Is coffee good for you?
By Tristan Hoag
Posted in: Health
From a health perspective, is coffee good? For you, and for others, the answers may vary
For a long time, coffee was thought to increase the risk of cancer, heart problems, stomach ulcers and other medical conditions. This belief was based on studies that had an essential flaw. Heavy coffee drinkers are more likely to engage in activities like smoking and drinking alcohol, and early studies didn’t control for these factors. This skewed the results, giving coffee a bad reputation.
Once this error was identified, new studies began to show that coffee had many positive effects. This has led to confusion over the drink, leaving many to wonder “Is coffee good for you?”
Drinking coffee: benefits and risks
Not only does coffee taste great and get you moving in the morning, it is a low-calorie, low-fat beverage.
Coffee contains antioxidants that can help reduce your risk of some degenerative diseases, in higher concentrations than found in wines, teas and some fruits and vegetables. In addition to providing energy, the caffeine in your coffee can reduce pain, and help prevent some cancers. There are also small amounts of calcium and potassium.
Additional benefits of coffee drinking include:
- Reduced or delayed development of Parkinson’s disease.
- A decreased chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- Improved protection from liver diseases including cancer.
- Reduction in the effects of cognitive aging.
- Lowered risk of depression.
Of course, coffee isn’t entirely beneficial. Some of the side effects of coffee include:
- Unfiltered coffee can change the way your body processes cholesterol and can lead to a mild increase in cholesterol levels.
- If you have a genetic disorder that slows your ability to metabolize coffee, drinking more than two cups of coffee daily can increase your risk of heart disease.
In all, the side effects aren’t too bad for the various health benefits of coffee.
Preparing your coffee
Is coffee good for you if you drink it black? What if you stick to decaffeinated coffee? There are many different ways to prepare coffee, and some are better for you than others.
- Black coffee: With no fat and only 2 calories in an eight-ounce cup, black coffee is the least fattening way to energize your day. You'll still need to monitor your caffeine intake.
- Decaf coffee: If you're concerned about the caffeine content, decaffeinated coffee still offers you the health benefits of regular coffee.
- Sugar: The health risks of sugar are well documented, and it's easy to add too much to your coffee. No amount of health benefits will balance out the sugar in a bunch of Unicorn Frappuccinos!
- Butter and coconut oil: Also known as bulletproof coffee, adding butter and coconut oil to your coffee has been associated with massive increases of cholesterol.
- Unfiltered coffee: Drinks like lattés and cappuccinos that feature unfiltered coffee will increase your chances of raised cholesterol levels.
Drinking too much coffee
Although the dangers of caffeine are not as bad as once thought, they still exist. Your caffeine intake should not exceed 400mg per day, which is the equivalent of four 8-oz cups of coffee per day.
The consequences of consuming too much caffeine include behavioral symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, restlessness, and insomnia, and physical symptoms such as upset stomach, migraines, urinary problems, muscle tremors and a fast heartbeat.
Considering your situation
This limit assumes that you are a typical coffee drinker in a normal situation. You may want to consider changing your coffee drinking habits in certain situations.
- After a workout: There isn’t a consensus on the benefits of drinking coffee after working out, but as long as you are staying properly hydrated there's no specific danger.
- While dieting: If you're on a diet, you should switch to black coffee. Without the extra sugar and cream, your cup of coffee contains less than 10 calories!
- During pregnancy: Women who are pregnant should reduce their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day or face an increased risk of miscarriage. There are no definitive studies on the physical dangers faced by expectant fathers when exceeding this 200mg limit in front of their pregnant wives.
- After a liver operation: Although it has benefits for liver health, there are a large number of active ingredients in coffee, and liver patients should avoid it. If you drink sugar and cream with your coffee, it is even worse for your liver.
- You should also avoid coffee: if you experience trouble sleeping, suffer from epilepsy, or have glaucoma, you shouldn’t drink coffee.
So, assuming you're reasonably healthy, and aren’t adding too much sugar and cream, you don’t need to worry about your morning pick-me-up. The answer to the question "Is coffee good for you?" will usually be yes. And whatever your concerns or questions about coffee and other nutrition issues, you can always get them resolved by the Experts on JustAnswer.com.
How do you drink your coffee? Share your preferred recipe in the comments below!