Is Coffee OK to Drink?

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD  

Coffee is a staple of the American diet and some people enjoy multiple cups a day. If you are someone who relies on the energizing jolt that a cup of Joe provides, starting your day with coffee may seem like a non-negotiable.  

But is this popular beverage healthy? Even more, is it OK to drink when you’re trying to lose weight?  

Too much coffee, especially with added sugar or flavorings, can stand in the way of your health goals. On the other hand, a growing body of research suggests that coffee may protect against disease and have other health benefits.  

As it turns out, how much coffee you drink and what you put in it makes a big difference.   

Is Coffee Healthy? How Much Can I Drink? 

Coffee is loaded with antioxidants, or compounds that protect cells against damage. This may be the reason why it has been associated with a lower risk of developing chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and others. Even more, the caffeine in coffee can improve alertness, energy, and brain function.  

Even though coffee is a rich source of antioxidants, drinking too much caffeine can lead to upset stomach, anxiety, insomnia, increased heart rate, and other negative effects.  

For these reasons, most experts recommend limiting daily coffee consumption to one to two cups and having no more than four cups, or the equivalent of 400 mg of caffeine, a day.  

A cup of coffee can have between 95 and 165 mg of caffeine. Not only does the caffeine content of coffee vary, but people metabolize the beverage in different ways. Some people are more affected by caffeine than others.  

If you are someone who does not experience negative side effects from caffeine, continuing to drink coffee in moderation should not be harmful to your health and may even provide benefits.  

How Does Coffee Go From Healthy to Unhealthy?  

Black coffee can be highly nutritious and contains almost no calories. What you add to coffee is the game changer.  

Bulking up coffee with heavy cream, sugar, and syrups transforms the seemingly healthy beverage into a drink that wreaks havoc on your health goals.  

This is especially true if you are trying to lose weight. Loaded coffee drinks are a source of excess calories that provide basically no nutrition. Just swapping your flavored latte with plain coffee may help you decrease your overall energy intake and shed some pounds.  

If you don’t like black coffee, try adding skim of low-fat milk. If you are someone who already adds half and half or heavy cream, be mindful of your portions. One tablespoon can go a long way and may be all you need. 

Coffee can be a beneficial addition to your diet even if you are trying to lose weight. Just be mindful that you do not add too many extras. 

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Stef Keegan