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How healthy is coffee for you?

healthy coffee
(© Antonioguillem –

If you’ve been on social media for longer than a minute, you probably have that one java-loving friend or caffeine-addicted acquaintance who swears by the benefits of healthy coffee. You know the one. It could even be you!

Their day begins with a funny grumpy cat meme warning you not to talk to them before their first cuppa joe. You laugh out loud and click the smiley face.

During the course of the day, the grinch pops up in a GIF, yelling in all-caps for more coffee. Waiting impatiently in line at your local café during your afternoon work break, you can empathize and tap like on your mobile.

Or maybe you disagree and reply “I ♥ cappuccino” before being handed a paper cup with your name on it.

It’s all good fun. After all, you love coffee too, and let’s face it, we’re talking about drinking pots of fresh brewed Columbian or French Roast, not vats of Irish whiskey.

The dark side of the coffee meme

Yet, what if we were talking about whiskey? Would those same grouchy morning joe memes and surly daytime espresso GIFs make us laugh as eagerly in agreement? Probably not.

But wait! Coffee-drinkers are supposed to be happy, healthy, have more energy, and at least according to one online personality quiz, be more spontaneous in the bedroom — albeit not before that morning cuppa!

So, if coffee humor on social media makes drinkers seem like really angry addicts when they don’t get their fix, just how healthy is coffee for you?

What’s in a cup of coffee anyway?

In 2011, Michel Lucas and his team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded a 25-year study of over 50,000 women. They found that women who drank four or more cups of coffee daily had a 20 percent reduced risk of depression compared with those who drank little to none.

In a follow-up study of over 23,000 men in 2013, Dr. Lucas also discovered a 50 percent reduced risk of suicide among those who drank two or more cups a day.

These stats are pretty compelling and easy to fall behind. Even if you personally don’t want to make any firm conclusions based on two studies lead by the same person, you already know from your coffee-loving friend, from your own experience, or from the 64 percent of Americans who reported regularly drinking java in a study by The National Coffee Association, that the beverage is definitely an energy and mood booster.

As to the benefits of coffee on the body, they’re much less perceptible to people on an everyday basis and still hard to quantify over the long term.

Nevertheless, as the Dothraki say repeatedly in Game of Thrones, it is known that the most common beans, Arabica and Robusta, are filled with at least a half dozen essential nutrients — including vitamins B₂ and B₅, potassium, magnesium, niacin and manganese, which improve overall health — and numerous studies published in the British Medical Journal over the years point to a 17 to 19 percent lower mortality risk from heart disease, stroke, and some cancers among moderate coffee consumers.

Time for healthy coffee

The problem is that none of the above studies have conclusively determined whether the benefits derive from the narcotic or from other properties of the bean. And caffeine is a problem. Not only is it a psychoactive drug that stimulates the central nervous system, but just look at all those memes from your jittery, sleep-deprived, energy-crashing caffeine-dependent friend on withdrawal.

“You may call it coffee” says Baby Yoda, but “to me, it’s anti-murdery juicy juice.”

Maybe it’s time to start looking for a healthy coffee alternative, one that results in less violent memes and more naturally lively GIFs.