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COFFEE - The good, bad & calories

COFFEE - The good, bad & calories

on Thursday, 05 March 2015. posted in nutrition

ASK ALEX QUESTION:

Hi Alex

I read about coffee/caffeine, and views seem to differ whether there are benefits to drinking it (in moderation), or  not. Currently I have 1-2 cups a day and never later than mid-afternoon because I do notice the difference it makes to getting a good night’s sleep.

What is your take? 

You are very right in saying that the views on coffee vary from person to person, but recent research indicates that coffee in moderation may not be so bad after all.

The most recent evidence is that coffee is not harmful in moderate consumption. It had a bad wrap because old studies didn’t take into account other high risk factors of some coffee drinkers, like smoking and low physical activity which is common among heavy coffee drinkers.  For the general population, evidence now suggests that drinking coffee doesn’t have any serious health effects. What’s moderate consumption you ask? Anywhere between 1-3 cups a day, depending on how many shots of espresso are in the coffee you order / make - always ask the barista! I like to stick to no more than 2 coffees a day, as if I have more it affects my sleep - the dosages are going to be different for everyone.

For healthy adults with no medical issues, it is generally agreed upon that 300mg-400mg of caffeine can be consumed daily without any adverse effects. This is equivalent to about 5 single shots of espresso (remember to ask how many shots are in your coffee - a small will sometimes have 2, with a large having 3-4!)

*Important to note, we are talking cups of black coffee or long blacks with a dash of milk here, 3-4 cappuccinos or lattés would have a different outcome on the studies, as they are much higher in calories which could lead to weight gain and therefore other health problems. See calorie guide below.

If after drinking a certain amount of coffees you get tremors, have sleeping problems, or feel stressed/uncomfortable, then you’re drinking too much coffee. But in terms of effects on risk of chronic diseases or health problems, there don’t seem to be any negative effects of consuming a couple of cups of coffee a day. So…

The good:

Coffee may even have potential health benefits; coffee has been linked with being protective against Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and liver cancer. It can also improve cognitive function and physical performance in exercise. More research needs to be done, so it’s not like health professionals would encourage people to drink more coffee, but it’s good news if you do enjoy your coffee!

The bad:

Bad effects happen if you drink too much of it. Honestly, for a person with no health problems, the evidence suggests that coffee drinking doesn’t have any serious detrimental health effects. It may affect your sleep or make you feel anxious, which is never a good thing, so that is something you would have to monitor to determine your limit without affect. But sugar, whipped cream, syrups, mocha, large size milk lattes/cappuccinos aside - a cup of black coffee or a small long black with a little milk is not an unhealthy beverage choice.

People who should avoid it or drink much less:

-Pregnant women. The best available evidence shows that caffeine does cross the placenta and reaches the foetus, and they are very sensitive to it. It also may reduce the foetal growth.

-People with high blood pressure. Drinking coffee isn’t associated with a substantial increased risk of hypertension but if you have hypertension (high blood pressure), caffeine can initially increase your blood pressure when you first start drinking it, so you could try using decaffeinated coffee, to see if it helps.

Those skinny lattés/cappuccinos and your weight:

Milky coffees contain much more milk which bumps up the calorie content:

Size Small:

A small long black: 5 kj

 0 calories

 

A small skinny latte/cappuccino 295 kj 70 calories
A small whole milk latte/cappuccino 490 kj 115 calories

Size medium/standard/most takeaway sizes:

A standard long black: 5 kj

 0 calories

 

A standard skinny latte/cappuccino 425 kj 100 calories
A standard whole milk latte/cappuccino 740 Kj 175 calories

Size large:

A large long black: 5 kj

 0 calories

 

A large skinny latte/cappuccino 560 kj 135 calories
A large whole milk latte/cappuccino 960 kj 230 calories

*Soy milk is similar values to whole milk

*These are average Australian sizes and values

*These values do not include sugar

So you can see that a few milky coffees can really add up over a day. I know black coffee can be bitter, so what I do is order/make a long black and add a dash (about 25-50ml) of skim/soy/almond milk, and maybe a little stevia. Or I will enjoy a cappuccino or a late as my mid morning or afternoon snack, or with a lighter breakfast. If I have had 2 coffees already or I am ordering a hot drink just for the sake of it, I always order/make a cup of tea instead.

I think the answer, as it is with all topics of nutrition, is that moderation is key. A little bit of coffee is okay, but too much could be bad to your health. If you enjoy it, I think a couple of small cups a day is fine, and if you find yourself wanting more when you feel you shouldn’t, try a cup of tea. 

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