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Is Coffee Healthy?

Morning, friends! I’m on a press trip in Canada at the moment (as always, see what I’m up to on Instagram!), so I’ve invited my dietitian friend Jenna Braddock to share a guest post with you all today. She’ll be answering this question for you guys: Is Coffee Healthy? Enjoy!

 

Is Coffee Healthy?
guest post by: Jenna Braddock, RDN

 

IsCoffeeHealthy


Hi fANNEtastic Food readers! My name is
Jenna Braddock
and I so happy to share some hopefully helpful words with you. I am also a registered dietitian nutritionist and a specialist in sports dietetics. My blog, Make Healthy Easy, is all about real life strategies and recipes for better health. I’m very active on Instagram, sharing pictures of food, fitness and real life and also have a #MakeHealthyEasy Pinterest Board with over 50 pinners sharing ideas and recipes to help make healthy living a little bit easier.

 

Just last week I was at a professional breakfast event. While we were eating, everyone introduced him/herself and what they did. As is often happens, after sharing that I am a registered dietitian, the colorful comments started flying — “Let’s see what the nutritionist is eating” and “Well, don’t look at my plate.” I really loathe these kind of statements and was just about to try to change the subject when someone asked, “What do you think about coffee? Is it healthy? I drink A LOT.”

Now this is a WAY more fun topic to talk about at a work breakfast. I am never in the mood to be the food police, especially early in the morning and before my cup of coffee. ;)

 

Coffee is a topic that probably touches us all in some way. You either drink it or are around someone everyday who does. We Americans happen to have a love affair with coffee. Data from the Harvard School of Public Health estimates that 54% of us (over 18) drink coffee daily and the average intake is 3.1 cups, to be exact. (source) So it’s no wonder why we all (or at least the gentleman at my breakfast) would probably like to know if it’s a healthy drink choice.

Is Coffee Actually Nutritious?

Coffee is technically a plant based beverage. Therefore, it’s got to have some super powers in there somewhere. And research has indeed found this to be true as coffee is a source of micronutrients and antioxidants, specifically polyphenols. In fact, a 2005 study identified coffee as Americans #1 source of dietary antioxidants (source).

 

Coffee Pros

Researchers have been looking at the connection between coffee consumption for some time. Most of the studies are observational in nature and not intervention studies (meaning they didn’t “treat” anyone with coffee). While this is not rock-solid science, it is helpful in drawing conclusions about how coffee may be beneficial and how much is appropriate.

 

Here’s the summary of some of the most significant research conclusions on coffee:

Disease Prevention:

  • People who are long time coffee drinkers seem to have a lower risk for developing diabetes. Researchers speculate that this positive connection is due to the antioxidants, like chloregenic acid, and magnesium, which may improve insulin sensitivity.

  • Moderate coffee intake of 1-3 cups a day has been associated with a lower risk for developing Parkinson’s disease, especially in women. 

  • Coffee does NOT seem to promote heart disease or stroke and may actually reduce the risk of a stroke.

Major Organs:

  • Regular coffee consumption may lower your risk for developing liver disease and colon cancer.

  • Coffee containing caffeine may help prevent gallstones.

Brain:

  • “Lifetime” consumption of caffeinated coffee may be associated with better cognitive performance in woman, especially when they are over the age of 80.

Mortality:

  • Regular coffee consumption was found to be protective against all causes of mortality (death), especially when intake was at 4 cups or more a day.

Sports Performance

  • While coffee specifically has not been studied in athletic performance, caffeine has been well researched and shown to be an acceptable and effective ergogenic aid. The recommended amount of caffeine to enhance performance is equivalent to about 1 large mug for females and up to 3 large mugs for men. (Please work with a sports dietitian to determine if you should take in caffeine/the optimal amount of caffeine to consume for sports performance. This is also something Anne and Jason discuss at length in their Nutrition for Runners program.)

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

 

Coffee Cons

The great news for coffee lovers is that many of the concerns with coffee consumption have been refuted by better science. However, there are still some concerns to note.

