Coffee: The Forgotten Health Drink?

When it comes to health benefits, tea gets much of the plaudits in the beverage world. Tea is considered a healthy drink because of the antioxidants it contains. These include catechins in green tea and thearubigins and theaflavins in black tea. However, coffee also contains high amounts of antioxidants and for this reason is also associated with beneficial health effects. The main thing to consider when thinking about the health effects of coffee is that not all coffee is the same. Green unprocessed coffee contains a number of antioxidants including chlorogenic acids, phenolic acids, polyphenols and alkaloids. When roasted to make filter coffee, some of these are altered chemically, but the antioxidant capacity stays high. Instant coffee is processed further, and this means it may not be as rich in antioxidants as green and filter coffee. The antioxidant content of coffee beans also varies, as it does with tea leaves, and this can also influence the antioxidant capacity of the coffee.

coffee antioxidants

Studies looking at the health effects of coffee that have focused on green or filter coffee show it can have similar health effects to tea.


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Brezová, V., Šlebodová, A. and Staško, A. 2009. Coffee as a source of antioxidants: An EPR study. Food Chemistry. 114(3): 859-868
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Oxidative Stress Prevention Diet

Oxidative stress is a condition in which free radicals damage body tissues. Oxidative Stress is thought to be a causative factor in many diseases including mood disorders, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Diet can be used to manipulate the amount of oxidative stress and this prevent disease. This can be done in two basic ways. Firstly, the antioxidant defences of the body can be increased by eating foods high in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables, or through taking supplements such as vitamin C. Antioxidants limit oxidative stress by chemically reacting with the free radicals that generate the oxidation, thereby protecting tissues. Secondly, foods that generate free radicals such as refined fats, toxins, certain food additives and burnt food should be avoided. This ensures that the antioxidant defences of the body do not become depleted by limiting free radical generation. Therefore by limiting free radical generation and increasing antioxidant defences, oxidative stress can be reduced and disease prevented.

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Poor Diet: Making You Dumb And Sad?

Poor diet is associated with a number of detrimental health effects. To date, most of the focus on the health effects of poor diet has been on the physical effects. These include weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. However, poor diet can significantly affect mental function, and this can cause potential changes to mood and cognition. Low mood is known to be associated with certain dietary habits, including the consumption of a poor quality diet. Further, poor quality diets are also associated with deteriorating cognition and disordered thought processes. The mental changes of poor diet relate to direct damage to the brain cells from oxidative stress, as well as the indirect effects if poor blood sugar control. Consuming a high quality diet not only protects the brain from these mental changes, but also provides a more consistent level of energy to drive mental function. Those interested in maintaining or improving mental capacity and mood should take special care to obtain a high quality diet.

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Caffeine: Anxiolytic or Anxiogenic Agent?

Caffeine is often considered to be an anxiogenic compound. In other words, caffeine is thought to be responsible for generating feelings of anxiety in individuals. One of the strategies often suggested to be useful in the treatment of anxiety is the avoidance of caffeine. However, the picture is more complicated than this and there is some evidence that suggests that caffeine can actually be anxiolytic, or useful in the treatment of anxiety. Caffeine certainly affects mental alertness, and in this regard can increase congnitive function, and may be able to enhance mood. The problem with caffeine comes when intake is curtailed, as the withdrawal of caffeine can cause anxiogenic effects. These effects are particularly pronounced in those that suffer from underlying anxiety and who are regular caffeine consumers. Therefore the real story about caffeine may well be that it provides mood elevating effects, and the belief that it causes anxiety may stem from the feelings that arise when caffeine cessation occurs.

caffeine anxiety depression

Caffeine is present in tea, and yet tea is associated with calmness and relaxation. The simple picture that caffeine produces anxiety is therefore not correct, and the interaction of caffeine with the central nervous system and other chemicals in food is much more complex than this. Coffee has also been shown to have mood elevating and anxiolytic effects.

