• If you love coffee (like I do), a world without it is hard to imagine—yet others turn their nose up at the idea of indulging.
  • Regardless of your opinion, multiple studies and reviews have concluded that drinking coffee comes with physical and mental benefits.
  • It can help slow the aging process. In addition, studies have shown regular coffee drinkers are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia than non-drinkers.
  • Having up to 4 cups of joe daily can also help reduce one’s risk of stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, and can even improve your gut biome by nourishing microorganisms.
  • And for those struggling with depression, drinking a moderate amount of coffee can stimulate your mood and senses, fighting back against the mental and physical fatigue associated with depressive symptoms.

It’s hard for me to imagine a world in which I don’t wake up, pour beans into a grinder, and wait patiently for that first cup of warm, life-giving goodness to rush through me. Nothing starts the day off quite like that first cup of coffee. And yet I’ve heard so much talk and read so much content that depicts coffee as a vice—an unhealthy crutch used by the constantly-fatigued and unmotivated masses to crawl their way through the workday.

Coffee drinkers can celebrate, though; research into the physical and mental benefits of coffee actually supports its consumption in moderation. And for those who are depressed or who want to prevent themselves from developing depression, the right amount of coffee is shown to help minimize and prevent depressive symptoms. So instead of coffee drinkers feeling guilty, they can take a look at some of the unexpectedly positive effects it provides, and pour themselves another cup of that go-go juice. 

Coffee vs. Other Sources of Caffeine

America drinks 400 million cups of coffee a day, and we all have our reasons. A survey from Statista indicates that for most people, the taste of coffee is their primary motivation for drinking it (63%), followed closely by its ability to help wake them up (58%). As far as sources of caffeine are concerned, coffee is clearly winning the popularity contest. And that’s something we should be paying more attention to. Unlike energy drinks (though some contain vitamins and minerals), there’s a lot more good stuff in coffee than we can see or taste. 

Looking deeper than the surface of your morning cup, coffee is actually incredibly healthy

  • 3-5 cups of coffee per day could play a role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia in adults. 
  • Regular coffee drinkers are less likely to die from or to experience heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or a stroke. 
  • Coffee is high in antioxidants, dietary compounds that researchers are discovering play an important role in the prevention of cancer and premature aging. Coffee is the primary source of antioxidants for most Americans. 
  • Coffee, due to its abundance of organic compounds and natural acidity, promotes a healthy digestive system by nourishing the right kinds of gut flora. 

One of the coolest, unforeseen benefits? Coffee can actually protect and slow your DNA strands from unraveling, a natural consequence of getting older. This means that the aging process occurs slower in regular coffee drinkers than in those who skip out on their morning mud. And to the tea drinkers out there: You’re not completely out of luck, but the benefits of sipping tea aren’t as substantial—it contains fewer helpful chemical compounds than coffee does. In fact, regular old java beats out dark chocolate, tea, and red wine when it comes to antioxidant content. 

Can Coffee Help Treat Depression? 

The beneficial effects of the bean water that coffee drinkers hold dear may also extend to their mental health. A 2020 review found that coffee consumption can reduce the chances of someone developing depression by 33%, and it can even help treat depressive symptoms, too. A 2015 study also concluded that moderate coffee consumption was associated with a decreased risk of suicide in women. 

There are several reasons that coffee is such an effective form of treatment against depression, the first being that it blocks receptors in the brain from being able to bind with adenosine, which is a naturally-occurring chemical that can cause fatigue and cause depressive symptoms. Coffee also stimulates the central nervous system while helping the brain and our five senses to more efficiently process stimuli

When someone is depressed, their nervous system is literally depressed, too, so it makes sense that coffee would counteract the effect of feeling “down”. And because of its gut-healthy nature, coffee drinkers are inadvertently fighting depression, by encouraging the right kind of digestive flora to grow. Scientists have noted that those with low levels of microorganisms in their intestinal tract may be at higher risk for developing depression

How to Take Advantage of Coffee’s Mood-Boosting Effects

If you’re experiencing depression, and you’re interested in using coffee as a way to offset your symptoms, try to: 

  • Avoid exceeding 4 cups daily: This equals out to about 400 mg of caffeine. Your limits may depend on your tolerance, but experts generally recommend not exceeding this threshold. 
  • Drink it black: Though a form of cruel and unusual punishment to some coffee drinkers, it’s the best way to ensure that you aren’t offsetting the physical and mental benefits of coffee by loading up on cream or sugar. 
  • Avoid caffeine intoxication: The jitters, anxiety, or visual distortions caused by overloading yourself on caffeine are classified as caffeine intoxication by the DSM-5. Remember that caffeine is a chemical that should be used in moderation, just like anything else in your pantry. 

Above all else, if you are suffering from depression, or are feeling yourself beginning to slip into a perpetually unhappy state of mind and being, talk with a counselor or therapist to discuss the path forward. They’ll be more than happy to discuss what’s troubling you—perhaps over a cup of coffee.