Humankind has enjoyed coffee since ancient times. Today it is still one of the most frequently consumed beverages by drinkers all over the world. Long thought by some to be a bad habit driven by an addiction to caffeine, recent studies tout the healthy benefits of coffee consumption.

Surprisingly, that cup of joe consists of several vital nutrients. One 8 oz cup contains 11 percent of the RDA of vitamin B-2, 6 percent of vitamin B-5, 3 percent of Manganese and Potassium and 2 percent of Magnesium and Niacin. These may seem insignificant, but having several cups can add up to a meaningful amount. Coffee is a surprisingly rich source of antioxidants, too. These compounds help protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals and are essential for fighting disease.

Regular coffee drinking has been shown to decrease your risk of developing certain types of cancer, specifically liver and colorectal cancer. Additionally, research has revealed that coffee drinkers have a significantly reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with each daily cup resulting in a 7 percent reduction in risk.

The caffeine in coffee has Jekyll and Hyde properties. On the positive side, caffeine has been shown to help lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by up to 60 percent and can help ease headaches. Caffeine will also stimulate the nervous system, resulting in improvements in memory, mood, energy levels, reaction times and general cognitive function. Additionally, caffeine is one of the few substances known to help mobilize fats from the fat tissues and increase metabolism. It can boost your metabolic rate by up to 11 percent. That's why caffeine is an ingredient in every commercial fat burning supplement.

On the down side, caffeine is a drug with addictive properties. It is not good to use as a substitute for a good night's sleep or a healthy diet. Too much caffeine can lead to nervousness, rapid heartbeat, palpitations, sleeplessness and irritability. It can even lead to health problems such as osteoporosis or high blood pressure.

So, how can we be smart about our coffee consumption? Moderation is a key component to many dietary concerns. Rather than grabbing the largest portion at the coffee shop, try for a smaller cup. Save on calories by cutting back on the sugar and cream, foregoing the extras like whipped cream or caramel drizzle. For lattes and cappuccinos, ask for low-fat or skim milk to reduce the amount of saturated fats. Use a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder to add flavor instead of sugary syrups. And of course, trips to a coffee house can include many bakery temptations. So, although a gooey cinnamon roll goes perfectly with a cup of joe, save some calories and try sharing it with a friend.

Speaking of pairings, if you enjoy a little mystery with your java, you should definitely try reading the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle. This cozy mystery series is centered around Clare Cosi, the manager of the Village Blend coffee shop in Greenwich Village, New York, her hunky ex-husband, her detective boyfriend and a cast of other quirky characters. These delightful stories involve intrigue, suspense and humor, while also dishing up some great recipes and coffee making tips. Check these out at the library today!