11 reasons you should drink coffee every single day

You know what I love most about birthdays? Getting to swan around like a total diva Because my family has this really cool tradition: From the stroke of midnight on your birthday, till midnight the next day, you get to boss around whoever you want and nobody can yell at you or make you do any work. Not even mom can make you clean the table or pick up your clothes off the floor. And the husband has to concede every argument and can’t call you out for being unreasonable or demanding. So, basically, 24 hours of pure bliss… which sort of make up for turning a year older!

You know another thing I love about birthdays? Gifts. Not the extravagant kinds but the small, intimate ones that can only come out of true love. Like the lavender flowers so beautifully crafted out of clay by my mother, despite having two fractured fingers in her right hand (pix coming up soon as they’ve gone for framing!). She knows I love lavender and am always bemoaning the fact that they bloom for such a short while. Only a mother’s love could have spent a straight 72 hours without sleep, putting together something that would take somebody else at least a couple of weeks, even without the fractured fingers. Love you mom!

And then there was the most mammoth box of Gourmesso coffee capsules for Nespresso machines, complete with all my favourite flavours (Soffio Caramello, Soffio Mandorla and Messico Forte Blend) from my oldest friend on earth. This is the kind of gift that keeps on giving, because not only does coffee wake you up, get you through a lousy day and tide over the crazy deadlines, it’s also chock full of health benefits that other beverages would find it hard to equal. So, basically, this is a gift of pure sunshine that promises health, good humour and happiness in a cup. Through the year.

Don’t believe me? Here are 11 science-backed reasons why a jolt of java is good for mind, body and soul. Have fun reading while I quickly pop a pod and see you on the other side.

Coffee makes you happy

And I don’t just mean this in terms of the caffeine high! Coffee literally makes you feel happier by stimulating the production of serotonin and dopamine, which make you brighter and perkier.

Coffee promotes mental sharpness

Well… d-uh… right? Coffee helps us perk up and face the mornings. And the mid-afternoon slump. And the late-at-night deadline. And everything in between. But it doesn’t stop there. Coffee actually sharpens the brain, making it work more efficiently. Result? Faster reflexes, enhanced attention span, increased focus, better memory and improved logical reasoning. But it doesn’t just end there. Research shows that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily also cuts the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia by 65%.

coffee-benefitsCoffee cuts pain

Sore muscles? A cuppa can reduce the pain by up to 48%, say Norwegian researchers and the Journal of Pain. I need my gym to install a coffee bar. Pronto.

Coffee helps weight loss

A jolt of java not only reduces post-exercise pain, having a cup of black coffee an hour before your workout can increase physical performance by almost 12%. The link? Caffeine boosts adrenaline, which helps you work out harder and more efficiently. Plus, it also helps break down fat cells. #doublewhammy

Coffee suppresses chronic inflammation

And I don’t mean the kind of inflammation that occurs when you hurt yourself or are stung by a bee. We are talking about chronic internal inflammation that occurs under the skin or around our vital organs – such as the heart or liver – putting extra pressure on them (think of it as an extra layer of fat or mucus that’s squeezing the organs), while simultaneously blocking optimal supply of nutrients. This internal inflammation is the leading cause of chronic issues such as diabetes, heart trouble, cystic acne, eczema, wrinkles, fine lines, dullness and sagging. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that caffeine can block the pathways of inflammatory molecules, preventing them from lodging in our body. This means more flexible arteries, lower blood pressure and a host of skin benefits to boot.

Coffee amps up your antioxidants

Strange as it may seem, Americans get most of their antioxidants from coffee. Yes, coffee. That’s because a serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than a serving of things like grape juice, oranges and blueberries.

Coffee protects your heart

Dutch and Japanese studies (the latter had 76,000 participants!) show that moderate coffee drinkers (1-2 cups per day) have up to 38% chance of dying from a cardiovascular disease.

Coffee prevents diabetes

After 28 studies over more than one million participants, researchers at Harvard have found that a single cup of coffee can cut the risk of Type II diabetes by 8% (just remember to hold the sugar). Take this up to 6 cups daily and you reduce the risk by 33%. The reason? Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol that reduces the concentration of blood sugar and slows down its absorption. It also contains magnesium and potassium, which increase insulin sensitivity and reduces sweet cravings.

Coffee protects your liver

Drinking one cup of coffee a day can cut your risk for developing liver cirrhosis by 20% by lowering enzyme levels. Take it up to four cups a day and it can also halt the progression of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

Coffee helps avoid kidney stones

According to studies at Harvard, coffee is a diuretic that helps flush out excess calcium and sodium from the body, thereby preventing the formation of kidney stones. Trust me, I’ve had them and they literally do hurt more than childbirth.

