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To Coffee or Not to Coffee?

     I'm so confused. I need a cup of strong, black coffee to clear my head. I love coffee—but should I? Is coffee good for you or bad for you? I went with the decaf for a couple of years after having heartburn because studies said the caffeine in coffee dials up your heartburn. I filled my mug with decaf, because what can you do with your hand if you don't have a cup of coffee making its way to your lips as you sit and chat with your best friend over a couple of doughnuts?

     High blood pressure, heartburn, sleepless nights—cut out the coffee. Wait a minute. Didn't I read somewhere that coffee drinkers live longer? I like that study. Do we get to choose which study results to follow? No way can I drink coffee to live longer and at the same time, not drink coffee to keep the blood pressure down. The "good coffee" study says a cup of coffee daily is good for your lifespan—lowers your chances of dying. I like that. But it warns not to overdo it. Anything over two to four cups a day will kill you.

     Naw—it won't kill you. It's just more than you need in order to live longer. I can live with one or two cups of coffee a day—as long as the waiter doesn't keep refilling my cup before it's empty—how can I tell if I've had one and a half cups or two—or three? Uh-oh! Here he comes with that look on his face that says he's going to pour steaming black coffee into my mug as he asks politely, "More coffee for you?" Why do they always ask as they're pouring the coffee straight into your cup? It's too late to say, "I'm good;" too late to cover your cup with your free hand.

     I gave up coffee altogether once. The doc told me to give up coffee and sodas and spicy foods and sweets and red meat to lower my blood pressure so I ate nothing at all, unless you count cucumbers and lettuce and bread—whole wheat, of course—and string beans.

     Will power. Isn't it great that it's so weak in us humans? I was back to coffee and tacos a week later. I never was much of one for red meat so that one was safe—until I got a real hankering for a juicy hamburger with tomatoes and lettuce and pickles and onion. As I was slipping into my old coffee habit, I came across another study. This one was from the old people's newsletter, AARP. It listed everything we thought we couldn't eat or drink that was actually good for us!

     The top of the list? Coffee! Seems coffee's full of antioxidants and those antioxidants prevent cell damage and lower your chances of getting chronic diseases. A 13-year study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported this, so being a native New Englander myself, I gotta love those down-easterners as I sip my third cup of antioxidants and savor a piece of dark chocolate as its flavonoids reduce my blood pressure and cholesterol level—all according to this marvelous AARP report. I threw away my copy, but as I recall, it said as many as four or five cups a day would be—love this word—beneficial! to one's health.

     I'm enjoying a cup of strong black coffee at the moment. It's clear now: coffee's good for you.

     If you hear of a study that says otherwise, promise you won't tell me.

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