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White, B. C., Lincoln, C. A., Pearce, N. W., Reeb, R. and Vaida, C. 1980. Anxiety and muscle tension as consequences of caffeine withdrawal. Science. 209(4464): 1547-1548
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Dacryodes edulis: Mood Elevator

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Ginseng and Depression

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The Three Best Ways To Improve Vitamin D Status

Vitamin D is important because it is converted to the hormone 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the liver. The 25-hydroxyvitamin D is then further converted to 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D in the kidney, and this form is also hormonally active. The active firms of vitamin D regulate cell metabolism and have important health effects, and so maintaining adequate vitamin D is pivotal to health. The best way to improve vitamin D status is through sunlight exposure. However, this is not always possible for various reasons. If sunlight exposure is not available, supplements are perhaps the next best alternative, as they are cheap, and doses can be controlled and modified. Dietary sources of vitamin D are limited, but mushrooms can be a great source of vitamin D if they are exposed to sunlight. Mushrooms generate vitamin D in a similar way to our own skin cells although the form of vitamin D is slightly less bioavailable. The mushrooms can then be frozen to allow preservation of the vitamin D for times when it is needed.

mushrooms vitamin d

Exposing mushrooms to ultraviolet light can generate significant amounts of vitamin D in the mushrooms.

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Fruit and Vegetables: Fresh, Frozen or Tinned?

Fruit and vegetables are high quality healthy foods. Eating more plant foods in the form of fruits and vegetables can significantly improve health, and may in particular protect from cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other modern Western lifestyle diseases. Eating fruit and vegetables fresh is often considered the best way to consume them, but this is not always the case. Some frozen fruit and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh produce, so long as the freezing process was not delayed after harvest. Frozen fruit and vegetables also have a longer shelf life than fresh alternatives, and thus retain their nutrition longer. Tinned fruit and vegetables are likely the least nutritious option, but even so, tinned fruit and vegetables can provide significant health effects. In particular, tinned legumes appear to possess all the health effects of dried legumes, but without the difficulty associated with preparation. Increasing intake of fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables should therefore be encouraged.

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Dairy: A Source of Slow Release Carbohydrate

Dairy food is associated with good health. In particular, consumption of dairy foods such as milk and yoghurt are associated with lower body weights. It is not fully understood why dairy foods may be so healthy, but one possibility is the fact that they allow the carbohydrate they contain to be released into the blood only slowly. The carbohydrate in dairy is present as the sugar lactose. Lactose is a disaccharide and is made up of one molecule of galactose joined to one molecule of glucose. this slows the absorption of the sugar as the bond holding the sugars together must be broken before absorption can occur. In addition, dairy foods tend to be held in the stomach during digestion, due to the presence of casein protein which can curdle and slow stomach emptying rates. This whole process slows the rate at which the lactose can get to the small intestine, it’s only location for absorption. Overall, the lactose from dairy is slowly absorbed and this may give dairy advantageous blood sugar stabilising effects.


As well as slowing the absorption of the lactose from within the dairy products, dairy can also slow the absorption of carbohydrate from within other foods eaten at the same time as the dairy. This may be a secondary benefit of dairy products in relation to blood sugar.

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Ocimum Gratissimum Essential Oil

Ocimum gratissimum is a herb with central nervous system effects. These effects are not fully understood, but appear to give leaf extracts of the herb sedative, relaxant, anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. It is thought that the essential oil of the plant is the component that may provide these effects, as it has been shown to contain a number of phytochemicals that are able to interact with the central nervous system in animals. Studies have investigated the effects of the essential oil of Ocimum gratissimum on mice to determine if sedative, anxiolytic or antidepressant effects can be conferred to the animals through inhalation. In this regard the behaviour of the mice changed to indicate the essential oil produced significant sedative, anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. In addition, the main chemical constituent of the essential oil was shown to be thymol (around 65 % of the oil). Thymol may therefore be the component that gives Ocimum gratissimum essential oil its central nervous system effects.

ocimum gratissium anxiety depression mood

The chemical structure of thymol. Thymol in the essential oil of Ocimum gratissimum may explain its sedative, anxiolytic and antidepressant effects on animals. Image from By NEUROtiker – Own work, Public Domain, https:// w/ index.php?curid=3223796.

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Tankam, J. M. and Ito, M. 2014. Sedative, anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects of inhalation of the essential oil of Ocimum gratissimum L. from Cameroon in mice. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 2(5): 1-9
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