NEW YORK – Longevity expert, National Geographic fellow and author of The Blue Zones Challenge: A 4-Week Plan for a Longer, Better Life, Dan Buettner, spoke about the health benefits of coffee, and specifically Ikarian Greek coffee, in Well + Good (W+G) on January 27.
Buettner “has spent much of his career studying the world’s Blue Zones: The five regions that contain the highest concentration of the longest-living people on earth” including Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California in the U.S., W+G reported.
“Each Blue Zone has its own unique cultural customs, traditions, and environmental influences, but the five regions share a few characteristics in common,” W+G reported, adding that “one is their eating habits: Folks living in the Blue Zones tend to follow a largely plant-based diet filled with fresh produce, beans, healthy fats, and whole grains; highly processed foods don’t play a big role in their cuisine.”
“According to Buettner, another pronounced commonality shared by these locales was a consistent consumption of coffee, particularly Sardinia, Nicoya, and Ikaria,” W+G reported, noting that “this makes perfect sense, because coffee— generally speaking—has been found to be rich in antioxidants, which are key in protecting your cells from free radicals (and therefore chronic inflammation) that could contribute to heart disease, cancer, and other diseases that might abbreviate life expectancy.”
“Coffee can also improve your mood and lower your risk of chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer,” Buettner told W+G.
“Coffee is known to contain antioxidant-rich polyphenols with anti-inflammatory benefits,” nutrition expert Keri Gans, MS, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet, told W+G in a previous interview. “It has been linked to reduced incidence of Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, scarring of the liver, colorectal cancer, and also heart disease.”
“The caffeine in coffee also increases the stimulant norepinephrine as well as the chemical dopamine in your brain, which helps you stay focused and sharp as you age,” W+G reported, adding that “finally, a 2018 study of 500,000 people also showed that drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of death— and that, surprisingly, the biggest reduction in mortality was found in people who drank six to seven cups per day- considerably more than the four-cup-per-day cutoff that doctors often recommend.” “While all coffee has potent health benefits to offer, Buettner highlights one particular type of coffee that has an edge of others when it comes to longevity: Ikarian coffee, otherwise known as Greek coffee,” W+G reported.
“Ikarian coffee, or Greek coffee, is lightly roasted and finely ground,” Buettner explained, W+G reported. “The fine grind delivers more concentrated antioxidants, which is one key health benefit. Ikarian coffee is also boiled instead of getting brewed and filtered, which extracts more of the healthy compounds in the coffee. And finally, the resulting cup of coffee will contain less caffeine than a typical American cup of coffee.”
“Less caffeine translates to less of the unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects of caffeine overdose, such as anxiety, jitters, elevated blood pressure, headaches, muscle tremors, and insomnia,” W+G reported.
“It’s also important to mention that Greek coffee is delicious,” Buettner told W+G, adding that “Ikarians boil their coffee instead of brewing it.”
“The process starts with a small pot called a briki,” Buettner told W+G. “You add water and coffee to the briki— or, if you don’t have one, a saucepan— and stir until the grounds are dissolved.”
“The next step involves slowly bringing the coffee and water mixture to a boil, and once you see foam on top, removing the mixture from the heat,” W+G reported.
“Evenly divide the foam between coffee cups, then pour in remaining coffee over top,” Buettner told W+G. “Be sure to wait for the grounds to settle to the bottom of the cup before drinking.”
“While many of us limit ourselves to a single cup of coffee in the morning or the afternoon, this coffee ritual is one that many residents of Ikaria partake in multiple times a day,” W+G reported, adding that “given that coffee is considered a social beverage, Ikarian coffee is often consumed with friends several times a day in small portions.” “Folks who indulge in this habit sip their coffee slowly with family and friends, at the table, or in social cafe settings, rather than downing a mug for energy in the early hours of the day,” Buettner told W+G.
“This makes sense, as maintaining strong social connections and being mindful of the important of rest is another key commonality among residents living in the Blue Zones,” W+G reported.