Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. In fact, Americans drink more coffee than soda, tea, and juice combined.
People have a long history of enjoying coffee’s dark brew. It is steeped into our culture and is often the preferred “eye opening” morning drink to start our day. The pros and cons of coffee consumption have certainly been scrutinized over the years. The pendulum of health recommendations swings back and forth depending on the latest study.
For the first time, we may finally have an official verdict from a large review of more than 200 previous coffee consumption studies. The findings of this examination were published in the British Medical Journal and found evidence that moderate coffee intake is beneficial to health, rather than harmful. People who drink 3-4 cups of coffee a day appear to have less cardiovascular disease than those skipping the beverage, researchers found. This includes premature death from heart attacks and stroke. Some of the strongest protective effects may be with Parkinson’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, and liver conditions such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and chronic liver disease.
Most of the positive results might be from the polyphenols – plant compounds with antioxidant properties – that protect against cancer. Furthermore, other potential benefits from coffee relate to chemicals that reduce inflammation, which is thought to contribute to aging and the onset of chronic diseases. As it relates to keeping the heart healthy, coffee is believed to have an effect on blood vessels, keeping them flexible and healthy.
Cup of caution
While coffee consumption may appear to be healthful for many, others should cautiously limit their intake of caffeinated coffee. For example:
- Pregnant Women – Contradictory evidence suggests consuming more than 200 mg per day of caffeine may affect fetal growth, however, research is ongoing.
- People At Risk for Bone Fractures – Caffeine may leach calcium from bones causing you to lose about 6 milligrams of calcium for every 100 milligrams of caffeine ingested, according to Linda K. Massey, Ph.D., RD, a professor of human nutrition at Washington State University in Spokane.
- People With Heart Conditions – caffeine in coffee accelerates heart rate and those with atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) or hypertension should limit caffeine intake. “One to two cups daily is probably fine, but if you are sensitive, you should restrict all caffeine”, said Dr. Vince Bufalino, a spokesman for the American Heart Association.
Don’t Cancel Out the Benefits
Sweet coffee and tea are the fourth largest source of sugar in adult diets, a U.S.D.A survey found. Coffee drinks such as the Dunkin’ Donuts’ frozen Coconut Caramel with cream contain a whopping 860 calories, 17 grams of saturated fat, and 129 grams of total sugars. The sugar alone is concerning when compared to the U.S. Dietary Guideline of 50 grams of sugar a day. Drinks loaded with unhealthy fat and sugar bear little resemblance to the 2-calorie cup of black coffee that worried health experts of the past.
So, before taking your next sip of coffee follow these suggestions:
- Experts advise black coffee is best but as an alternative use low-fat milk or almond milk and skip the cream. Cream contributes about 50 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. A tablespoon of low-fat milk has 14 calories and a tablespoon of almond milk has only 5 calories.
- Avoid sugar in your coffee. A teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. It may not sound like much, but if you add two teaspoons to your brew and drink a few cups per day, the calories add up.
- Choose filtered coffee if you have high cholesterol. Unfiltered coffee, like the kind made from a French press, retains compounds known as cafestol and kahweol, which may contribute to increased cholesterol levels in some people.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, it’s best to avoid coffee and all sources of caffeine in the evening or close to bedtime.
If you are enjoying your daily cup of joe in moderation, experts say continue onward.
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