Coffee prevents cavities

If I had to choose my favourite finding about coffee’s health benefits, this is The One! As someone who has a serious dental phobia (think serious hyperventilation, high blood pressure and shortness of breath every time I have to see the dentist), just knowing that black coffee helps the bacteria that cause tooth decay has me literally brewing up another cup right now. Hold the milk and sugar, though!

What’s the best birthday gift(s) you’ve ever received?

Beauty DIY: Toning up with Champagne!

When I took a day trip to Champagne last month, I did not expect to come away with skincare recipes. Partaking of the world’s most divine beverage in its own homeland? Yes. Learning about grape varietals, soils, Champagne making secrets (did you know that smaller the bubbles, better the Champagne)? Bring it on. A case of the extreme hangover? Still on board. Knockout tipsiness? Absolutely.

champagne-beauty-benefitsAnd I did come away with all of these, along with a new respect for a very complex beverage. But what I also got was the secret to flawless skin. Because it turns out that Champagne (or sparkling wine) is extremely high in antioxidants due to the grape seed extract that packs more vitamin C and E than your average toning and anti-aging products. The result? Superb protection for the skin’s vital collagen and elastin from free radicals and oxidative stress. Or, in normal English, a halt to premature ageing and goodbye to wrinkles.

Plus, champagne’s tar­taric acid content is a known skin lightener. So, if you have unwanted pig­men­ta­tion or want to even out your skin tone, cham­pagne is a won­der­ful solu­tion. And that’s not all: tar­taric acid also helps clear up blem­ishes (it has anti-bacterial proper­ties) and detoxifies the complexion.

And the lovely bubbling action of cham­pagne helps constrict the pores while stepping up micro-circulation, thereby making skin firmer and giving you a pretty, dewy glow. All these qualities make champagne one of the best toners for normal or oily skin (while it contains less alcohol than most store-bought toners, it’s still probably not hydrating enough for very dry skin). And women across France have been using it for zillions of years.

Ready to try it?

Just soak a cotton pad in chilled champagne (or sparkling wine) and wipe thoroughly across a cleansed face, neck and décolleté. It should feel incredibly light, cool and refreshing, and you can actually feel the bubbles fizzing! Don’t rinse off; follow with your regular mois­tur­izer. And enjoy your new glow!

And now let’s take a trip to Champagne…

I went to Champagne on a day trip this time – it’s 90 miles from Paris – but the region is worth at least a long weekend. Ready to experience it? Take a trip down photographic lane here or read my more extensive Champagne travelogue on Shimmer Shine Sparkle – The Beauty Gypsy’s other blog – in a couple of weeks.

champagne travelogue 1

{Champagne is spread across 41,000 hectares. Each hectare yields 10,000 bottles annually. Do the maths.}

champagne travelogue 2

{Champagne is made mainly from three grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (shown here) and Chardonnay}

champagne travelogue 3

{Grapes must have at least a sugar level of at least 9% to be eligible for blending into Champagne}

{Moet & Chandon: The grandaddy of them all}

{Moet & Chandon: The grandaddy of them all}

{Moet owns 3,000 hectares and sources 70% of its grapes from other producers}

{Moet owns 3,000 hectares and sources 70% of its grapes from other producers}

{Moet has 28 kilometres of Champagne cellars... the largest in the region}

{Moet has 28 kilometres of Champagne cellars… the largest in the region}

{It is a literally endless abyss of bottle upon bottle upon bottle. Upon bottle}

{It is a literally endless abyss of bottle upon bottle upon bottle. Upon bottle}

{See what I mean?}

{See what I mean?}

{Though once cleaned and polished they are totally va va voom! Especially in the 15 litre version – see the iPhone for relative size. The cost? Only 17000 Euro!}

{Though once cleaned and polished they are totally va va voom! Especially in the 15 litre version – see the iPhone for relative size. The cost? Only 17,000 Euro!}

PS: Champagne isn’t the only beverage you can use as a beauty ingredient – CLICK HERE to learn what you can do with vodka!

Beauty recipes: Make your own under-eye mask (Time: 10 minutes)

Lately, a new category of beauty products has been taking over the skincare aisles: under-eye masks. They are literally everywhere, with super-cool brands like GlamGlow, Le Métier de Beauté and Bliss keeping the credit cards busy. A slew of spas, including Ananda in the Himalayas and the Waldorf, even have a full fledged roster of under-eye treatments on their menu.

