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Published: January, 2009; Vol 5, Num 8

The Up Side of Coffee

Many workers around the world drink coffee daily, and Laborers are no exception. Yet its health benefits are still under scrutiny. With studies that both praise and condemn, the question remains: is coffee good for you?

Coffee contains caffeine which acts as a stimulant to the nervous system. When consumed in excessive quantities (more than 500 milligrams or roughly four eight-ounce cups of coffee), it can produce unpleasant side effects such as headaches, anxiety, irritability and more. Caffeine is mildly addictive, and a person who consumes coffee regularly may have withdrawal-like symptoms if he or she stops.

However, drinking coffee in moderation is not harmful to the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. So long as you do not add to your caffeine intake with sodas and other caffeine-laced beverages, two to three cups a day is well within a normal diet. Moderate coffee use can be a safe way to help fight against fatigue. In fact, some studies suggest that it may be healthy for you. Researchers discovered that one to three cups of coffee per day may help ward off diabetes, colon cancer and gallstones.

Last fall, The New York Times set out to clear up misconceptions about coffee. As reported, studies from the Center for Science in the Public Interest reveal the errors in many commonly held beliefs. For example, the Center found that coffee is not necessarily a diuretic. Drinking beverages that contain up to 550 milligrams of caffeine is safe, but exceeding this amount may result in more trips to the bathroom.

Caveats with Your Coffee...

It’s not what’s inside of coffee that makes it bad for you. Sometimes, it is what you add to it. Lattes, cappuccinos and other specialty drinks are created by adding syrup, sugar, steamed milk and creamers to espresso and can turn ordinary coffee into an unhealthy beverage. For example, Starbucks’s Venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha (made with two percent milk) has 660 calories, 22 grams of fat (14 grams of saturated fat) and 95 grams of sugar. That is a tall order for your body to process, not to mention a recipe for weight gain. For the healthiest results, drink coffee black.

Also, anyone who is suffering from weak bones, gastritis, kidney stones, anxiety or a more severe medical condition; is taking certain medications (e.g., some osteo medications, antidepressants, antipsychotics) or is pregnant should consult a doctor about how much caffeine to consume, if any.

As with all things, enjoy coffee in moderation. If you have trouble sleeping or experience anxiety and irritability, you may want to cut back on your caffeine consumption. However, if you drink reasonable amounts, coffee may be just the kick you need to stay energized throughout the day.

[Jennifer E. Jones]