Did you know that your morning cup of coffee can actually be one of the best things you can do for your brain—depending on what you do or don’t do—to it?
Here are some of the best ways to transform your coffee from so-so to sensational when it comes to boosting brain health:
1. Choose Organic
Coffee tends to be a heavily sprayed crop (and that often includes pesticides that are banned in the United States). Some of these pesticides can have neurotoxic effects; in other words, they can cause damage to the brain and nervous system. So, they are best avoided. Choosing organic coffee beans helps to ensure that you reap the natural antioxidant rewards of coffee rather than ingesting harmful pesticides.
2. Skip the Artificial Sweeteners
Splenda, Sweet’N Low, AminoSweet were found by Duke University scientists to reduce beneficial microbes in the intestines by 50 percent—a precursor to many health conditions, including brain diseases.
3. Skip the Sugar
Sugar has many harmful health effects, including causing inflammation. Inflammation is a factor in most brain diseases. If you must have a sweetener in your coffee, choose organic coconut sugar since it tends to be less refined and has 3 grams of sugar instead of the 4 grams found in cane sugar. That doesn’t sound like a big difference but it adds up to 1095 fewer grams of sugar in a year if you drink three cups of java daily sweetened with one teaspoon of sugar. Stevia is an even better choice. It is naturally sweet but doesn’t actually contain any sugar molecules.
4. Ditch the Flavored Syrups
Not only are most flavored syrups high in sugar or artificial sweeteners, they are mostly made of genetically modified high fructose corn syrup, which is linked to inflammation in the body and brain. They also tend to contain preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. The former has been found in studies to cause damage to genetic material and even to cause our DNA to mutate—a precursor of many diseases. Sodium benzoate is well known to convert to the carcinogen benzene in the body. In the medical journal Neurosciences, researchers found that sodium benzoate increased anxiety and caused motor impairment in animals.
Not only are they typically made from genetically-modified corn syrup solids, they almost always contain brain-damaging trans fats. Even when the package says there are no trans fats, they are usually present. Here’s why: most laws don’t require the reporting or labeling of food products with less than 1 gram of trans fats per serving. So, companies make the serving size so small they can claim “0 trans fats” when they may actually contain .5 grams or .75 grams of trans fats. If you use more than one package per coffee or drink multiple coffees a day, that really adds up over the year. And, no amount of trans fats has ever been found to be safe for the brain.
6. Actually Take a Coffee Break
Instead of drinking your coffee on the run or while working, you’ll reap more benefits if you take a real coffee break, slowly sip your java and give your body a chance to relax from the stressful life you lead. Even short breaks help reduce stress hormones that can have a detrimental impact on the brain over time.