coffeeYes, we have heard that coffee has health benefits – and this is true.   First, for many of us who experience coffee’s morning wake-up call to the brain, did you know that caffeinated coffee (and tea) can sharpen brain function and reduce cognitive decline over time?

 Another piece of good news is that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the US diet.  That’s not because coffee is the best source (we know fruits and vegetables are better!), but   because Americans drink so much coffee.  The antioxidant in coffee that scientists are studying is cholorgenic acid, which slows the intestinal absorption of glucose.   This effect may also help to explain another coffee benefit, of reducing your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. 

However, it’s important to recognize that the studies about these health benefits refer to black coffee, with no sugar, cream, or other flavorings.   Only 35% of American drink their coffee black.  The rest of us have to be careful what we add to our coffee, so those ‘extras’ don’t outweigh any possible health benefits.

So what do you add to your coffee –milk, cream, sugar?  Those contain extra calories and possibly saturated fat.  So if you must add to your coffee, choose carefully.  Many coffee shops have skimmed or low-fat milk – you just have to ask for it.   You can add cinnamon or other spices that don’t add calories or fat. And artificial sweeteners let you sweeten your coffee without any calories.

Nutritionally, the consequences of certain coffee choices can be coffee_beansdisastrous. Did you know that a large vanilla bean Frappuccino with whipped cream delivers over 500 calories? It’s astonishing: many of the coffee drinks served at coffee shops s are little more than coffee-flavored sugar and fat potions that contribute to rapid weight gain. Nutritionally speaking, they’re not that different from ice cream.  Other drinks such as Mochaccino or iced coffee drinks (10 oz. size) may have over 250 calories. The syrup flavor alone has 80 calories and you may want to think twice about the whipped cream, with about 100 calories.   In fact, many of these coffee DRINKS have more calories, more saturated fat and salt than a healthy MEAL!

 If you absolutely must have your fancy coffee fix, try skim or 1% milk, sugar –free flavor shots, artificial or small amounts of sugar,  and SKIP the whipped cream.  By making these few changes we can have our coffee, but capture of some the health benefits too!