Coffee: Friend or Foe?

By Kate Regan

Ah, coffee… the daily drink of choice for over half of America’s adults. Approximately 54% of Americans over the age of 18 start their day with a cup o’ joe, whether it be to wake them up or warm them up1. So what’s the deal with it? Is it safe? Is it healthy? The verdict is in and the answer is yes. Long-term coffee consumption has been linked with numerous health benefits including protection against Type II Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease and some heart diseases, among others1.

Source: vinccitsui.com

The reason why coffee sometimes gets a bad rap for being unhealthy is due to the many sweeteners that consumers add. Coffee is seemingly the perfect vehicle for saturated fat, sugar and empty calories. By itself, coffee has many positive aspects such as helpful antioxidants and polyphenols which reduce inflammation and increase brain activity. It contains less than 5 calories per cup and 0 grams of fat, so it does not contribute a significant amount of energy to your diet2.

It is, however, the flavored sweeteners, whole milk and packets of sugar that you are dumping into your Starbucks that are piling on the calories. Coffee drinkers who add artificial sweeteners tend to have higher BMIs and larger waists compared to those who do not3. Those who use very minimal additives or none at all benefit from better blood pressure, cholesterol and weight maintenance4.

Other myths regarding caffeine and the diuretic effects of coffee contribute to its bad reputation. Good news – caffeine, like everything else, is fine in moderation. If you need a jump start to your morning and coffee is the way to do it, that is okay! Just follow recommendations of limiting consumption to 4 cups of coffee, or about 400 mg of caffeine, per day5. Caffeine effects everyone differently, though, so listen to your body. Those who are not regular coffee drinkers may experience negative side effects, such as restlessness and jitters5.

 

More good news – coffee does not cause dehydration. It is true that coffee seems to have a diuretic effect on some, increasing the urge to pee, but coffee still contributes to your overall daily fluid requirements6. Even though coffee does help to keep you hydrated, water reigns supreme (and it’s cheaper, too!).

Moral of the story: if you find yourself about to order a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino or a Venti French Vanilla Iced Coffee with extra cream and sugar, think again. Make it a goal to gradually reduce the amount of added sugar and fat that have snuck their way into your routine. Opt for skim milk instead of whole and skip the extra packet of sugar. Your coffee, like your best friend, is perfect just the way it is. No sugar added.

 

References:

  1. Coffee & Health. harvard.edu. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/multimedia-article/benefits/. Published February 28, 2014. Accessed September 6, 2017.
  2. Zeratsky K. Coffee calories: Sabotaging your weight loss? Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/calories/faq-20058100. Published March 8, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2017.
  3. Bouchard DR, Ross R, Janssen I. Coffee, Tea and Their Additives: Association with BMI and Waist Circumference. Obes Facts. 2010;3:345-352. doi:1159/000322915
  4. Grosso G, Stepaniak U, Micek A, et al. Association of daily coffee and tea consumption and metabolic syndrome: results from the Polish arm of the HAPIEE study. European Journal of Nutrition. 2015;54(7):1129-1137. doi:10.1007/s00394-014-0789-6
  5. Caffeine: How much is too much? Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678. Published March 8, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2017.
  6. Zeratsky K. The myth about caffeine and dehydration. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/caffeinated-drinks/faq-20057965. Published July 30, 2014. Accessed September 6, 2017.
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