More than 60 percent of American adults drink coffee on a daily basis. Many may not realize, however, that there is more to their morning cup than just a jolt from their sleepy stupor. Whether you start grabbing for your mug before your eyes are open or prefer a cup for an afternoon pick-me-up, coffee consumption, in moderation, has a lot of health benefits.
Research has linked coffee drinking to lower risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, Type II Diabetes, some cancers and stroke. Coffee has been shown to improve mood as well as enhance athletic performance. It is also the leading source of antioxidants in American diets and contains some nutrients, including potassium, niacin, vitamin E and magnesium.
But before you run out to your local coffee shop, here are few things to bear in mind.
It is easy to displace the many benefits of coffee if your version of this morning staple is loaded with “extras.” Mochas, lattes and other coffee specialties can pack a serious caloric punch, be high in sugar and contain as much fat as an entire fast food meal.
However, there are ways to enjoy your favorite coffee drinks and not wreck your diet. When ordering:
- Get the small size
- Ask for skim milk
- Ask for sugar-free syrup
- Cut out the whipped cream
This will eliminate a considerable amount of the fat and calories compared to items ordered straight from the menu.
Prefer to make coffee at home? The amount of cream and sugar you add to your cup of coffee may appear small but if you have two or more cups a day it definitely adds up. Let’s say you have three cups a day and use two teaspoons of sugar and a tablespoon of cream per cup. That’s 2,200 teaspoons of sugar in a year.
From a calorie standpoint, that’s almost 9.5 lbs from the sugar alone! And the cream? One tablespoon per cup over a year equates to almost 3 gallons of coffee cream contributing more than 6 pounds worth of calories.
Together, those small amounts in your cup of coffee may pack on more than 15 pounds in a single year. Instead, try a calorie-free sugar substitute and a tablespoon of non-fat creamer for your coffee which only contains about 1/3 of the calories of regular coffee cream.
Also, coffee contains caffeine, a drug. As with all drugs, caffeine can be addictive and abused if you are using it to replace getting enough sleep at night. Habitual coffee drinkers may find that they need to consume more and more to feel awake over time if using it to replace lost sleep. Getting too much caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns and make you anxious and irritable. And if you’ve ever missed your morning coffee, you may have experienced a headache or other caffeine withdrawal symptoms. You can help avoid these symptoms by gradually decreasing your coffee consumption rather than cutting it out cold turkey.
So, like all things, moderation is key. Most experts agree that moderate coffee consumption is around three 8-ounce cups daily. Pregnant and nursing women may want to keep intake to two 8-ounce servings per day and check with your doctor.