Stands to reason. After all, our under-eye area has some of the most fragile skin anywhere on the body. And it’s seriously overworked. By the time you finish this post, you will have blinked more than 50 times. Those who suffer from eyestrain (if you work with computers, odds are you do) and have slept less than 7 hours last night, will blink twice as much. This stresses the delicate muscles under the eyes.

Add in years of sun exposure, pollutants, allergies, squinting (another computer side effect), stress… and it’s no wonder that your eyes are often rimmed with dark circles, puffiness, sagging skin or crow’s feet.

Yet, even as we get our backs massaged, our legs buffed smooth and our hands pampered, the eyes mostly get overlooked. Time to change that, I would say. Added bonus: why not do it with pure and fresh ingredients straight out of the refrigerator? After much testing, harrowing the experts and comparing treatments literally side-by-side (two eyes – one covered with white store-bought goo, the other covered with colorful homemade goo!), I have zeroed down on these 3 under-eye mask recipes that work just as well as – if not better than – the store-bought versions.

Destroy the dark circles under-eye mask

Why it works: All these ingredients are potent sources of Vitamin K, which heals damaged capillaries and minimises the pooling of blood under the eyes – the main causes of dark circles. Over time, it also thickens the skin around our eyes. And since thinner the skin, the more visible the dark circles, it’s a powerful 1-2-3 punch to make those racoon-like shadows go far, far away.

Ingredients: 2 cups water, 1 bunch basil, 1 bunch parsley leaves, 3 lettuce leaves, 3 cabbage florets

Method: Boil the water and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes, then strain the liquid and pour it into a glass jar. Apply this liquid (once it’s absolutely cool) with a cotton ball under the eyes and leave on for 10 minutes. Finally, rinse and gently pat dry. Repeat daily.

Storage: This mixture must be refrigerated; discard if it smells rancid.

Banish the crow’s feet under-eye mask

Why it works: Chinese women have been using soybeans since antiquity to fight premature ageing. And today science is following suit, with soy appearing in several skincare products. That’s because soybeans contain powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. They also have a collagen-stimulating effect, which boosts skin elasticity. Combined result: lesser fine lines and crow’s feet.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup soybeans that have been soaked overnight in a cup of water, 1 tablespoon whole milk

Method: Pour the soybeans into a blender and process till they reach a paste-like consistency. Add the milk and blend for another minute. Apply under the eyes and leave for 15 minutes, then rinse off.

Storage: This mixture must be refrigerated; discard if it smells rancid.

Pass on the puffiness under-eye mask

Why it works: Witch hazel has a refreshing, astringent action on the skin, thereby helping deflate under-eye circles. Similarly, celery is packed with over a dozen anti-inflammatory agents, including apigenin, which is an integral part of several anti-inflammatory drugs.

Ingredients: 2 celery stalks or 2 tablespoons celery juice, 1 green tea bag, 2 cups witch hazel, 1 tablespoon glycerin

Method: Puree the celery stalks in a food processor (or juicer) and strain the juice. Place the teabag in a glass beaker. Heat witch hazel until hot and pour it on top of the teabag. Let the tea infuse for 2-3 minutes, then remove the teabag. Add celery juice and glycerin. Saturate a gauze pad and place over the eyes for 15 minutes.

Storage: Can be kept refrigerated for up to 10 days; discard if the mixture becomes cloudy.

Have you been looking after the skin around your eyes? What’s your go-to strategy for dealing with dark circles, crow’s feet and puffiness? Tell us in the comments below.

The easiest (and most effective) sunburn treatments EVER. And they all come from your kitchen

Got a little too much sun? It happens to all of us. And unfortunately, it often happens when we don’t have the usual array of sunburn-busters – like aloe vera or cocoa butter – on hand. Cue: pain, blisters, peeling skin, itchiness, burning… the works. Thankfully, the doctors themselves recommend a host of home remedies that are easily available in every kitchen. From rubbing potatoes on your skin to dipping in an oatmeal bath, here are a few unusual and effective ways to ease the pain of your sunburn.

PS: It’s not just about the sunburn. These remedies are also good for all post-sun time. Any prolonged exposure to the sun can irritate our skin and leave it vulnerable to premature ageing. So, slather on these pantry staples as a post-sun soother for damage control even when you are not actually burnt to a crisp!

treat sunburnSunburn treatment #1: Pat down with potatoes

Burn-fighting effect: The plain old potato is great at relieving pain and inflammation, making it a perfect quick-fix for sunburnt skin. The juices from a raw potato help strengthen the upper layer of the skin, even out its colour and provide moisture to dry areas. Plus, potato’s starchy compounds help take the sting out of a sunburn. Who knew?

