Some days (most days, honestly) coffee can feel like the glue that holds everything together. It turns you from zombie to human in the morning. Gives you a good afternoon pick-me-up. And it keeps you moving for all the hours in between.
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But take a deep breath, is coffee good for you?
You can expire.
It turns out that coffee has amazing health benefits.
"Drinking moderate amounts of coffee does not have many drawbacks and, in fact, can have positive effects on health," says the nutritionist.Devon Peart, MHSc, BASc, RD.
You probably don't need another reason to pour yourself a cool cup. But just in case, keep reading. (Go ahead and upgrade your mug first if you'd like. We can wait a minute...)
Is coffee good for you?
Peart says that together, the various ingredients of coffee add up to a drink that is greater than the sum of its parts. Meanwhilehow much coffee do you drinkAnd how you take it will make all the difference to its health benefits, there are a number of ways your cup of joe can do your body good.
The positive side of caffeine
Coffee is powered by caffeine, a natural stimulant that makes you feel more energetic.
Caffeine may get a bad rap, but it turns out that the caffeine in coffee does more than just wake you up.
It isact on your brainto improve memory, mood, reaction times, and mental function.A studyit even says that caffeine can improve endurance and performance during exercise.
"Coffee contains about a thousand different botanical compounds," says Peart. Scientists haven't studied them all well, but the news so far gives it a thumbs up.
After all, coffee comes from beans. And as Peart points out, "nutritionists lovebeans.”
Coffee is a powerhouse of nutrients, including B vitamins, potassium, and riboflavin.
Coffee beans are also rich inantioxidants, which are compounds that protect cells from damage.
But there's more to it, says Peart: "The lastlook foris proving that it is not the antioxidants themselves that make coffee, in moderation, beneficial. Actually, they are the phenolic compounds.”
Phenolic compounds, or phenols, are substances found in plant foods that play a key role in your body's defense systems, protecting you from oxidative stress and inflammation.
“Coffee is made from beans, a plant food. Research shows that the phenolic components of coffee provide health-promoting effects similar to those of vegetables or fruits,” adds Peart.
Reduced risk of diabetes
Multiplestudiesshowed that regular coffee consumption reduces the chances of developingType 2 diabetes. That's true of both the decaf and the high-octane variety.
Prevent neurological diseases
Your regular daily intake of caffeine, such as that you get from your daily cup, isconnectedto a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, as well asParkinson disease.
the coffee wasdemonstrationbe apositive for the health of your liver. It may help protect against liver cirrhosis in people at risk for the disease, such as those with an alcohol use disorder or fatty liver disease.
Lower risk of cancer
Researchers have found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk ofLiver cancermicolorectal cancer— two of the leading causes of cancer death worldwide.
drive away depression
That pick-me-up you get from a frothy cappuccino might not be a figment of your imagination.various studiesfound that the more coffee a person drinks, the lower the risk ofdepression.
Are there risks associated with coffee?
Coffee may be a healthy little bean, but it's not entirely magical. To get more upsides and fewer downsides, Peart suggests following a few guidelines.
do not exaggerate
too much caffeinecan cause dehydration. But it's worth noting that a moderate amount of coffee doesn't dehydrate you, contrary to popular opinion.
“At modest intake levels, coffee is positive for hydration, meaning it still contributes to your fluid needs,” says Peart.
Some people may find that caffeine makes them nervous or anxious. And too much caffeine can also interfere with a good night's sleep, especially if you drink it later in the day.
Coffee can also affect blood pressure. It will depend on how much you drink and your genetic makeup. Peart says that people are genetically predisposed to be fast or slow metabolizers of caffeine, and slow metabolizers can experience negative effects, such as high blood pressure, even at low levels of intake.
For the general population,experts recommendstick to less than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. An 8-ounce cup of coffee typically contains 80 to 100 mg of caffeine. So aim for around three to four cups a day maximum.
Cut if you're waiting
In accordance withAmerican College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it is safe forpregnant peopleup to 200 mg of caffeine a day, or about two small cups. The jury is still out on whether increased caffeine intake poses a risk.
Skip the coffee at the end of the day.
The caffeine in coffee can stay in your system for several hours after the last sip. So a latte in the late afternoon or a latte after dinner can perk you up in the evening. ANDsleep deprivationit's nothing to mess with. To play it safe, stick with the decaf at night.
Coffee, particularly the blends you buy at a coffee shop, can go hand in hand with additions that aren't as nutritious. (Think sweet-tasting syrups, sugar, whipped cream, and the like.) Some coffee drinks are often known for their empty calories. And some of them are less like coffee and more like coffee-flavored shakes.
If you like to drink coffee, the safest thing to do is to ask for syrups without sugar and without mixing with skimmed milk.
“Coffee can be healthy, but what you add to it usually isn't,” Peart warns. Keep an eye on sugar and saturated fat, especially if you're drinking several pints a day.
Peart offers these suggestions for getting the most health benefits from your coffee, minus the extras:
Aim for natural sweeteners
There are large differences in the health implications ofvarious sweeteners.
If you prefer artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda®), saccharin (Sweet'N Low®), and aspartame (Equal®, NutraSweet®), Peart suggests slowly moving away from them and opting for more natural sugars.
"Over time, research shows that artificial sweeteners can train your brain to crave really sweet things," he continues. "So it can be a difficult transition to make, but it can be a big win for your health to get rid of artificial sweeteners."
If you drink your coffee with regular sugar but want to avoid unnecessary calories, try switching to a small amount of honey, agave, or even Stevia™. Stevia comes from a leaf and is a bit more of a natural source than a typical artificial sweetener.
Spices are not only a great way to add flavor to coffee, but they can also provide amazing health benefits.
- Cinnamonstabilizes blood sugar, helps improvecolesterol LDL(s)and is a good source of vitamin K and iron.
- Nutmeg is a very good source of manganese.
- Cardamom is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, iron, and manganese.
- Cocoa powder is a good source of protein, potassium, and zinc, as well as a good source of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. But it's also high in saturated fat, so use it sparingly. And go for the sugar-free kind.
be careful with milk
You might be wondering if it's really that important to use whole milk in your coffee if it's just a few tablespoons.
Yes, it definitely does, says Peart. “These are empty, unnecessary calories that accumulate.”
Let's do some math. If you used two tablespoons of whole milk in four cups of coffee a day, that's the equivalent of half a cup of whole milk, which has 75 calories. Over the course of a year, that would mean you're eating an additional 27,000 calories. (For perspective, that's about the number of calories most people should consume over the course of two weeks.)
If you want a healthier alternative tocleaning your coffee, try 1% or skimmed cow's milk. You can also opt for low-fat soy, almond, or rice milks, which are good alternatives but have less protein than cow's milk.
So yes, enjoy breakfast with the confidence that you are doing something good for your body. Just don't overdo it.