Aug. 28, 2005 -- Enjoying a cup of coffee while reading this story? Well, keep on sipping because a new study shows that coffee has health benefits.
A study released today from the University of Scranton revealed that coffee is America's No. 1 source of antioxidants, an important compound that protects your body from disease.
"Antioxidants are your army to protect you from the toxic free radicals, which come from breathing oxygen and eating sugar, that start chronic diseases," said Dr. Joe Vinson, the chemistry professor who led the coffee study. "Antioxidants help stave off cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke."
The study ranked black tea as second source of antioxidants, and bananas as third, in the average American diet.
Americans consume, on average, more than eight ounces of coffee a day, which translates into more than a large cup of coffee a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So saying coffee is the No. 1 source of antioxidants in America is like saying that white bread is the No. 1 source of fiber -- there are better fiber sources out there, but white bread is the one we eat the most.
"Coffee contains a lot of antioxidants and we drink a lot of coffee," said Vinson, who has been working on the study for 10 years.
Antioxidants are plant-derived -- as is coffee -- and plants in general are good are you, he added.
There are many sources of antioxidants and "variety is key," because different sources provide different types of antioxidants, Vinson said. He also recommended people drink tea and red wine (in moderation).
A Cup a Day May Keep the Doctor Away
For those who are excited about coffee as a source of antioxidants, Vinson recommends drinking one cup of joe a day.
"It's the optimum I see that has a benefit for the heart," he said.
He also offered some advice for coffee drinkers.
"Spread your coffee drinking throughout the day," he said.
"Caffeine raises your blood pressure, so if you are going to drink a lot of coffee, choose decaf," he added.
Decaf has the same antioxidant benefits as regular coffee.