What It Is

What's your coffee ritual? (You know you have one.) Do you set the timer on the coffeemaker at night so it starts brewing before your feet hit the floor in the morning? Do you walk to your favorite café, where the barista knows your order by heart? People all across the world treasure coffee -- and we’ve all wondered if it's bad for our health. 

The Dirty Deets

You may already know that a cup of coffee contains not a single calorie, gram of fat, carbohydrate or protein. And you're probably just grateful for the caffeine and the fact that, hot or iced, it's the way you start your morning, all year 'round. But there's more to coffee than that: 

  • A landmark 2008 study found that even heavy coffee consumption -- six or more cups a day -- doesn't increase a person's risk of dying prematurely. Still, coffee is a stimulant that can interfere with sleep and blood pressure. And sometimes it’s just a vehicle for extra calories, sugar and fat. So stick to one or two cups per day and just a little milk (organic, please). Dairy substitutes like almond and rice milk pair nicely with coffee, too.
  • Research suggests that drinking coffee can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease and can help to manage symptoms of the disease. Drinking java has also been associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • There are three compounds in coffee worthy of your attention:
    • Caffeine is the most well-known, and is linked to increased alertness, focus and physical performance -- but also to sleep disturbances.
    • Antioxidants are known for their cancer-fighting properties. The antioxidant content of coffee is hard to measure, however, because it varies by the species and age of the coffee beans, as well as by how they're processed. Light roasts tend to be higher in antioxidants than dark roasts, because the beans are exposed to less heat during the roasting process.
    • Diterpenes, which are naturally present in the oils found in coffee beans, may protect against some cancers, but they've also been linked to higher levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol. If you have risk factors for heart disease, you're better off using a paper filter; it'll remove the diterpenes when you brew.

How To Chow Down

In order for coffee to really do its job, you have to pay attention to it. Brew (or buy) the type you love best, then take the time to actually sit down and enjoy it: Hold it, smell it, taste it, savor it. There's nothing sadder than an abandoned, half-finished, unappreciated cup of coffee that you discover hours after it was forgotten.

  • Coffee drinks are all the rage, but that 500-calorie cup of coffee will truly derail your efforts to eat healthy. Instead, make your own flavored coffee or latte at home. If you master the art of brewing a perfect pot of java, you can pull back on the milk and sugar and let the true flavor of the coffee take center stage. 
  • Before you dump out the leftover coffee in your pot, consider using it as an ingredient in your culinary explorations. Added to your steak rub, biscotti, or marinade, the liquid you were about to toss can transform your creations!

In the Know

Coffee is a great aid to exercise. It can help you safely maximize your workout performance. Have your coffee before your morning workout or bring your travel mug with you to the gym, and see the results for yourself. Coffee meets you at the starting line and brings you to the finish line.