Is Coffee Bad for You?
How to Choose Coffee for Health Benefits
Coffee is a daily staple for millions, yet research surrounding its health effects is conflicting. Overall, evidence suggests that coffee is not harmful for most populations, and may actually offer some health benefits! Navigating the ever-evolving realm of nutritional science can be tricky, but by considering your own health status and limiting high calorie add-ons like milk and sugar, you can choose healthier coffee beverages at home and at the coffeehouse. Remember that while a little coffee can be good for your health, too much may actually harm you.
Choosing Coffee to Brew at Home
Choose organic coffee brands.Organic coffee beans have been grown without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. While scientists haven’t established whether using pesticides to grow coffee leads to pesticide residues on the beans themselves, pesticides are harmful to the planet and to farm workers. Pesticides increase polluted water runoff, and may lead to symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and difficulty breathing in farm workers. Organic brands may be a little pricey, but they are the healthiest choice for the planet, and probably for your own health.
- Some studies have shown small increases in nutrients in organic produce compared to conventionally grown produce. This means organic coffee may actually be healthier for you.
- Check for the USDA organic label on your coffee. Some brands may claim to be organic, but you cannot be sure they adhere to USDA organic standards unless their product bears the label.
Opt for decaf coffee if you have certain health conditions.You should stick to decaf coffee if you are pregnant. Studies suggest that caffeine may stunt fetal growth and increase risk of stillbirth or miscarriage.Caffeine may also complicate regulation of hypertension and diabetes, so decaf is probably the best option if you have either of these conditions.
- If you are pregnant, one or two cups of coffee a day should still be safe.
- At the same time, caffeine has been linked to health benefits. Caffeinated coffee, but not decaf, has been associated with lower risk of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dementia.
- Talk to your doctor to see if it is safe for you to drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks.
Choose light roasted coffee beans for an antioxidant boost.Some studies have shown that light roasted coffee beans have higher levels of antioxidants, which protect against molecular damage and may prevent certain diseases. For example, a study published in 2019 found that light roasted coffee beans yielded coffee with higher levels of chlorogenic acid, a major antioxidant, compared to darker roasts. However, more research is needed to verify these findings.
- Although coffee is high in antioxidants, studies have not conclusively demonstrated that high levels of antioxidants in coffee translate to higher antioxidant levels in the body.
Drink no more than 3-5 cups per day.TheUSDA 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelinesstate that drinking 3 to 5 8oz cups of caffeinated coffee per day can be part of a healthy diet. This level of consumption has not been linked to health problems.
- Drinking too much coffee can in some cases cause kidney stones.
- However, the USDA does not encourage people who do not drink coffee to start.
Make other lifestyle changes to reap maximum health benefits.While evidence shows that drinking up to 6 cups of coffee a day does not have adverse health effects for most populations, the health benefits of coffee are less clear. If you're trying to improve your health, you should turn your attention to other lifestyle factors. Focus on exercising more and eating a diet high in fruits and veggies.
- Keep in mind that everybody reacts differently to certain levels of coffee. While most people may not be harmed by 6 cups of coffee, other people may develop tachycardia and irregular heart rates. If you feel your heart rate increasing, stop drinking coffee for the day.
- Coffee may be protective against certain cancers, Parkinson’s, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, but more research is needed.
Preparing Your Coffee at Home
Grind your own beans.Fresh coffee has more beneficial nutrients than stale coffee. To make your coffee the freshest possible, buy a coffee grinder. Buy whole bean coffee instead of ground, and grind your beans at home. Since coffee can start going stale as soon as it is ground, grind new beans every time you want to make coffee.
Use filtered water to brew your coffee.More than half of the chemicals found in tap water are unregulated, and some experts believe the standards are too lenient for those that are. Filtering your water can remove potentially harmful chemicals like nitrates, arsenic, and lead. Use filtered water to brew a healthier cup of joe.
- Ask for your water utility company’s annual water quality report. This will tell you about potentially harmful substances in your local water, and can guide your filter purchasing process. Pick a filter that removes problematic chemicals in your water and is NSF International certified.
