Coffee craze: the good and bad of coffee

Did you know that 62% of Americans drink coffee every single day? The strong, fragrant brew is a favorite among young and old, and is enjoyed for both its flavor and caffeine boost. However, in addition to the caffeine buzz, coffee also contains good nutrition and may provide other health benefits.

Health benefits of coffee

Coffee contains several vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, including:

  • Riboflavin and Niacin, B vitamins that are important for energy and other functions in the body
  • Magnesium, a mineral with many roles, such as helping the heart and nerves to work properly and building bones
  • Potassium, which is important for the muscles, nerves and kidneys
  • Antioxidants – called polyphenols – which stop harmful chemical reactions in the body

In addition to its nutrition content, some studies have found that coffee may protect the liver and may reduce the risk for heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, gallstones and cancer.

Health risks of coffee

Coffee does contain a large amount of caffeine. That may cause problems for some, including anxiety, irregular heartbeat and difficulty sleeping. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 400 milligrams of caffeine or less per day, which is equal to three to five cups of coffee.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should limit coffee to two cups or 200 milligrams of caffeine per day because of possible risks to the baby. In addition, children and teens, those with reflux, uncontrolled high blood pressure or problems with sleeping should avoid or limit it.

It may also be wise to avoid or limit drinking unfiltered coffee (like French press) and eating whole coffee beans because they contain a compound that has been connected with higher triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

What about my favorite coffee drinks?

While coffee may have health benefits, specialty coffee drinks from places like Starbucks™ and Dunkin® can be significant sources of extra calories, saturated fat and added sugar. Let’s look at a few of the popular drinks from these establishments. You may be surprised by the calories and sugar found in just one drink.

Dunkin® (Medium drinks):

    • French Vanilla Latte with whole milk: 330 calories, 5 grams (g) saturated fat and 31 grams added sugars
    • Frozen Hazelnut Swirl: 680 calories, 6 grams saturated fat and 119 grams added sugars

Starbucks™ (Grande drinks):

  • White Chocolate Mocha: 430 calories, 13 grams saturated fat and 53 grams sugars
  • Caramel Frappuccino: 380 calories, 10 grams saturated fat and 54 grams sugars

While drinks like the ones above can be enjoyed as a special treat, it is a good idea to choose them less often. Instead, try these lower calorie options and tips:

  • A latte, cappuccino or macchiato with skim or almond milk are great choices that are lower in calories and free of saturated fat (70-130 calories per medium cup).
  • Ask for added cocoa or cinnamon in your drink to give the flavor a boost.
  • Ask for sugar-free syrup if you want a shot of sweetness in your drink or request one pump of regular syrup instead of two or three pumps.
  • Order coffee black and add your own sugar packets. One packet of sugar equals 4 grams of sugar.
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