Sunburn treatment: Cut 2 washed potatoes into small chunks and puree them in a blender or food processor; add a bit of water if they look dry. Pat this puree on the sunburnt areas, wait till it dries and then take a cool shower.

Or, you can simply cut the potato into thin round slices and place them on the sunburn for a few minutes – it might look a bit weird but it’ll definitely help with the pain.

Sunburn treatment #2: Lay on the lettuce

Burn-fighting effect: Lettuce’s natural pain-killing properties help wipe away the sting of a sunburn.

Sunburn treatment: Boil lettuce leaves in water. Strain, then let the liquid cool for several hours in the refrigerator. Once chilled, dip cotton balls in the lettuce water and gently wipe over irritated skin.

turmeric for sunburnSunburn treatment #3: Treat with turmeric

Burn-fighting effect: Turmeric’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it a great remedy for the treatment of sunburn blisters.

Sunburn treatment: Take 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder and add enough water to make a paste. Apply this paste over the blistered area for 10 minutes, then wash off gently with cold water. Follow this remedy once daily until the sunburn blisters are cured.

Sunburn treatment #4: Tone up with tomatoes

Burn-fighting effect: According to scientists, the red tomato helps protect the skin from sunburn and skin ageing caused by sunlight exposure thanks to the ingredient lycopene – the natural pigment that gives this fruit its red color.

Sunburn treatment: Puree a frozen tomato and apply it directly to the burnt area. Eating tomatoes can also help prevent future sun damage.

Sunburn treatment #5: OD on olive oil

Burn-fighting effect: Olive oil is a natural moisturiser and is known for having a healing effect on sun-damaged skin.

Sunburn treatment: Dip a cotton ball in a small cup with olive oil and apply to all the sore areas.

Sunburn treatment #6: Bathe in oatmeal

Burn-fighting effect: Oats hold moisture and have a high silica content, making them an ideal skin soother. An oatmeal bath soothes dry, itchy or irritated skin.

Sunburn treatment: Fill up the bathtub with cool – not cold – water. Don’t use bath salts, oils, or bubble bath. Instead, scoop 1/2 to 1 cup oatmeal – an ideal skin soother – and mix it in. Soak in this bath tub for about half an hour or more, then let your body air dry.

Sunburn treatment #7: Yay for yogurt!

Burn-fighting effect: Plain yogurt contains an abundance of probiotics and enzymes that help heal painful sunburns.

Sunburn treatment: Wash your hands and apply cool yogurt directly to your burn. Let it sit on your skin until it warms up and then rinse it off with cool or tepid water. Apply as often as needed.

Sunburn treatment #8: Wash it with witch hazel

Burn-fighting effect: Witch hazel contains tannins that, when applied to directly to the skin, help reduce swelling, repair damaged skin and ward off nasty bacteria.

Sunburn treatment: Pour witch hazel into a bowl and soak cotton balls or a clean cloth in the liquid. Dab on just enough to cover the burn – it doesn’t need to be dripping off. Reapply as needed for soothing the pain.

treat-sunburn-4Sunburn treatment #9: Cool it, cucumber!

Burn-fighting effect: Instant relief… that’s what a plain and simple cucumber means to scorched skin. Not only is a cucumber soothing to the burn simply because its cool, but its antioxidant and analgesic properties also promote healing and provide further (and long lasting) relief from discomfort.

Sunburn treatment: If you’re going for mainly quick pain relief, slice up a chilled cucumber and lay the slices on your burned skin. Flip the slices when the first side heats up, like how you flip a pillow to get the cool side up after a long nap. For a longer lasting effect, chill 1 or 2 cucumbers and toss them in a blender to create a paste.

Sunburn treatment #10: Bring out the baking soda

Burn-fighting effect: Baking soda is alkaline in nature and thus it can be very soothing to the skin. At the same time baking soda has antiseptic properties that can help in getting relief from the itchiness that often accompanies sunburn blisters.

Sunburn treatment: Fill your bath tub with cold water, add 1-2 cups of baking soda and mix properly. Soak your body in this bath for about half an hour. For instant relief from the burning, you can mix some baking soda in water and apply this paste over the affected areas.

Sunburn treatment #11: Make for the milk

Burn-fighting effect: Milk creates a protein film on your skin that will help ease the discomfort of fresh sunburn.

Sunburn treatment: Fill a bowl with cool (not cold) milk. Soak a washcloth or gauze in the milk. When the gauze or washcloth is saturated, let the excess liquid drain off. Drape across your burn, pressing gently so that it stays in place, and leave it on for as long as needed. If the milk in the bowl becomes room temperature chill it before re-dunking your compress.