Drink your coffee black.Black coffee has the lowest calories per serving. Adding creamer, sugar, and syrups increases caloric content of your coffee, increasing risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. If you can stomach it, opt for black coffee.
Use non-fat milk.If you can't get used to black coffee, go for a dash of non-fat milk instead of whole milk and creamers. Whole milk and creamers are high in fat, and those calories can add up over time.
- Low fat soy, almond, or rice milk are good substitutes for non-fat cow’s milk, although they may not mix as well with the coffee itself.
Skip the sugar.Sugar sweetened beverages have been associated with significant health consequences, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and obesity.Black, sugar-free coffee is best, but if you need your coffee sweetened, you should use small amounts of sugar, honey, or artificial sweetener.
- A teaspoon of sugar is only 40 calories. If you have an otherwise healthy diet, drinking sugar with your coffee shouldn't be a problem.
- Data suggests artificial sweeteners may have health consequences of their own. If you want to sweeten your coffee, it may be better to use a small amount of sugar or honey rather than an artificial sweetener.
Try flavoring your coffee with spices.Instead of using sugar or creamers high in sugar and fat to flavor your coffee, try using natural spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom are all good sources of nutrients.
- Cardamom, for example, is rich in vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
Choosing Coffee at a Coffeehouse
Order your coffee black.Black coffee is healthier, and easier on your wallet as a bonus.
Drink fresh coffee.Coffee made to order is the best, as it won't have been sitting out for long periods of time. When buying coffee, choose places that make your coffee after you order it. Places where the coffee sits out for a long time, such as gas stations, do not offer good coffee to drink.
Choose non-fat milk.Black coffee isn't for everyone. If you need to, order your coffee drinks with non-fat milk instead of creamer or whole milk. You’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary calories.
- Some coffeehouses call non-fat milk "skim milk," so don't be confused.
Avoid specialty drinks.Avoid specialty drinks, like Frappuccinos, which tend to be high in sugar and fat. Instead, go for a plain coffee.
- If you decide to go for a specialty coffee drink, order the smallest size.
- Many coffeehouses list the calories in each of their drinks. If you really want a specialty drink but aren’t sure which is the healthiest, pick the drink with the lowest calories--it is probably relatively low in sugar and fat.
Try spices instead of syrups to add flavor.You should avoid syrups when possible, as these are high in sugar. Spices are available at most coffee shops, and can be a healthy alternative to flavored syrups.
QuestionDoes light roast coffee have more antioxidants than instant coffee?
Registered NurseRegistered NurseExpert AnswerYes, light roast coffee is higher in antioxidants. Instant coffee is not really good for you.Thanks!
QuestionWhy is decaf coffee worse than regular coffee?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe caffeine is (mostly) extracted using some cheap chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Better methods only use CO2, but it takes time..and time is money..and a highly priced coffee doesn't guarantee the method they used to reduce caffeine.Thanks!
QuestionWhich has more antioxidants green coffee or brewed coffee?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGreen has more antioxidants. The darker the roast, the fewer antioxidants in your coffee.Thanks!
QuestionWhich is better to drink coffee, just black coffee or coffee with sugar and creamer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is best to enjoy coffee black, however, if you absolutely cannot stomach the taste, then add sugar and creamer to suit your taste.Thanks!
QuestionDoes light roast coffee have more antioxidants than dark roast coffee?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, it does. Dark roast coffee can burn off the antioxidants.Thanks!
- Grinding your own coffee beans means a fresher flavor.
- If you’re brewing coffee at home, keep spices on hand to flavor your coffee.
- Choosing plain coffee at the coffeehouse is not only healthier, but also cheaper!
- Most adverse health effects from coffee come from drinking too much. One or two cups a day should be fine.
- Coffee may have adverse health effects for certain populations, including pregnant women or people with difficulty controlling blood pressure and blood sugar.
- Caffeine in coffee may interact with certain medications and increase anxiety. It can also be addictive. You should talk to your doctor to determine if coffee consumption is right for you.
Video: Healthiest Types of Coffee with Dr. Oz
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