Coffee Talk: Healthy Drink or Diet Disaster?

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Hi Hungry Girl,

After years of trying to cut down my coffee intake, I've been hearing lately that coffee actually has health benefits. What's the deal? Is coffee good or bad for me?

Confused by Coffee

Is Coffee Good for You?

Hi Confused,

Thanks for your question! No doubt about it -- a lot of the info surrounding coffee is confusing. The bottom line is this: While drinking a few cups of coffee a day is probably harmless (as long as you don't have any personal sensitivities to the drink) and could even have health benefits, there are some hidden dangers lurking in your cup of joe. Read on for more info, plus tips 'n tricks...

The latest buzz comes from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's 2015 report, which says that drinking coffee is linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The committee also stated that drinking three to five cups of coffee per day (totaling up to 400 milligrams of caffeine) isn't associated with any long-term health risks for adults. Good news for coffee lovers, right?

But the DGAC report refers only to plain black coffee, which is virtually calorie-free. It's not uncommon for a coffee-shop java drink to contain hundreds of calories and dozens of grams of sugar! And I don't think I need to tell you that taking in too much sugar and too many calories can be bad for your health. Even seemingly healthy ingredients like cane sugar, agave syrup, soymilk, and coconut milk can contribute tons of excess calories to your coffee drink... especially if you use a lot.

As for the caffeine in coffee, it has its perks... but there's also a downside. A little caffeine can actually be good for weight loss and maintenance, since it stimulates metabolism. But too much can make you jittery and lead to poor sleep, which can contribute to weight gain. Ack!

So how can you have your coffee and drink it too? Follow these three tips...

1. Stick with smart add-ins. I'm a huge fan of unsweetened vanilla almond milk -- an entire cup has only around 35 calories. And Truvia is my go-to no-calorie sweetener -- all-natural, and it tastes a lot like real sugar. P.S. Watch out for flavored coffee when you're out and about… It's sometimes presweetened and loaded with calories. Always ask before you order.

2. Switch to decaf in the afternoon. A cup of sweet coffee after lunch or dinner can be a nice meal ender — it can even satisfy a sweet tooth. But if you don't want to toss and turn all night, stick with decaf. Heads up: Decaf coffee still has a little caffeine, so don't go too crazy with it.

3. Keep track of the stats. Even so-called no-calorie sweeteners have a few calories per packet, and the calories in any milk or milk swap will add up. Pay attention to what you add, and how much... Then keep track of those calories, so you don't overdo it.

P.S. On a related note, check out this awesome book by my pal Robert J. Davis, PhD: Coffee is Good for You: From Vitamin C and Organic Foods to Low-Carb and Detox Diets, the Truth about Diet and Nutrition Claims. Such a good read!


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