, there are a few relatively modern conventions that are tasty and actually improve our health (or at least are benign). Here’s a look at the benefits of coffee, one of those potential vices that we don’t necessarily have to live without.

It should come as a relief that coffee is an indulgence we don’t have to give up in our search for excellent health. In fact, you could say that coffee is true to our ancestral diet. It is conceivable that a smarter than average caveman could cook some coffee beans, steep them in water and drink the result.

When it comes to measuring benefits, let’s start with the ingredient most of us are after with our morning joe – caffeine.

Caffeine is a naturally-occurring stimulant found in plants such as tea, coffee, cocoa, guarana, and yerba mate, among others. Studies have shown that caffeine enhances attention, reaction time, and thought processing, none of which should shock anyone who has pulled an all-nighter or two in college.

All this mental sharpness doesn’t cost you anything when it comes to your health. Caffeine is a benign indulgence—it has not been associated with any long-term adverse health consequences when consumed in moderation.

While a cup of coffee may transiently increase your blood pressure, chronic caffeine intake (the same amount every day) has not been shown to have a lasting effect on blood pressures. Furthermore, daily caffeine intake is not associated with any increase in cardiovascular risk and may even reduce your risk of diabetes. Caffeine ingestion is also associated with a lower risk of dementia with aging.

Therefore, if you are already enjoying caffeinated beverages there is no reason to change as long as you keep to moderation. “What is moderation?” you may ask. It depends on who’s asking. For most of us (non-pregnant healthy adults) the moderate dose of caffeine is about 300-400mg of caffeine, about what you would get from a venti brewed coffee at Starbucks. More than that and you risk some negative side effects, like irritability and insomnia. This leads to more caffeine in the morning, then more insomnia…well, you get the idea. So if it is more than 3-4 cups of coffee per day, cutting back might be a good idea.

Green tea, black tea, and coffee have antioxidant benefits and have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. We all know that sugary beverages and sodas are no good for us, so it should be obvious that we would want to avoid these when looking for a buzz. Diet sodas as well should be approached with caution, as consumption of diet sodas tends to promote weight gain. Moreover, the acid and sodium in sodas promote osteoporosis and high blood pressure. So stick to tea and coffee, black or unsweetened if you can tolerate it.

Here’s a great morning smoothie recipe that offers a boost of caffeine, about 100 mg, or enough to start your day without overdoing it.

“Top of the morning” smoothie

  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 cup of coconut milk dairy alternative (So Delicious or equivalent)
  • 2 rounded teaspoons instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. flax seed
  • 2 tbsp. Benefiber or equivalent
  • ½ banana
  • Water to desired thickness.
  • Ice as desired

Blend and serve.