Is Coffee Healthy For You?
What better way to start the season of ~love~ than by talking about something I hold very close to my heart: mi cafecito (or coffee for you gringos).
Coffee gets a bad rep and I really don’t know why. I’m here to set the record straight.
Coffee is great for you!
It’s considered to be a superfood (a food with many functional properties). Not only is coffee full of natural caffeine, it’s also loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants. There are thousands of research studies highlighting the benefits of coffee.
If you don’t believe me then you should at least listen to Harvard scientists:
What makes coffee so healthy?
Coffee is naturally complex, containing about 1,000 natural compounds plus about 300 more are added during the roasting process. Chlorogenic, ferulic, caffeic n-coumaric acids and melanoidins are a few of the researched bioactive compounds responsible for coffee’s health-boosting benefits.
In research, coffee has shown to lower the risk of some cancers like prostate cancer and skin cancer, type two diabetes, and even mental health issues like depression and suicide.
Despite some beliefs that coffee can cause heart problems, when put to the test in research studies, coffee was actually found to promote heart health by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes. (1, 2)
Can coffee cause dehydration?
It’s an outdated rumor that coffee is a diuretic and can cause dehydration. Coffee, like most beverages, is mostly made up of water, the number one element of hydration. Yes, it’s true caffeine can stimulate your bladder, especially if you’re not a regular coffee drinker. Keep in mind caffeine is a stimulant, it may stimulate your bladder and even your bowel movements, and that’s a good thing! You want to eliminate waste, not hold on to it. Over time, as caffeine tolerance rises the less you may experience these effects. (3, 4, 5)
Pro tip: Drink 8 cups of fluids daily to promote adequate hydration.
Does coffee alleviate or cause headaches?
In short, it can do both.
Coffee has “vasoconstrictive” properties, meaning, it narrows or constricts blood vessels, which is a good thing when you have a headache. Fun fact: combining coffee with aspirin or acetaphetamine can increase pain-relieving effects by 40%. (Hellooo, hangover cure?!) (6)
On the other hand, coffee rebounds or “withdraws” are an actual thing. But not for many of us. Only about 2% of people experience coffee headaches after consuming excessive amounts.
What’s considered an excessive amount? That’s up to you. This is when intuitive eating is important. Every person’s tolerance to coffee and caffeine will be different.
If you’re like me you can drink >2 cups of coffee on a daily basis, stop on a random day, and feel no side effects.
But if you drink only one cup and feel too jittery then you may need to drink decaf or just skip it all together.
If you’re not a fan of coffee, that’s cool too.
It’s not meant for anyone.
Avoid hidden calories in lattes, frappuccinos, and other coffee beverages.
Black coffee has little to no calories. When you add a 1.5oz (about a shot glass size) of whole milk it adds about 30 calories. Add a packet of raw sugar (1 teaspoon) adds another 20 calories. So, my average cup of coffee with whole milk and sugar is about 50 calories. I’ll take it.
But when you don't have control of the amount of cream you pour in or how much syrup is pumped in you could be drinking up to 500 calories or more! Now that’s just crazy.
Here’s a Buzzfeed list of 19 delicious dinner meals under 500 calories.
I’m not mentioning calories because I think you should count them. In fact, I strongly oppose calorie counting. But it’s important to be mindful of the calories you consume and acknowledge whether those calories are nutrient rich or completely empty.
Side note: Avoid creamers like Coffee Mate or Delights. They are filled with sketchy ingredients that I wouldn’t feel comfortable adding to my coffee every morning. I’m pro-organic dairy or milk alternatives (like soy or oat milk) but if you must use cream, choose natural half and half.