Today we celebrate National Coffee Day, a “hashtag holiday” in which several well-known coffee shops and chains offer free coffee and other discounts to their faithful, coffee drinking patrons. Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, and even gas station blends from Pilot Flying J are being offered for free, or for prices as low as $0.66 per cup. Coffee has staked its claim as morning fuel; a magic liquid that can turn any frown upside down…but why? What’s so special about the rich, but bitter beverage? For one – it offers a plethora of health benefits to the moderate consumer.

Coffee’s caffeine-packed punch is responsible for more than 2/3 of the population’s caffeine intake, despite the abundance of other caffeine-rich drinks. A cup of coffee can contain up to 220 mg of caffeine, which is absorbed into the bloodstream in as little as fifteen minutes. This is why that morning mental fog begins to clear so quickly after taking those first few sips. Coffee is heavily relied upon by those who need a boost in focus and attention – and the presence of caffeine works on a biochemical level to ensure that it works.

The caffeine found in coffee is a type of xanthine; an enzyme that is similar to adenosine (a nucleoside). Once the caffeine hits the bloodstream and travels to the brain, it pushes the brain’s adenosine aside and binds with its receptors. With true adenosine in the brain with nowhere to go – the body activates its fight or flight response. Adrenaline is released, and more blood is pumped through the body and to the muscular system. Your blood pressure spikes, preparing your body to fight or flee. However; if you’re sitting at your work desk, not fighting nor fleeing, the preparations get channeled into focus. Increased blood oxygen levels enable more clear thinking, and there is an increase in your brain’s electrical activity. This is why you feel a more acute sense of attention and focus as you’re working or studying.

What else can this magic drink do?

Coffee may be a protective agent against Type II diabetes. Recent UCLA scientists found performed a study that suggests coffee’s ability to increase plasma levels of protein sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). SHGB controls the sex hormones that contribute to the development of the disease. In a longitudinal study, those who increased their coffee intake demonstrated an 11% decrease in risk for developing the disease.

Some research in Italy presented results indicating that the consumption of coffee can reduce the risk of developing liver cancer by 40%. This is a big breakthrough, considering the fact that liver cancer was declared as the ninth leading cause of cancer death by the CDC. Some reports even go on to suggest coffee’s preventative powers work for prostate cancer, and liver disease.

High quality coffee, consumed in moderation – can contribute the protection against heart failure. Consuming two cups (8 oz. each) of coffee per day presented 11% lower risk for heart failure than those who did not. The key it seems, like with anything else in life, is moderation.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead – grab yourself a mug, and drink to your health.