Ana Veciana-Suarez

Coffee, in moderation, is a girl’s best friend

MCT

As I sit me down to write

I pray my coffee’s got a bitter bite,

If the caffeine keeps me up at night

I pray for another strong cup in the morning’s light.

As I peck away at my keyboard, the heat of my first cup o’ joe curls heavenward like an angel’s lock. There’s such promise in the aroma, such comfort in the knowledge that, regardless of mood or weather, I’ll be rewarded by its first scalding jolt.

In the mornings I take my American coffee black. No cream, no sugar or sweetener. Give it to me straight and sturdily bitter.

In the afternoons… well, in the afternoons I drag like the tail of a fallen kite. The stress of the day has taken its toll. I need a gentler nudge, a pat on the shoulder or a hand up to keep me steady. A shot of Cuban coffee, sugary and muscular, does the job.

Few other habits are as good for me as coffee-drinking. The only part of my daily routine that might also fall under the heading of healthy is my daily stint in the gym. All other proclivities tend to the dubious. They’re the ones I try, half-heartedly, to reform.

I eat too much chocolate. (An entire kitchen drawer is devoted to my private stash.) I obsess to the point of distraction. (This invariably translates into a general bellyaching that does no one any good.) And I cuss at crazy drivers and congested streets. (That, as we all know, does nothing to get traffic flowing.)

My intake of java, on the other hand, offers proven perks. Millions of others are similarly addicted to roasted beans. In fact, a New York Times piece on coffee’s benefits was one of the most emailed articles on the newspaper’s website last week.

Coffee, the article said, may help with cardiovascular health. A review of 36 studies showed that those who drank three to five cups a day had the lowest risk of cardiac problems. Coffee also seems to lower the risk of cancer by 40 percent, and it’s been associated with a lower risk for Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and cognitive decline. A friend calls it the best intestinal Roto-rooter invented, though I don’t know of any scientific data to back that claim

So there, we can all shake off the lingering guilt of our morning beverage. Then why, oh why do I still doubt something so sinfully pleasurable? Why do I feel this indulgence will prove my medical undoing?

There’s precedent. Remember the brouhaha over red wine a few years back? Drink up, drink up, we told ourselves gleefully. Its resveratrol — also found in chocolate, by the way — will help us live longer. Quite a few of my friends took that advice to heart. Oh, did they!

Then we found out that too much wine — and it’s easy to get carried away with a good malbec — can actually do the opposite: It speeds up the aging process. And here’s the heartbreaking catch: researchers can’t even tell us the right amount to imbibe!

My friends won’t be giving up wine any time soon, and I understand their reluctance. If new research delivered a reversal, I wouldn’t drop my coffee habit either. Surrender the morning thunderbolt? No way.

Maybe the lesson then is to hedge one’s bets: moderation in both vice and virtue.

Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.

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