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The Secret To Better Gut Health And Boosted Brain Function? It Could Be Your Morning Cup Of Coffee

The energizing benefits of coffee are well documented, but less so is its impact on everything from improving your gut health to reducing inflammation and protecting against liver disease. Keep reading for all of the benefits of your daily brew.

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Improves gut microbiome

We all know that coffee contains caffeine but the news that it contains more fibre than a glass of orange juice may come as a surprise. As well as soluble fibre, which aids digestion and helps the body absorb important nutrients, coffee is naturally rich in prebiotics. “Caffeine contains polyphenols, which is a type of prebiotic that helps feed the good bacteria in our gut,” adds Karine Patel, dietician at Dietician Fit. A recent landmark study by the Zoe Project found that those who drank black coffee had more good gut bacteria and therefore a healthier, more diverse microbiome, than those who didn’t. It’s also thought that the stimulating effect that coffee has on the gut might also be helpful in keeping the levels of bacteria balanced and in check.

Reduces inflammation

Coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants, thanks to its high polyphenol content. Naturally occurring compounds found in many plants, polyphenols play an important role as reducing agents, essentially helping to protect the body against the harmful damage caused by the free radicals and oxidative stress it encounters on a daily basis. This can help reduce the risk of health conditions like heart disease and autoimmune conditions and dampen down the body’s inflammatory response. And there’s good news for those who like their coffee with a splash of milk. New research shows that the anti-inflammatory benefits of coffee’s polyphenols are boosted when paired with a protein like milk. According to the study published in 2023, the combination of polyphenol and protein molecules was twice as effective at fighting inflammation compared to polyphenols alone.

Boosts brain health

Most of us reach for a cup of coffee to increase alertness, but it may have more than just a transient effect on our brain power, as it holds a number of important neuroprotective roles. Its high antioxidant value helps to protect brain tissues and vessels against free radical damage, while coffee also increases the production of serotonin and acetylcholine (neurotransmitters responsible for certain brain functions like mood, memory, attention and arousal). According to a 10-year study conducted across Europe back in 2007, participants who drank coffee reported less cognitive decline than those who didn’t. But it’s not just the caffeine in your daily cup that’s doing all the hard work; scientists from the University of Minho in Portugal discovered that other compounds found in coffee, besides just caffeine, are responsible for not just a feeling of increased alertness, but actual changes in the brain’s default mode network.

Protects against liver disease

Scarring of the liver, or fibrosis, can be caused by many things including health conditions like hepatitis and alcohol-related abuse, and can be serious enough to lead to liver failure. When the caffeine in coffee is digested by the body, it produces a chemical called paraxanthine, which slows down the growth of the scar tissue. Alongside the news that coffee can help protect against chronic liver disease, the World Health Organisation also confirmed that moderate coffee drinking might also help to prevent liver cancer.

How you drink your coffee matters

If you’re looking for optimum flavor and aroma in your daily cup, it’s important to make sure that the beans are exposed to as little oxidation as possible. The same goes for nutritional value too, so to preserve as many of the benefits as possible it’s always best to brew with freshly ground beans. The type of roast matters, too. Beans grown in high-altitude climates like Ethiopia and Central and South America tend to contain the highest levels of polyphenols, and look for lightly roasted beans which have undergone less intense heat processes and therefore naturally retain more of the healthy compounds. Lighter roasts also tend to contain higher amounts of chlorogenic acid, a type of polyphenol that’s highly anti-inflammatory and can help increase metabolism.

How you grind your beans can also contribute to how nutritious the end result is. To lock in maximum antioxidant benefits from the polyphenols in the beans, you need a fine grind, like the kind you’d get in an espresso. The temperature of the water is also a consideration; too hot and you could burn the beans and ruin the flavor profile, but too cold and you risk not extracting all of the important nutrients. The ideal temperature is below boiling or between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. To ensure your daily cup is as good as it gets, your machine matters. Sage’s latest launch, The Barista Touch Impress is a bit like having an in-house barista, providing real-time feedback on grind size, extraction time and optimum milk temperature (whether that’s dairy, oat, almond or soy). It also uses a PID Digital Temperature Control system which regulates the temperature throughout the brewing process, delivering the perfectly heated cup of coffee. Although an unadulterated espresso is about the best you can get in terms of nutrient profile, it’s not for everybody. If you do like your coffee with something else, just make sure whatever you choose isn’t heavily processed. Sweeteners, sugary syrups and even some plant milks contain additives that can inflame the gut and the brain, undoing all the hard work.

Know your limits

Although there are numerous benefits that come with your daily cup (or two) of coffee, it is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, which comes with caveats. “Ideally, we want to limit coffee consumption to 400mg a day, which is the equivalent of four small cups a day or two large mugs,” warns Patel. “For pregnant and breastfeeding women, this is reduced to 200mg a day, which is either 2 small cups a day or 1 large mug. Anything over that could have adverse effects such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, fatigue and an upset stomach. High dosage of coffee tends to counteract most of its benefits.”

Because of its potential effect on the central nervous system it’s also important to know when is the best time to drink it. “According to research, cortisol tends to peak 30 to 45 minutes after waking up in the morning, and it slowly declines throughout the rest of the day,” explains Patel. “Cortisol is a hormone that can naturally enhance our alertness, therefore if we consume coffee while our cortisol levels peak, this could decrease the benefits of coffee (mainly its energizing effect). It’s best to consume it roughly two hours after waking up, and at least 6 hours before bedtime to avoid disrupting your sleep, and that’s even if you think that you have a high tolerance to coffee,’ she adds.

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