Is Your Coffee Hurting or Helping You?

Posted On Mar 29, 2017 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

Is Your Coffee Hurting or Helping You

Depending on what headline you read or what day of the week it is, conflicting information about coffee and caffeine for everything from warding off dementia to fat loss to giving your workouts an extra jolt of energy. But what, if any of these, are true? Should you give up all caffeine, are certain sources better than others (for example energy drinks versus caffeinated tea vs diet soda), and how much is considered healthy?

Possible Benefits of Coffee

  • Focus and energy

    The caffeine in coffee gives us an extra boost of physical energy and mental alertness that most people are want. It can help with workouts by improving endurance and stamina so if you're struggling with workouts, go ahead and have a cup of coffee or tea about 30 minutes beforehand for a quick pick-me up.

  • Decreasing health risks

    Coffee may lower your risk of Type 2 Diabetes, both decaf and regular, suggesting that it may be the antioxidants found in coffee and not the caffeine that has health benefits.

  • Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Dementia

    The jury is still out as studies show conflicting results and coffee drinkers may have other habits that keep their brains healthy, not just drinking coffee. For now, drinking coffee, in moderate amounts, doesn't increase your risk for these diseases, but a direct link between coffee and brain health has yet to be determined.

Healthiest Sources

All of the sources listed below are naturally calorie-free. Adding milk or cream is fine too, but try to avoid or limit adding sugar or sweetened creamers to coffee. It adds up quickly!

  • Caffeinated Tea – Black or Oolong
  • Yerba Mate
  • Black Coffee
  • Green Tea Extract

Caffeine Choices to Avoid on a Daily Basis

  • Soda, both diet and regular
  • Energy Drinks
  • Sweetened coffee beverages
  • Weight loss pills and supplements

All of the above often have other useless ingredients, added sugar and empty calories, or extremely high amounts of caffeine that can leave you feeling awful, have other side effects, or don't do you any good.

How Much is Helpful?

Everyone metabolizes caffeine differently so this is a general guideline of a healthy quantity that shouldn't have any adverse effects like jitteriness or not being able to sleep. If you're sensitive to caffeine, consume it before noon to avoid it interfering with sleep.

  • 200-300mg/day or the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee at 8oz/cup or 3-4 cups of caffeinated tea

Consuming large amounts of caffeine on a regular basis (500mg or more) can have negative side effects like digestive issues, feeling restless, and it does temporarily raise blood pressure. Keep enjoying your cup (or two!) of joe but don't depend on it for any miracles!

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