The Truth About Coffee and Health

Learn about the benefits and side effects of drinking coffee, including how much you should really consume in a day and whether or not it’s as bad as you think.

Drinking black coffee (or coffee of any kind) has a bad reputation. Truth be told, I’ve started my morning with a cup of coffee for as long as I can remember.

You may be thinking that this makes me a pretty bad nutritionist. Coffee has caffeine, after all, and isn’t caffeine bad for you? As a matter of fact, there’s a ton of research to indicate that drinking coffee may actually be good for you.

Is coffee bad for you?

But the health benefits of coffee are based on how much you have per day and how you take your coffee. Let’s delve into the facts on drinking coffee and the supposed health benefits (or lack thereof).

Is coffee bad for you?

Have you ever thought about what is actually in coffee? Believe it or not, there is more to a cup of coffee than caffeine!

Coffee is a complex blend of more than a thousand chemicals, some of which have nutritional benefits. Here is what is actually in your cup of coffee.

Water

Not surprisingly, an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains 8-ounces of water. The myth that coffee is dehydrating has, thankfully, been laid to rest. Coffee has no effect on our hydration status.

While coffee shouldn’t be your primary source of water, it’s definitely an added benefit.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants, which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, are prevalent in roasted coffee beans. In fact, coffee is one of the biggest sources of antioxidants globally!

Consumption of antioxidants has been associated with a lower risk of many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.  

Is coffee good for you?

Riboflavin

Coffee is rich in riboflavin. Riboflavin, otherwise known as Vitamin B2, is one of the essential B vitamins. It’s not found in many foods, but it is abundant in coffee.

Riboflavin helps break down nutrients in the body, and a deficiency can affect the metabolism of certain nutrients and lead to preeclampsia (high blood pressure) in pregnant women.

Caffeine

Couldn’t forget caffeine! Each 8-ounce cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine, and a 2-ounce espresso shot has about 80 mg of caffeine. It’s important to note, however, that most coffeehouse cups are at least 12-ounces and contain about 120 mg of caffeine.

How much caffeine should you have in a day?

If you’re worried about your caffeine intake, chances are you probably shouldn’t be. Experts agree that healthy adults can consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day without any negative side effects.

For the average coffee drinker, that means drinking four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day shouldn’t result in any negative health effects.

the health benefits of coffee

To put this into perspective, here is a list of other common sources of caffeine in the diet:

  • 92% Dark Chocolate contains 14 mg of caffeine per 1 square 
  • 1-ounce milk chocolate bar (about the size of a Hersey bar) has 5 mg of caffeine
  • 12-ounce can of soda has 30 mg of caffeine
  • Nuun Sport + Caffeine Tablets contain 40 mg of caffeine per tablet 
  • 8-ounce glass of tea has 40 mg of caffeine
  • Clif Bloks Tropical Punch Energy Chews contain 25 mg caffeine per 2-ounces

Coffee effects on the body

It’s pretty evident from the above that coffee in moderation isn’t detrimental to health. Many studies have actually linked coffee consumption to health benefits, such as:

Coffee is beneficial to the heart. Studies have shown that drinking coffee in moderation has been associated with heart health, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart failure.

coffee effects on the body

Coffee may be good for the brain. Studies have found that coffee may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and slow cognitive decline. While the link between coffee and reduced disease risk is uncertain, the antioxidants in coffee may prevent some brain cell damage associated with cognitive impairment.

Coffee is good for the liver. The evidence regarding the benefits of coffee for people with liver disease is so compelling that daily coffee intake is actually encouraged for those with chronic liver disease.

Coffee has been shown to improve athletic performance. Coffee can boost energy levels, increase time to exhaustion, and reduce perceptions of fatigue. I always have coffee before a race, but I make sure to consume my morning coffee at least 2 hours prior to the race to avoid potential digestion issues.

Coffee negative side effects

As with everything, stick to the purest form of coffee and drink it in moderation. Consuming large, fancy drinks with flavored syrups, whipped cream, or tons of cream can lead to excess calorie consumption and weight gain.

I recommend a black cup of coffee, either black or with milk. If you need some additional flavor, try a dash of cinnamon, rather than added sugar.

Of course, caffeine stays in your system for 4-6 hours, which can keep you awake at night or lead to restless sleep. Caffeine can also agitate or overstimulate some people, especially if you’re already stressed or anxious.

Everyone metabolizes caffeine differently, so pay attention to how your body reacts to coffee. If you are not already a caffeine user, starting it now may make you feel nervous or jittery.

Learn more about caffeine for runners

If you’re a runner and want to learn more about how caffeine can help or hurt your performance, check out this article I wrote for Runner’s World. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    alyssamichelecohen
    January 12, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    I love this post! Very insightful!

  • Reply
    Strength and Sunshine
    January 20, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    I just love my black venti dark roast everyday 😛

  • Reply
    Matcha Madness: It Is Worth The Hype? | Nutrition à la Natalie
    October 5, 2015 at 8:01 am

    […] I recommend an overall healthy diet with a little Matcha on the side. And, just as I said in my post about coffee and health, sweet matcha drinks with syrups, whipped cream, or a large amount of whole milk can definitely […]

  • Reply
    Savvy Sports Nutrition:Why Running Upsets Your Stomach & How To Fix It – Nutrition à la Natalie
    March 3, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    […] meal and snack suggestions! It’s best to avoid food entirely for 1-2 hours before a race. I’m a big supporter of caffeine at least 2 hours before a race, but caffeine affects everyone differently. If coffee or tea upsets your stomach, avoid it on race […]

  • Reply
    Coffee good for Skin 
    May 16, 2016 at 5:33 am

    Coffee is actually good for your skin. The foremost thing to have a healthy and glowing skin is to use skin care products enriched in antioxidants. These antioxidants protect your skin from damage and premature aging. Research has proved that coffee has substantial antioxidant benefits! In fact 3 – 5 cups of coffee a day provide you with around 60% of your daily antioxidant intake

  • Reply
    Nutrindo Ideias
    January 7, 2020 at 3:26 am

    This is such an amazing and informative article about coffee. Really nice

  • Reply
    Russell Volz
    May 28, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    FINALLY! I’ve been saying the same thing for years!
    1. Coffee is NOT a diuretic!
    2. The health benefits of drinking coffee far outweigh any negative side-effects.
    3. The acidic level of coffee is almost the same Ph as the human body.

    The real problem with coffee is when roasters burn the beans and you end up drinking what is in essence charcoal. Secondly, all coffee starts going stale and bitter immediately. Any roasted coffee over 30 days old is going to taste bitter. If you want smooth coffee then it must be fresh. Just search the internet for “Smoothest Coffee”. There are a number of good options there.

    Thanks again for clarifying these issues.

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