Not counting water, coffee is the most popular beverage consumed by Americans. Most adults eagerly look forward to their morning “cup of joe,” and many rely on the caffeine from coffee to get them through their days.
Thankfully, drinking coffee can have many health benefits. Yet without realizing it, an average cup of coffee can easily be turned into a decadent dessert in a cup, which negates these benefits. Read on to find out how to make coffee healthy so you can sip with both health and taste in mind.
Is coffee healthy for you?
Most people think of caffeine when it comes to coffee, but coffee also contains antioxidants and other substances that can benefit your health.
Here are three major ways coffee can be healthy for you:
May help with weight management.
Studies show that the caffeine present in coffee increases resting metabolic rate, or the amount of calories your body burns at rest. It may also assist with fat-burning. However, experts believe that it is more likely to slightly boost weight-loss efforts or help prevent weight gain rather than lead to noticeable weight loss.
Contains a variety of nutrients.
Coffee doesn’t top the charts when it comes to vitamins and minerals, but it does help provide small amounts of certain nutrients. One cup of coffee contains 14% of the daily value needed for riboflavin (vitamin B2), 12% of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and 2% each for the minerals manganese, magnesium and potassium. While these amounts may not be significant, they add up since most people consume more than one cup per day. As mentioned, coffee is also rich in antioxidants, which support and protect your health in many ways.†
May lower your risk for many diseases.
This includes type 2 Diabetes, liver diseases, depression and brain disorders like Alzheimers and Dementia. Many studies have supported the hypothesis that regular coffee consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes. In addition, a major study found that coffee drinking of three to five cups per day during midlife was associated with a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimers by about 65% during elderly years.†
How to make coffee healthy
While the above health benefits can be significant, they likely do not apply if the coffee is loaded with added sugar or other harmful ingredients. That’s why it is important to enjoy your coffee in a way that honors your health so you can fully reap its benefits.
A traditional latte from a coffee shop can easily pack over 18 grams of added sugar (nearly 5 teaspoons), while ice-blended coffee drinks can contain upwards of 400 calories, 65 grams of added sugar (16 tsp) and nearly 10 grams of saturated fat. Yikes!
Here are some tips for making coffee healthy when ordering out or making coffee at home:
Watch your sizes.
When ordering coffee out, keep in mind that the larger the size, the more sugar and other artificial ingredients. The large size at most coffee shops is up to 20 ouces, which is much more than is necessary for most people. Try sticking to the medium or small size (12 to 16 oouces) to get your coffee fix without counteracting its health benefits.
Choose the right milk.
Many milk-based coffee drinks are made with sweetened condensed milk or whole milk, both of which contain more calories and less-healthy saturated fats. Instead, consider asking for organic low-fat dairy options, or substitute unsweetened almond, oat or soy milks to save on calories, sugar and fat.
Know where added sugar hides.
Most coffee drinks are loaded with sugar before you even consider adding your own. Sugar hides in ingredients like sweetened milks, creamers, syrups, and whipped cream, not to mention the sugar you may add yourself. When ordering out, it can be a good idea to request half the amount of syrup traditionally used, and leave off the whipped cream.
When making your own coffee at home, pay attention to how much sugar is in the coffee creamer you use and how much you may be adding yourself. You may consider using a small amount of naturally sugar-free organic half and half or another similar alternative instead of traditional, sweetened creamers. Your taste buds will adapt to the less sweet flavor over time.
Read the labels.
When buying pre-packaged coffee drinks and creamers, be sure to check both the nutrition facts panel and the ingredients list. Watch out for added sugar, calories and saturated fat content, and scan the ingredients list to identify any artificial colors, flavorings or preservatives, which should be avoided. Many coffee creamers also contain corn syrup solids and partially hydrogenated oils, which are a source of dangerous trans fats and should also be avoided.
Choose organic beans.
Coffee is a crop that is highly sprayed with pesticides. A variety of toxic chemicals can be used in the growing and roasting process, which can then leach into your brewed cup. Pesticides can be harmful to your health in many ways, so choosing organic coffee beans both for use at home and when ordering at a store is your best bet to limit these effects.
Keep it simple.
A good rule of thumb is the fancier the drink, the more sugar and added ingredients it will have. While the occasional seasonal treat or indulgence is probably okay, try to keep your most often consumed coffee drinks to a simple latte or something similar.
What to put in your coffee
To sum it up, here are the ingredients that are best added and avoided when it comes to coffee drinks:
Ingredients to add:
- Organic cows milk, or unsweetened plant-based milk of choice
- Low-sugar or naturally sugar-free coffee creamers
- Small amounts of natural sweeteners (or none at all)
- If you’re feeling adventurous, feel free to try other health-boosters like adaptogens or collagen peptides which can blend in easily to cold or hot coffee without changing the flavor too much.
Ingredients that should be avoided:
- Artificial sugars and other flavorings (which are often found in manufactured “sugar-free” products)
- Artificial flavorings
- Processed added sugar from things like flavored syrups and whipped cream
- Excess sugar or cream in general
Now you have the basics to create endless healthy coffee recipes to help you feel energized throughout your day. Just remember to pair your coffee with nourishing foods to further support your body and health. Happy sipping!
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.