Coffee is one the most popular drinks worldwide, and most Americans have at least a cup every morning. Coffee has had a negative reputation because it is high in caffeine. However, much research has pointed to the surprising health benefits of coffee.
Here are some possible benefits from coffee consumption:
- Protecting against cardiovascular disease
- Protecting against type 2 diabetes
- Anti-cancer properties
- May help reduce risk of gallstones
- Protect the brain from diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
The caffeine effects from coffee may be offset from the antioxidants and phenol compounds in coffee. Most of these health benefits are associated with moderate intake, around 1-2 cups per day. Drinking more coffee than this dose per day may not have the same health effects, and may actually cause some harm. See also: Does coffee help you lose weight?
In order to get the optimal benefits from coffee, keep these ways to make your coffee healthier in mind.
Use a filter
Two compounds in coffee, kahweol and cafestol, can increase cholesterol which could increase risk for cardiovascular disease. Using a filter for coffee will “catch” these compounds so they don’t make their way into a coffee cup.
However, not using a filter won’t stop these two compounds from going in your coffee cup. In order to receive the possible heart health benefits from coffee, make sure to use a filter. Limit intake of coffee drinks, like lattes, that don’t use a filter.
Use the right kind of filter
Avoid the white, bleached coffee filters. The bleach in these filters can leak out into the coffee and go into your body along with other chemicals used in the filter. Use unbleached coffee filters instead.
Don’t add sugar
This is not surprising, as we all know extra sugar is not healthy and can increase risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity. Long term consumption of coffee has been associated with lower risk for type 2 diabetes, but adding sugar to coffee can negate this benefit.
This may seem like a hard transition from regularly adding sugar to coffee and going to using no sugar in coffee. If you’re used to sweet coffee, start by cutting down the amount of sugar you add to coffee little by little.
While cutting down sweetness, use 100% honey or maple syrup instead of sugar, as these sweeteners have antioxidants and additional health benefits. Still try to cut down the amount little by little.
Hold the coffee creamer
It may seem that all the good things are getting eliminated- first sugar, now the creamer. However, coffee creamers are notorious for using hydrogenated oils which are a source of trans- fat. Trans-fat, above any other type of fat, has the worst impact on heart health.
Don’t be fooled by a label that says trans-fat free when hydrogenated oils are on the ingredient labels. Food products could still have up 0.5gm of trans-fat and still have 0 gm on the label.
If cutting out creamer seems hard, take the same approach as with the sweeteners; cut down on adding creamer little by little.
If you can’t swing not sweetening your coffee or adding creamer, an alternative is to try using a natural, partially hydrogenated oil free liquid coffee creamer that is naturally sweetened. Look for a brand that is on the lower end of sugar amount. Add a small amount, just enough to taste.
Add plain, natural low fat milk or creamer if sweetness isn’t an issue, you just need something to lighten the black coffee. However, drinking plain, black coffee may have the greatest health benefits.
Grind your own coffee
Freshly ground coffee may have higher antioxidant amount than pre-ground coffee that has been sitting for a while. Coffee grounds can go rancid; smell your coffee. If it does not smell right, don’t drink it. The oils from the coffee beans may be rancid and it may actually increase oxidation in the body instead of protect against it.
Grind your coffee beans right before using them for optimal antioxidant health benefits.
Choose dark roast over light roast
Dark roasted coffee sits in the roaster the longest, and light roasted coffee stops roasting after the coffee bean is first cracked. According to a 2011 article in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, dark roasted coffee had a greater impact on reducing body weight and increasing antioxidant stores in healthy research participants compared to light roasted coffee.
This study suggests dark roasted coffee may have a higher impact on increasing antioxidants in the body and a stronger impact on potential weight loss compared to light roast coffee.
Coffee has many proposed health benefits in moderation, including heart health, decreasing risks for certain cancers, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In order to maximize health benefits from coffee, drink coffee in moderation (~1-2 cups per day), drink coffee black, use non-bleached filters, grind your own coffee beans and choose darker roasts.
References used in this article