Do you love your morning cup of coffee? Well, drink up! The health benefits of coffee far outweigh the risks. According to a European study, your daily cup of coffee reduces oxidative damage to your DNA by 12 percent. Coffee contains polyphenols, which help protect cells from oxidation.

Coffee can help prevent diabetes, cleanses the liver and reduces risk of stroke. Researchers at Harvard Medical School say drinking coffee may help prevent diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's, heart disease and cancer.

Dutch researchers have found that your daily morning coffee appears to cut your risk of heart disease by more than one-third. A study in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, a journal of the American Heart Association, revealed that those who drink between two and four cups of coffee daily reduced their risk of heart disease by 20 percent compared with those who drank either more or less coffee.

Regular coffee drinking may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Scientists reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that coffee consumption prevents development of high-blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity. Additional lab studies showed that caffeine may be "one of the most effective anti-diabetic compounds in coffee," scientists said.

In yet another study, the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias reported that caffeine may have a protective effect on the likelihood of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Drinking two or more cups a day was found to reduce the risk of colon cancer by 25 percent. The likelihood of developing gallstones was decreased by nearly 50 percent in those drinking at least two cups of coffee a day, and liver cirrhosis was reduced by a whopping 80 percent in drinkers of two or more cups a day.

Caffeine can enhance athletic performance by increasing endurance. If you're going to drink coffee, it's great before exercise (pre-training), however, the worst thing you can ingest after exercise (post training) unless you want a "cortisol fest" and added belly fat. You want high cortisol when you exercise, not after.

Pregnant women should avoid coffee. Offspring of mothers who consume coffee tend to have increased risks of small infants at birth. Just two cups of coffee ingested during pregnancy may be enough to affect fetal heart development and reduce heart function over the entire lifespan of the child.

Those with adrenal fatigue should limit their intake of coffee. Coffee stimulates your adrenals, the hormones that activate your fight or flight response. If your adrenal hormones are stimulated too often, from excess caffeine consumption, your adrenal glands may eventually burn out.

Other facts to consider: Excess coffee consumption promotes dehydration. Over the long-term, excessive coffee consumption actually depletes your B vitamin and calcium supply. In addition, some women can drink all the coffee they want and not have fibrocystic breast problems but, unfortunately, women with fibrocystic breast problems are always caffeine-sensitive and should avoid coffee.

Opt for organic coffee versus non-organic coffee due to the high pesticide content in non-organic coffee. Consumer Reports magazine cautioned readers last year about the potential negative health effects of pesticides. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group urges consumers "to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible."

Need a sweetener? Stevia Plus is the optimal choice. This herb will not elevate your blood sugars and has zero calories. If you're watching your waist line, pass on the frappuccino with whipped creme (dessert drink in a cup). A venti White Chocolate Blended Creme Frappuccino (without whipped creme) is 630 calories and 9 grams of fat. Add whipped creme and you're at 760 calories, 9 grams of sugar and 21 grams of fat. Avoid sweetened syrups and flavored creamers (high in trans fats), both nutritionally-void and loaded in calories. And, definitely, stay away from sugar-free syrups, which are full of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

As with anything, moderation is the key.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at

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