The Health Benefits of Coffee

Published 11/26 2012 12:06PM

Updated 11/26 2012 12:38PM

Many people like to start the day with a fresh cup (or cups) of coffee.  In the past, it was believed that coffee could be harmful, but research has shown that, overall, there is little evidence of health risk and there is actually evidence of health benefits for adults consuming moderate amounts of coffee (3-4 cups per day, providing 300-400 mg per day of caffeine).

Coffee has many health benefits. Preliminary, studies have indicated these possible valuable benefits:

  •     Lowers risk for Type 2 diabetes
  •     Lowers risk for Parkinson's disease
  •     Protects against development of colorectal cancer
  •     Lowers risk for cirrhosis and liver cancer
  •     Reduces risk for all-cause mortality

However, some people are more sensitive to the adverse effects of coffee so they should eliminate or reduce consumption. This includes:

    Those that drink more than moderate amounts of coffee
    Those with borderline or high blood pressure
    Those who are sensitive to caffeine
    Women who are pregnant (should limit to no more than 2-3 cups daily)
    Older adults need to make sure they get plenty of vitamin D and calcium,    
    because coffee can interfere with calcium absorption

Drinking coffee with meals that contain nonheme iron (non-animal sources of iron) can inhibit absorption of the iron. However, vitamin C can help offset that effect, or you can drink coffee between meals rather than during meals.

A plain cup of brewed coffee only has between 2 and 5 calories, but adding extras to our coffee can add extra fat and calories. Here are some common coffee drinks and the amount of calories and/or fat in each:

  1. Iced coffee (without syrup or with sugar-free syrup) - 16 ounce has 90 to 140 calories and may have anywhere from 0 to 5 grams of fat, depending on how it is made.
  2. Hot chocolate (with 2% milk) - 16 ounce has between 300 and 400 calories and 9 to 18 grams of fat.
  3. Vanilla latte (with syrup and 2% milk) - 16 ounce has between 250 and 300 calories and 6 to 8 grams of fat.
  4. Sugar-free vanilla latte (with nonfat milk) - 16 ounce has between 90 and 150 calories and no fat (this option has quite a bit less fat and calories than the regular vanilla latte).
  5. Pumpkin spice latte (with 2% milk) - 16 ounce has about 300 calories and about 6 grams of fat (switching to nonfat milk saves you about 50 calories).
  6. Mocha (with 2% milk) - 16 ounce has between 200 and 450 calories and 8 to 12 grams of fat, depending on what type (switching to nonfat milk saves you about 50+ calories).
  7. Cappuccino that you buy at a convenience store would be similar to the mocha amount, and you could have even more fat and calories if made with whole milk.
  8. Medium frappe or frappucino (coffee with ice cream) - 16 ounce has 500+ calories and anywhere from 5 to 20 grams of fat, depending on what type.
  9. Whipped cream will add over 100 additional calories to any of these drinks.

Many of these drinks only have small amounts of coffee, so the benefits would be less than drinking a cup of brewed coffee. It's best to limit these drinks and just stick to the plain cup of brewed coffee.

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