 

The first is related to actual coffee, specifically unfiltered coffee, like espresso and French press brewed. Research has linked this type of prepared coffee to increasing LDL cholesterol levels, albeit slightly. So, if you are concerned with high cholesterol levels, I would recommend sticking to good ‘ol regular brewed coffee.

 

The next list of concerns is specific to caffeine itself. Too much of anything is not good and caffeine (and ultimately coffee) is no different. First, excessive caffeine intake can have detrimental effects on your health by contributing to anxiety, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, poor sleep and daytime fatigue. I recommend my clients quit the caffeine by 2pm to ensure enough time for it break down, leave the body and enable a good night’s sleep. Second, for those who are hypertensive, excess caffeine intake can elevate blood pressure and make it difficult to manage. Lastly, there is a genetic mutation in some individuals that causes the body to break down caffeine more slowly. In these people, coffee intake of 2 or more cups a day could be associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

 

And remember, caffeine found in other not-so-natural-beverages (i.e. energy drinks) are not going to have really any of the benefits that coffee contains.

 

So if any of the above categories relate to you, speak to your physician and dietitian to determine a safe amount of caffeine for your health.

 

Let me challenge you with a phrase I’ve been using with my clients for a long time: “Man cannot live on coffee alone.” If you are using coffee (or caffeine) alone to power through your days and give you “energy”, then I think it’s time you take a good look at the bigger picture and see where you could improve your eating and sleep habits too.

 

Benefits Beyond Nutrients

I happen to love coffee and enjoy a cup daily. I particularly love fancy coffee, especially when it’s roasted by someone local or a “company” with a cool story. One of the things I enjoy most about coffee is that it forces me to slow down a bit and savor something. Even if it’s just a minute or two, I appreciate the reminder to slow down and be present. I think we can all benefit from this. Plus, we know that taking a moment of reflection significantly improves our ability to eat mindfully too.

 

Now if only I could get that feeling to last all day…

 

Coffee Production

While I am no expert, I find the process of growing, harvesting, transporting and roasting coffee very fascinating. I’m not going to go in to all those details here because like I said, I’m not an expert. I would highly recommend visiting a local roaster and touring their facilities. I have found that many of these artisans have a deep love for their craft and for taking care of the earth and people around the industry.

If you are interested in reading more about coffee production, please visit the The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee.

 

coffe cup and beans

Coffee for a Greater Good

One trend I’ve seen emerge from the coffee industry is the idea of supporting a cause through coffee sales. Recently, a very good friend of mine brought one such company to my attention called Redeeming Grounds, who help farmers in Colombia convert their coca (cocaine) fields to coffee fields.

The mission of Redeeming Grounds is to “empower coffee growers in troubled lands to restore their communities.” This company wants to see an end to the oppression caused by the cocaine industry and allows a way for people to find a better life. They do this by partnering with coffee growers and buying their harvest, roasting and selling their coffee in the States, and returning 100% of their profit back to the communities in Colombia. You can read more about their impact so far here.


The Bottom Line

Great news for you coffee lovers: I believe the science is strong in favor of coffee being a health promoting beverage that can be enjoyed daily. And it seems that even a good amount of it (4 cups a day) is still OK for most healthy individuals.

So please, go ahead and enjoy that cup of joe, for your health! And while you’re at it, pair it with one of my favorite recipes like Blueberry Banana Coffee Cake, Honey Pumpkin Whole Wheat Muffins or Oatmeal Griddle Cakes.

Cheers and have a great day!

Are you a coffee fan?

Comments

  1. 1

    Great info! This is an informative and helpful post. Thanks for sharing – to both of you!

  2. 2

    Woop! :) I have max two a day, usually just one to get me going first thing in the morning of course with a big scoop of coconut oil! Mental clarity at its finest!

  3. 5

    I love coffee so much! I’m glad it has come out that it’s good for you!

  4. 6

    Great information! I drink a cup of coffee every morning but then switch to water and tea after that.

