Q: I love my morning cup of coffee and sometimes a latte in the afternoon. But lately I’ve heard a lot of sources online saying that I should skip coffee in lieu of things like herbal tea, lemon water, or just plain water. I could definitely survive without my morning Joe, but do I need to?
A: It’s definitely okay to have a moderate amount of coffee each day — in fact some research shows that having 2-3 cups of coffee per day may impart health benefits like reduced inflammation and improved blood vessel function. Researchers believe that these benefits may come from a variety of disease fighting compounds called flavonoids. In addition, the caffeine in regular coffee can stimulate the nervous system and help support mental alertness. It can also help improve some aspects of athletic performance. And, coffee consumption actually counts towards your daily water intake, as long as you’re not going above that 2-3 cup limit.
However, like almost anything, too much caffeine is not good for you. Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, interrupt your sleep, and cause nervousness and irritability, so drinking more than 3 cups per day may have negative effects. It can also make certain conditions worse, like IBS, PMS, and migraines. In addition, coffee can be a vehicle for cream and sugar. Any accoutrements added to your coffee need to be counted in your daily tally towards added sugar limits, etc. In other words, if you’re adding 2 teaspoons of sugar to your coffee, twice a day, you’ve used 4 of your 6 allotted teaspoons of added sugar. And if you love those coffee milkshake-style drinks, count those as dessert (and towards your daily added sugar).
The bottom line is that as long as you’re not using coffee to mask too little sleep or another energy-zapping habit, sticking to no more than two to three 8-ounce cups each day, and being mindful of what you add to your cup, then coffee can be a harmless (and potentially beneficial) part of your daily routine.