Ah, coffee. Whether you’re cradling a travel mug on your way to work or dashing out after your workout to grab your skinny latte, for most, it’s hard to imagine a day without coffee.  The caffeine perks you up, and there’s something incredibly soothing about sipping a steaming cup of joe. But is drinking coffee good for you?

There’s still a lot of disagreement about whether or not coffee is good for you. Coffee seems to be a double-edged sword. It can make you feel more alert, productive, and motivated, and it is rich in antioxidants. However, for some people, it has the opposite effect — leaving them feeling anxious, jittery, and unable to focus.

According to the National Coffee Association, more than 50 percent of all U.S. adults drink coffee every single day. Worldwide, coffee is the second most consumed beverage after water in many nations, and it’s the leading contributor of caffeine to the average person’s diet. But…is coffee healthy? While past studies hinted that coffee might have a dark side, newer research suggests that it may actually have health benefits. Many older studies on coffee did not always take into account that heavy coffee drinkers also tended to use tobacco and be sedentary.

When newer studies adjusted for such factors, they found a possible association between coffee and decreased mortality. Coffee may offer some protection against:

  1. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease: The caffeine in two cups of coffee may provide significant protection against developing these conditions. In fact, researchers found that women aged 65 and older who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were less likely to develop dementia in general.
  2. Type 2 diabetes: There’s a good deal of evidence that drinking coffee (2 to 6 cups) could lower the risk for type 2 diabetes by 7%.
  3. Anti-aging and DNA protection: Dark roast coffee decreases breakage in DNA strands, which occurs naturally, but can lead to cancer or tumors if not repaired by your cells.
  4. Cancer and Heart Disease: Research shows that coffee drinkers (decaf or regular) were 26 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer and 19% less likely to have a stroke.
  5. Living longer: A 2017 study published in the Annals of Medicine actually found drinking coffee seems to promote longevity. Looking at roughly 700,000 people from different racial backgrounds, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, drinking more coffee was linked to a lower risk of death.

Does coffee have risks?

Coffee still has potential risks, mostly due to its high caffeine content. For example, it can temporarily raise blood pressure. Women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or breastfeeding, need to be cautious about caffeine. The bottom line? Your coffee habit is probably fine and may even have some benefits. But if you have side effects from coffee, such as heartburn, nervousness, or insomnia, consider cutting back.

So how much coffee is the optimal amount to drink to get all the benefits, but still avoid the negative side effects? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s safe for most women to drink three to five cups of coffee a day with a maximum intake of 400 milligrams of caffeine. (Caffeine content can vary depending on the type of coffee, but an average 8-ounce cup has 95 milligrams.) But if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, the rules are different and your limit may be nearly 75% less than the average person.

Also, remember that what you add to your coffee can make a difference in the health content of the beverage. Instead of loading up on cream and sugar, try stirring in a ¼ teaspoon of the following for extra flavor:

  • Vanilla extract
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Cocoa powder

Try these healthy coffee drink recipes!

Iced Pumpkin Spice “Latte” Smoothie

  • 1 cup coffee
  • ½ cup milk of your choice (such as unsweetened vanilla flavored almond or coconut milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or ½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup canned plain pumpkin
  • 4 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients to create a seasonally inspired drink. Using real pumpkin adds beneficial fiber.

Bullet-proof coffee

  • 2 cups of coffee
  • 2 tablespoons of grass fed unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)

Blend with a spoon, or for a more frothy cup, blend with a power mixer or blender.

Dairy free bullet-proof coffee

  • 8 oz. brewed decaf or regular coffee or your favorite tea
  • 1 tablespoon liquid coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cacao butter
  • 1 tablespoon hemp hearts or your choice of nut/seed butter
  • 2-4 drops alcohol-free stevia, optional
  • 1 tablespoon grass-fed collagen

Brew coffee, add to the jug of your high-powered blender along with coconut oil, cacao butter, hemp hearts and stevia. Blend on high for 1 minute. During the last 10 seconds, add collagen. Transfer to a cup and enjoy.

Coffee does have vitamins:

The two most commonly grown types of coffee are arabica and robusta. While not a big contributor of vitamins and minerals to your diet, coffee is a much better choice than energy drinks, soda, and sweetened teas or juices. It contains no sugar or carbs and virtually no calories, so it fits into nearly all diets, including the vegan, Paleo and ketogenic diet.

One eight-ounce cup of regular coffee nutrition contains about:

  • 4 calories
  • 3 gram protein
  • 2 milligrams riboflavin (11 percent DV)
  • 6 milligram pantothenic acid (6 percent DV)
  • 116 milligrams potassium (3 percent DV)
  • 1 milligram manganese (3 percent DV)
  • 1 milligrams magnesium (2 percent DV)
  • 5 milligram niacin (2 percent DV)

So, enjoy your next cup of coffee knowing that you may be doing your body good. Put the right ingredients in it, and you can enjoy it guilt-free on these cooler Autumn mornings. We are always looking for new healthy ways to drink a cup of coffee, so feel free to share your healthy coffee recipes with us. We love partnering with you to help you become healthier than you have ever been.

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Daryl C. Rich, D.C., C.S.C.S.