  5. 7

    Great post! I’m a one-cup-a-day gal and I’ve always believed there’s nothing wrong with a cup or two a day. I hate to be “that” person but Colombia, the country, is not spelled with a U. Sorry! It is a pet peeve of mine being that it’s my home country. <3

  6. 10

    Great info on coffee! I drink it every day, averaging about 1.5 cups. I think that moderate consumption can be healthy.

  7. 11

    Life is just so much better with a strong cup of coffee in the morning. I tried drinking hot tea in the mornings, and while I enjoy it on occasion, there just isn’t a substitute for a good ol’ cup of joe!
    My only concern for coffee drinkers is what they may add to their coffee.

  8. 12

    Thanks for the info! I’m curious about decaf coffee. I’ve heard that chemicals are used to take the caffeine out. What are your thoughts?

  9. 13
    Sandra F. says:

    thanks goodness, because I have 2 a day! Sometimes a 3rd, but then I switch to decaf tea/coffee ;). Never heard of the coconut oil in coffee? Why is that?

  10. 15

    Excellent post! I usually have one mug of coffee in the morning (after a glass of water!) so I’m happy to hear that it’s healthy. Thanks for the all the information!

  11. 16
    Roadrunner says:

    Thank goodness! Bless you!

  12. 17

    Thanks! I’ve always heard lots of mixed reviews about coffee, and I found this a really useful summary!

  13. 18

    I’m a coffee fan, so this was great to here! I love sipping on a cup throughout the morning, even as it gets cold.

  14. 19

    I love this post! I am a dietitian too and have patients ask me about coffee all the time. I can also relate to the food police mentality :)

  15. 20

    Dear Jenna of Anne
    How is it with black tea though? I’m drinking loose STRONG black tea everyday. I have been raised in Northern Germany and tea-lovers are high in numbers there!
    Depending on the amount, between 2-4 teaspoons of loose black tea for 3-4 minutes. I suppose the advice regarding the amount of cups and time could be

  16. 21

    ….oeps en here something went wrong :)
    Regarding amount of cups and time of drinking same applies (I usually don’t have it in the evening) because it contains some sort of caffeine/teainne as well I guess? And maybe not so much benefits fot healths?

  17. 22

    :-) I like this. It’s so neat to think that God created coffee beans for people to enjoy a tasty drink and get some health benefits at the same time.

  18. 23

    Hello Jenna,
    It is great to know the pros and cons of any food we consume regularly. I was very happy to see someone list such great things about coffee. I do regularly drink coffee, and I make sure I never have any after 11 am. What is your take on teens and preteens drinking coffee?

  19. 24

    It’s been said before, and i’ll say it again: Moderation is KEY.

    I’m a firm believer of knowing your limits (esp. with something like coffee). Test the waters – drink 1 cup on day 1, 2 cups on day 2 and record how your body (and mind reacts). That way you can find your limit, and stay within it!

  20. 26

    Thank you for your post Anne. Yes, coffee is certainly a great source of antioxidants although like anything we consume, there can be too much of a good thing. With the WHO striking off coffee from the cancer causing list, it doesn’t mean we can just swim in the stuff. The general rule of thumb I have read is approx. 5 cups per day as opposed to 4 – but it’s close enough. It also depends on your body type, what else you consume, etc.

    I generally drink a glass of warm water upon waking up since coffee actually dehydrates you. Then I wash up and brew my cup of espresso.

  21. 27

    Let me start off by saying that everyone is different, where some may struggle to drink 1 cup of coffee others can sip away until their hearts content. Luckily I am the latter.

    There has always seemed to be a black cloud cast over coffee consumption but it looks like that cloud is now dispersing with recent up to date research on the effects of coffee and health. Coffee is now touted for its many health benefits – so maybe those extra 2 or 3 cups I sneak in each day or doing me some good1 :-)

  22. 28

    It’s great information. Normally I used to drink 2-3 cups of coffee with caffeine daily. But now I feel to that I have to drink coffee without caffeine at-least when drink more than one cup. Thanks for sharing this great information.

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