HEALTHY REASONS TO INDULGE YOUR COFFEE CRAVINGS

(EveryDayHealth.com) Coffee gets a bad rap, but study after study shows your java habit is actually good for you. From a lower skin cancer risk to fewer cavities, here are the best reasons to enjoy a cup or two. There's no need to feel guilty about your morning cuppa joe. On the contrary: People who drink a cup or more of coffee daily have up to a 10 to 20 percent lower risk of skin cancer than those who sip the dark stuff less often, according to a new study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Its caffeine content may also play a protective role in some health conditions, but many of coffee's health perks hold up whether you go for decaf or regular.

1. Stroke
Women who drink a cup or more of coffee a day have up to a 25 percent lower stroke risk than those who skip coffee or drink it less often, according to a study in the journal Stroke.

2. Diabetes
Women who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee daily were nearly 60 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, UCLA researchers found. The beverage is rich in the minerals magnesium and chromium, which may help control blood sugar levels.

3. Stress
You know how the mere aroma of a rich French roast seems to wake you up on a sluggish morning? Turns out that whiff can help minimize the effects of too little sleep on your body. Researchers found that when stressed-out, sleep-deprived rats simply smelled coffee, it triggered gene activity known to protect nerve cells from stress-related damage.

4. Cavities
Although this doesn't mean you can ditch your dental floss, coffee may even help fight cavities. According to research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, coffee's compound trigonelline (responsible for its flavor and aroma) has antibacterial properties that may keep cavity-causing germs, such as Streptococcus mutans, from invading tooth enamel.

5. Parkinson's disease
Here's some good news if Parkinson's disease runs in your family: People with a family history who drank coffee were less likely to develop the debilitating neurological disease, according to Duke University Medical Center researchers. Although scientists are still trying to understand why, evidence suggests that the caffeine in coffee (as well as caffeinated tea) may act on a gene called GRIN2A to help lower risk.

6. Breast cancer
Women who drank boiled Scandinavian coffee, which is similar to stronger French press or Turkish or Greek varieties, more than four times a day had a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women who had it less than once a day, found a study in the journal Cancer Causes & Control. An important point: Because the coffee wasn't filtered, it contained up to 80 times as many coffee-specific fatty acids, which have been linked to slower growth of cancerous cells.

7. Heart disease
Dutch researchers found that people who drank coffee in moderation -- two to four cups a day -- lowered their heart disease risk by 20 percent, compared to those who had more or fewer cups. Coffee's antioxidants may have a protective effect, says Keri M. Gans, RD, who has a private practice in New York City.

8. Head and neck cancers
Although some of the data on coffee's cancer-fighting capabilities have been mixed, Italian researchers found that the caffeinated kind guards against head and neck cancers. Compared with coffee abstainers, those who drank about four or more cups daily reduced their risk of certain mouth and throat cancers by nearly 40 percent.

One coffee caveat: Most health experts agree it's wise to limit your intake to a few cups a day -- that's a standard 8-ounce mug, not the super-sized beverages many coffee shops offer. Overdoing it can lead to interrupted sleep or even insomnia, stomachaches, a racing heart, nervousness, irritability, and nausea.

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