For the past several decades, we have been locked in a battle over the effects of caffeine – in many cases, specifically coffee – on the human body. The varying caffeine content in each beverage has been said to cause various health issues. Who would want to wage war against the coveted coffee break that has come to (thankfully) all but replace the cigarette break? However, there is a side of this that claims endless health benefits to consuming coffee. While it could exist in a happy medium – and possibly even be worked to your advantage – the research is conflicted, and the answer is still vague.

For a bean that exists to serve as the lifeblood of an incredible amount of people worldwide, coffee often gets a bad rap. That fact is almost unbelievable, as coffee benefits the human population in so many ways. Not only can you imbibe it as a warm or cold beverage – and its many forms are delectable in so many ways – but you can use its grounds (used or unused) as a body scrub, enjoy it as art supplies like paint and found objects pieces and as an ingredient in baked goods. In all cases, the leftovers can be composted or used as a fertilizer for thriving plants, indoors and in your garden.

A misleading history

So, what gave coffee its bad rap? More dated research often insinuated that drinking coffee could cause diseases of all sorts, including asthma and heart disease. However, early studies did not account for the fact that many of the participants also smoked cigarettes.

While many people also previously believed that coffee was responsible for higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Researchers have since found that brewing your coffee with a paper filter has less of a negative effect on your cholesterol than unfiltered options.

Coffee-related health benefits

Coffee for your internal organs

A 2015 study asserted that consuming coffee was associated with a reduction in the risk of death, as much as 8% to 15%. Studies suggest – however, are furthering their research to confirm – that consuming coffee has positive long-term effects. It may help guard your body against liver and cardiovascular disease, ward off cancer and can help prevent blood glucose issues like diabetes.

Consuming coffee regularly has been linked to improved cognitive function in aging patients. This isn’t surprising, since it often encourages feelings of alertness in the short-term as well, making topics more easily digestible. Coffee can also boost dopamine, which makes us feel good. So if you need a quick window of pain relief or a pick-me-up, this is the beverage for you.

Coffee for your skin

As stated previously, you can use the used or unused grounds of your coffee bean in at-home body scrubs. Coffee is a yummy-smelling natural exfoliant, and a 2013 study indicated that coffee can boost the health of your skin. A component of the coffee bean – caffeic acid – is a highly-functioning antioxidant, which helps counteract outside stressors your skin may be exposed to. Other antioxidant activity includes n-coumaric, ferulic, and chlorogenic acid. Skin elasticity may be promoted by boosted collagen levels, resulting in a more youthful appearance.

The same benefits that make coffee great for your skin apply to the entire body, including your hair and scalp. The grounds can help slough off dead skin cells and soften your scalp. Because of its natural acidity, coffee can help balance your hair and skin’s pH levels. You can also add depth to a brown hair color using brewed coffee, so it is an all-natural alternative to chemical-based glosses, much like brewed teas.

Caffeine can also dilate the blood vessels, which can help the skin tighten naturally. The increase in blood flow is responsible for this reaction. This – plus the anti-inflammatory properties of chlorogenic acids – could help coffee reduce the puffiness you may experience on your eyes or face.

Different factors affect the health level

To be fair, as people have continued to innovate in the coffee industry over time, there are many different ways to brew and craft different coffee-based beverages. In order to rely on the possible health benefits of coffee, you often have to enjoy it as close to its purest form as you can. Organic and naturally-derived ingredients are the next best option to reach for. More balanced options like sugar and milk alternatives are a preferred way to go as well, health-wise and – in the longer term – environment-wise.

Another thing that many people do not consider in evaluating the health and benefits of coffee is food allergies. While just around 4% of Americans actually have food allergies of any type, many have food sensitivities. Even more, people who consume coffee have negative reactions to the other ingredients in the beverage. Chemicals and pesticides that could reside in the soil or plant the bean were grown on, be hiding in the packaging or be present in any number of the handling processes on its way to the consumer are often associated with any negative reactions or events that appear to be food allergies. For your own safety, consider the clean practices of the provider of your beverage, the type of roast you are consuming, and any other ingredients or factors that could affect your personal health.

As is widely warned, it is not suggested to drink coffee – or most caffeinated beverages – as a child, or if you are pregnant.

Coffee hacks for productivity

1. Keurig

Some people absolutely swear by their Keurig. Not only does it have eco-friendly pod options, but the variety of drinks you can make with the simple press of a button is absolutely outstanding. Having the capability to push a button and walk away is the stuff of genius – as in a traditional coffeemaker – but with the added bonus of no-frills cleanup.

2. Pour-over

Recently, I purchased a pour-over mechanism because my French press bent after years of use. That – coupled with a small-nosed kettle setup – really worked wonders for my energy. I’m not sure if it was the steeping time or how little energy it took to make a perfect cup of coffee, but my twin sister echoed my sentiment. Since using a pour-over for one piping hot cup of coffee between 6 am and 9 am, we both experienced a jolt of energy at the beginning of the day that carried us through mid-day work obligations with no reason to stop for an excessive break. The pour-over setup also provided a bolder flavor to the coffee because there was essentially no way you could burn the beans or over-brew it.

3. Coffee break timing

When considering the best time to fuel up with your caffeine for the day, be sure to factor in the times when you tend to be most productive during the day. If you operate well in the morning, pouring yourself a cup before or after your morning workout or meditation time may prove to help your productivity levels. If you like to covet your early hours in bed, then work with your energy for a while in the morning and see how well you feel a few hours into your day.

Try either option out, and then find out what the pattern is regarding times you begin to feel tired after that, and throughout the day. Next, try to integrate a second cup of coffee into your routine at that first point of exhaustion, and see how it affects the rest of your day. Planning and managing as many as 3-4 cups of coffee per workday has widely been deemed as inoffensive to your body’s natural systems. It could even help regulate your circadian rhythm for optimal rest.