Nutrition: What you need to know about coffee

Coffee intake carries both pros and cons when it comes to health.

Coffee may provide some health benefits, but it’s important to remember coffee is a stimulant with potential health risks to consider.
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Coffee is a beverage that many of us start the day with and look forward to. There’s nothing like smelling a fresh cup of joe to start your day and getting to use your favorite mug.

Whether your coffee routine is making a fresh pot before you run out the door, running through a drive-thru for your coffee fix, or looking forward to socializing with friends at a local coffee shop, coffee is one of those things that can make our days feel complete.

New research suggests that coffee does have health benefits. Studies have found possible relationships between coffee and decreased mortality, and may offer some protection against type 2 diabetes, liver disease, heart attack, stroke and Parkinson’s disease. Coffee is also known to be rich in antioxidants that are known to help neutralize free radicals.

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Although coffee may provide some health benefits, it’s important to remember coffee is a stimulant with potential health risks to consider, too (mainly related to caffeine content). Note that coffee can raise blood pressure and poses greater risks to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Some individuals are also more prone to experience certain side effects such as insomnia, heartburn and increased anxiety.

Coffee intake carries both pros and cons when it comes to health, but sticking to a reasonable amount can allow you to enjoy this delicious drink while avoiding the cons.


So, what’s reasonable? The FDA recommends no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. This adds up to about four or five cups of regular brewed coffee. For those who are pregnant, the recommendations are to consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. You should also know that different brews hold different amounts of caffeine. This has to do with the volume of beans and longevity they’re roasted.

Many reach for a dark roast thinking that it has more caffeine; however, it has just the opposite. Dark-roast coffee beans are roasted at higher temperature for a longer time creating a less-caffeinated and less-dense product. Light-roast beans are roasted for a shorter period of time leaving behind a finer body and higher caffeine amount.

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For those who don’t tolerate caffeine well, you still can enjoy some of coffee’s delicious flavors from decaf coffee. One cup has about 2 milligrams of caffeine.

When entering a coffee house, you’ll find a handful of standard drinks offered from place to place. If you’re looking to try something other than a go-to drip coffee, here are a few coffee drink staples you may consider to switch up your next coffee order.

Espresso: Pronounced “uh-spreh-sow,” not “expresso,” is served in a dainty 3-ounce espresso cup, otherwise known as a demitasse cup. This beverage is small but packed with a punch. If you enjoy a bold flavor, that’s quick and to the point, a shot of espresso is a great choice. This beverage is a much more concentrated form of coffee containing about 65 milligrams of caffeine per shot. Some consider espresso to be more bitter than drip coffee, but it really brings out the sweet, toasty and acidic flavors the coffee bean can offer.

Americano: This is a gold standard. It’s simply espresso and hot water and is sometimes served with cold or steamed milk. If you enjoy drip coffee but are looking to ramp up the flavor and aren’t quite ready to order a shot of espresso, an Americano is an excellent option.

Cappuccino: This coffee drink is created with one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk and one-third milk froth on top. Traditionally, cappuccinos are served in a 6-ounce cup. The thick and airy layer of foam on top adds to the luxury of the drink adding a velvety texture. If you’re a fan of the heavier foam consistency, know that whole milk holds that velvet-like texture best, but you can choose sacrifice for lower-fat milk. This will create a delicate foam that is quicker to dissolve.

Latte: A latte is very similar to a cappuccino but has less foam and more steamed milk. It’s an art to craft the perfect frothed milk by incorporating the right amount of air. This helps baristas make those beautiful designs on top of your drink. Lattes can come in an array of sizes and can also be served over ice. If you’re watching your intake of saturated fats, consider asking for skim milk or another low-fat alternative. If you are watching your blood sugars, note that you may want to consider sugar free syrups over the regular. One pump of syrup is roughly 6-10 grams of sugar.


Kaddie Lombard.jpg
Kaddie Lombard

Kaddie Lombard is a clinical dietitian at St. Luke's.

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