by Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

According to the latest reports published by the National Coffee Association, daily coffee consumption rose two percentage points in the past year to 64% among American adults [1].

 

Coffee is the biggest dietary source of caffeine in the US, but it also comes with small amounts of vitamins and minerals [2], and is considered one of our greatest sources of antioxidants. As such, this classic beverage does more than provide a morning energy boost – it can offer a variety of health benefits to our bodies throughout the day.

 

Potential perks

Regular consumption of coffee is scientifically linked to improved alertness, productivity, creativity and memory. In addition to temporary boosts in brain function, coffee may increase levels of happiness and reduce stress and symptoms of depression, and has the potential to benefit a variety of conditions including migraines and gallstones.

 

In individuals over the age of 45, recent findings show that it may increase overall longevity [3], while additional studies suggest coffee is an ergogenic aid, potentially improving athletic performance, exertion and mood during endurance-type exercises [4].

 

Upwards of 3 to 5 daily 8-oz cups may also decrease risk of heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s [5], type 2 diabetes, liver issues, and certain cancers, such as malignant melanoma [6].

 

Sip smartly

Coffee – regular or decaf – is a very small source of calories, offering only about 2 per 8-oz serving. Keep in mind, however, that sweeteners and flavored syrups, dairy and non-dairy milks, regular or whipped cream, and other additions to our coffees contribute not only to extra calories, but also extra sugar, saturated fat, and sometimes sodium as well.

 

For a more healthful drink, stick with regular brewed or iced coffees, or an Americano, cappuccino or latte. Choose a lower fat dairy milk or unsweetened plant-based milk, as opposed to whole milk or cream to save on fat calories, and ask for no-sugar or low-sugar if you opt for a flavor add-in. A dusting of cinnamon, nutmeg and/or unsweetened cocoa powder all add flavor with minimal calories.

 

Other coffee considerations

Daily doses of caffeine less than 400 mg are considered safe by the FDA (the average cup of coffee has about 90 mg). However, every body reacts differently to its effects, and there are certain individuals who may want to avoid excess intake, including:

·         Children, adolescents and the elderly

·         Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding – recommended to limit daily intake to no more than 200 mg/day (or two 8-oz cups of home-brewed coffee per day) [7]

·         Anyone suffering from anxiety disorders – linked to onset, occurrence and symptom severity [8]

·         Anyone with low iron levels and/or currently taking iron supplements – decreases iron absorption

·         Anyone taking certain medications or herbal supplements that may interact with caffeine – e.g., ephedrine (commonly in decongestants), theophylline (found in bronchodilators), echinacea [9]

·         Anyone with a history of heart attack, cardiovascular disease, and/or high blood pressure [7]

·         Anyone not currently getting adequate, good-quality sleep [9]

 

If caffeine makes you jittery, here are a few dietary tips that might help avoid this uncomfortable feeling:

·         Enjoy your coffee with food or shortly after eating, as caffeine has a stronger, faster effect on an empty stomach;

o   Particularly effective at counteracting these jittery effects of caffeine are magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts and seeds (particularly pumpkin seeds/pepitas), whole grains (e.g., quinoa, brown rice or oatmeal), dark leafy greens, and avocado.

·         Drink one glass of water for every cup of coffee, or drink an equivalent number of glasses as cups of coffee within 30 minutes of the last cup; and/or

·         Limit total coffee intake to two 12-oz cups per day, aiming for only one cup per sitting.

 

 

RESOURCES

·         The Benefits (Yes, You Read That Right) of Coffee Addiction, Food & Nutrition Magazine

·         Is it Time to Cut Back on Caffeine?, Food & Nutrition Magazine

·         Are You Consuming Coffee Correctly (video), AsapSCIENCE on YouTube

 

 

REFERENCES

1.      Bolton D. Coffee Consumption on the Rise. Stir: Global Insight on Coffee and Tea. http://stir-tea-coffee.com/tea-coffee-news/coffee-consumption-on-the-rise/. Published 11 April 2018. Accessed 17 April 2018.

2.      Self Nutrition Data. Coffee, brewed from grounds, prepared with tap water. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beverages/3898/2. Accessed 17 April 2018.

3.      Park A. Coffee Drinkers Really Do Live Longer. TIME Magazine. http://time.com/4849985/coffee-caffeine-live-longer/. Published 10 July 2017. Accessed 14 April 2018.

4.      Alsharif S. Caffeine and Exercise. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/fueling-your-workout/caffeine-and-exercise. Published 28 April 2015. Accessed 16 April 2018.

5.      Moderate coffee drinking may lower risk of premature death. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health News Releases. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/moderate-coffee-drinking-may-lower-risk-of-premature-death/. Updated 16 November 2016. Accessed 15 April 2018.

6.      Bakalar N. Coffee May Cut Melanoma Risk. The New York Times Well Blog. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/coffee-may-cut-melanoma-risk/?_r=0. Published 22 January 2015. Accessed 14 April 2018.

7.      Fact Sheet: Everything You Need to Know About Caffeine. International Food Information Council Foundation. http://www.foodinsight.org/sites/default/files/IFIC_Caffeine_v5.pdf. Published in 2015. Accessed 17 April 2018.

8.      Barkyoumb G. Comprehensive Care for Anxiety: The Role of Diet. Food & Nutrition Magazine Stone Soup Blog. https://foodandnutrition.org/blogs/stone-soup/comprehensive-care-anxiety-role-diet/. Published 12 August 2014. Accessed 16 April 2018.

9.      Caffeine: How Much is Too Much? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678. Published 8 March 2017. Accessed 17 April 2018.

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