Perk up! New research shows our beloved morning cuppa joe may be better for us than we think! (Gratuitous exclamation points may indicate being under the influence.)

Coffee! The delightfully addictive drink with a bad rap seems to be on everyone’s lips these days, with new-year resolves of healthier living now in full swing. But before cutting the caffeine, consider the benefits of the bean’s buzz (that was a mouthful): The Huffington Post reports that, for most people, coffee’s perks may outweigh its quirks. I, for one, am totally relieved. I confess to the addiction but have no intention of quitting the stuff (and never did). In fact, my family requires me to have it. Me on coffee: “Let’s sing, and dance, and swing on trees!” Me not on coffee: “Go away, feed yourself, I need coffee.” Exaggeration aside, the point is coffee makes us happy. According to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, women who drink caffeinated coffee are less likely to become depressed. Even better news: Recent research has found that although caffeine can be highly addictive, drinking up to three cups of coffee a day has no affect on the area of the brain involved with addiction, dependence and reward. I’m hardly touting it as a health drink but as far as antioxidants go, java is up there with fruits and vegetables. Likewise, new research shows that habitual consumption may ward off Parkinson’s disease, protect against type 2 diabetes, decrease the risk of developing Alzheimers disease later in life, and lower bad cholesterol. It can amp up your mental acumen too: In a new finding by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, caffeine was reported to help with proofreading, specifically grammar errors but, sorry, not spalling, I mean spelling. However, it didn’t earn the name devil’s brew for nothing: Caffeine gives us energy by preventing the chemical adenosine from telling the brain it’s time to relax, which could lead to such problems as panic attacks or adrenal fatigue. It’s an unnatural, drug-induced surge that the body builds a threshold to overtime, requiring more caffeine for it to be as effective. Hence, the “fresh pots(!)” in almost every food-stop from here to eternity. It’ s a powerful stimulant not to be ingested without consequence, especially for those with IBS, reflux (ironically, decaf has been shown to be more acid-inducing), or sleep disorders. But here’s where the bad gets ugly: Over 70 percent of the world’s coffee supply may be contaminated with toxic pesticides and chemicals. Thankfully though, there’s something we can do about that: Drink high-quality, freshly ground, organic coffee! The healthiest/antioxidant-rich parts of the coffee come from the first brew, when the water passes over the grounds. With each subsequent cup, it becomes more acidic and contains more volatile oils (a side effect from the roasting process) that will most likely harm the stomach’s intestinal lining (so 2 cups good; 3 cups = breath-holding bathroom run). I did my research and although I haven’t tried it (but I soon will), I found what The Today Show’s food editor calls the best tasting organic coffee beans around…Weaver’s Organic Blend Coffee (http://www.weaverscoffee.com/Organic_Blend_p/ob16.htm).

A good tip of the trade when brewing your own is to always use the best quality water, which essentially makes up 99 percent of your cup, and always use a clean machine (to prevent calcium buildup). So what’s the take-home message here? Drink organic coffee, guilt-free–in moderation! Inspired Living hint: Spike your coffee with the wonder spice cinnamon for an extra jolt of nutrients (it’s packed with calcium, iron, fiber, vitamin c, k, and manganese, and has major anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties). That’s one mother cupper.

For even more coffee fun: try this Java Breakfast Smoothie from Women’s Health

1 cup brewed coffee

1 cup low fat milk (or dairy alternative)

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (or dairy alternative)

2 T pitted dried dates, chopped

1 banana

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla or coffee extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon or cardamom

1 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter

Pour brewed coffee in an ice cube tray, let cool to room temperature and freeze.

Place milk, yogurt, dates, banana, cocoa, extract, cinnamon, and 5 coffee ice cubes in a blender container. Turn blender onto its low setting and process for 20 seconds. Switch to the high setting and blend until dates and ice cubes are pulverized, about 1 minute. Drop peanut or almond butter into the liquid and process for 10 seconds more.

Makes 1 serving. Per serving: 450 calories, 13 g fat (4 g sat), 97 g carbs, 275 mg sodium, 10 g fiber, 22 g protein

COMING SOON: GUEST EDITOR FEATURING DAYTIME TALK SHOW HOST.

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