For years, coffee has been America’s favorite hot beverage, providing bio-fuel for millions of morning commuters. In fact, the average person in the US drank 416 cups of it during 2009, despite frequent warnings from doctors and nutritionists over its caffeine content. Recent studies have shown, however, that coffee is much better for your health than was once thought.
When drank in moderation (and without extra cream and sugar), coffee makes a fine addition to any daily routine – in fact, it might even pack some surprising health perks. Here are a few coffee nutrition facts that should get your percolator running.
It Can Lower your Risk for Type-2 Diabetes
The positive link between coffee and type-2 diabetes is quite strong, with over 15 published studies supporting it. One 2005 study showed particularly promising results: out of 193,000 people, those who drank coffee more than 6 or 7 times daily were 35% less likely to have type 2 diabetes.
This is because coffee contains antioxidants, which can fight the tissue damage caused to certain parts of the body by molecules known as oxygen-free radicals. It also contains magnesium and chromium, substances which can help the body to manage insulin production.
It’s Safer than Most Energy Drinks
Coffee has some surprising health benefits, but none of these are due to its caffeine content. Caffeine isn’t harmful in small amounts, but heavy & habitual use can lead to insomnia, irritability, stomach and headaches, and muscle pain.
It’s also worth noting that caffeine is technically a psychoactive drug, leading to mild addiction and withdrawal-like symptoms over time.
Coffee is far lower in sugars and chemical additives than most energy drinks and caffeine supplements, however – especially if it’s brewed fresh from organic beans. With many energy drinks being linked to obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and even death, coffee is a much smarter choice.
If you’re concerned about your caffeine intake, opt for a darker roast, especially if it’s an Arabica blend – these are naturally lower in caffeine, containing 71-120 mg per cup.
Related: 7 Ways to Have More Energy All Day
It Can Keep You Virus-Free
Who knew that coffee can actually reduce your risk of catching or spreading viruses? According to Immunology expert Dr. Jennifer Collins, that’s exactly the case.
“Coffee has a unique component called N-methyl-pyridinium formate that researchers from Japan have shown to decreases viral replication and also toxic properties to viruses. It’s even been shown to have anti-viral and viracidal properties against herpes simplex virus, a common virus transmitted via kissing”.
Phew. So the next time you’re on a date, go heavy on the coffee…especially if you want to wake up without a nasty bug from your make-out session the night before.
Drinking Coffee Can Help You Fight Cavities
As long as you’re not adding sugar, coffee could actually be good for your teeth. Dr. Jennifer says that it’s because of a special compound found in coffee and some other favorite drinks. “Coffee, wine and tea all contain natural compounds called polyphenols that have anti-adhesive properties for certain bacteria that cause dental carries. Drinking these beverages has been shown to decrease the bacteria that cause dental cavities.”
Hotter is Better
If you’re looking for a reason to pick cappuccino over frappuccino, you’ve found it. Hot drinks can naturally aid digestion and breathing while increasing alertness. Some studies have even suggested that hot drinks can prevent the spread and growth of certain infectious bacteria – though the links aren’t very strong at the moment. Note that these benefits can be enjoyed with any hot drink, including tea, cocoa, and simple hot water.
It’s a Conversation Starter
The energizing effects of coffee make it a great tool for any meeting. Its ability to stimulate thought and spark conversations have made it a break room staple; it’s also must-have in bookstores, on camping trips, and even on airplanes. Besides, “coffee social” sounds so much better than, say… “Mountain Dew social.”
Related: How to Communicate Effectively
Variety… the Spice of Life
With so many flavors, varieties, and methods of preparation, finding the perfect coffee for you can be a real adventure. With natural flavors and even gourmet options, a cup of joe is certainly a classier choice than a Monster energy drink.
Keep in mind that nutritional content and health perks can vary widely between different styles and servings; for those with a sweet tooth, a Grande Caramel Americano sadly isn’t going to provide the same benefits as black coffee.
Types of Coffee
Now you might be wondering, “Just what kind of coffee should I be drinking?” The answer depends on what you hope to get out of your morning brew. There are dozens of different coffee drinks to choose from, and even more ways to prepare and serve them. Whether you’re looking for flavor, energy, or nutrition, there’s a drink for you.
The next time you’re at the local café, try one of these beverages – and don’t worry if you can’t pronounce them. It happens to the best of us.
Its name is Italian for “express,” so it should come as no surprise that this strong beverage is made fast and drank even faster. A typical espresso contains a single shot of black coffee with no milk, offering the drinker a concentrated dose of caffeine (usually between 80-100 mg).
Espressos don’t have much nutritional value, but they’re extremely low in calories, making them a good source of quick energy. If you have a condition that could be worsened by a caffeine spike – like insomnia or hypertension – it would be best to stick with the lighter Americano, which adds 1 part water.
Related: 37 Superfoods to Start Eating Today
A richer and more flavorful espresso, cappuccino is served with steamed milk, plus an occasional dash of chocolate powder or nutmeg. This added ingredient dilutes the caffeine’s impact and provides a decent serving of calcium and protein.
However, it’s also higher in calories than a typical espresso, and could be trouble for lactose-intolerant drinkers. Those who like their coffee light, though, can choose the even-milkier café latte; ask for skim milk if you’re worried about the extra fat.
If you enjoy the taste and feel of a good cup of joe but can’t wait for it to cool, iced coffee is a good option. There’s no heat involved in the cold brewing process – just soak the grounds in water for a few hours. This often results in a bitter and less flavorful drink, so some cafés will mix hot drinks with cold milk instead.
There are iced versions of almost every drink – “frappuccino” is one of the better-known varieties – so cool coffee fans are bound to find one that meets their dietary or energy needs.
Before you worry about import prices, note that the term “Turkish coffee” only describes the drink’s preparation – there’s no special Turkish coffee bean.
Turkish coffee involves beans that have been roasted 2 or 3 times and lightly powdered with sugar, making for a very powerful drink. The sugar adds extra calories to the coffee, but it’s usually served without milk or cream, making this strong but sweet drink a fine choice for more health-conscious consumers.
These coffee nutrition facts should help you enjoy your next cup of joe…in moderation. There are many different ways to drink it, and most offer health benefits as long as it’s not consumed in excess. So go ahead, grab a cup of coffee brewed your favorite way…doing so will ensure you have enough energy to debate your tea-loving friends about which drink is best!
1. Chawla, Jasvinder, MD, et al. “Neurological Effects of Caffeine.” emedicine.medscape.com. 21 Nov 2011.
2. Mercola, Joseph. “Mounting Evidence Suggests Coffee May Actually Have Therapeutic Health Benefits.” mercola.com. 16 Sept 2012.
3. Osterweil, Neil. “Say it’s so, Joe: The Potential Health Benefits – and Drawbacks – of Coffee.” webmd.com. 29 Aug 2011.
4. “Benefits of Hot Drinks.” Prepared Food Network. preparedfoods.com. 12 July 2011.
Photo by Chris Owens
Originally published 3/5/13 and updated 11/10/13.