Being Italian I am partial to a good espresso, which is in itself the healthier and most powerful type of coffee you’ll ever find. Especially “doppio”. Studies have shown that doppio espresso contains the highest amount of antioxidants (anti-aging, free radical-fighting nutrients) than any other beverage on the planet.
Simply adding milk to your espresso is an excellent way to slow down release of caffeine (avoiding jitters) while also introducing a good amount of phenylalanine in your diet. Phenylalanine is an amino acid (a small piece of protein) found in milk. The brain needs phenylalanine to make dopamine — a neurotransmitter responsible for reward-motivated behavior, among other things. To be honest, the best combination would be espresso followed by a piece of Parmesan cheese (higher phenylalanine content), but it doesn’t taste as good...
Other brain-healthy add-ons are: raw cacao and cinnamon. Raw cacao is rich in theobromine, a stimulant known to support cellular aging and to protect brain cells from free radicals attack. Cinnamon also has a neuro-protective action, and supports cardiovascular health too (and what’s good for the heart is good for the brain).
There are no side effects to any of these foods. One should always keep in mind the amount of coffee they are consuming.
There is evidence that drinking 2-3 cups of coffee a day (or 1-2 espresso’s) is supportive of brain health and has been associated with reduced risk of dementia later in life. But there is no evidence that drinking more coffee would further improve cognitive fitness. Rather, too much coffee can affect heart health and sleep, and/or promote dehydration — which all affect brain health. Everything in moderation.
I always recommend drinking a glass of water immediately before or after coffee to make sure your brain doesn’t get dehydrated. Lack or loss of water (even below clinical standards of dehydration) is a major and immediate cause of brain fog, confusion, and dizziness — and so many people are dehydrated and don’t realize that, especially in the USA. Plus, simply drinking water has been shown to boost cognitive performance by up to 20%.