According to the National Coffee Association, more than 50 percent of all U.S. adults drink coffee every single day. Worldwide, coffee is the second most consumed beverage to water in many nations, and it’s the leading contributor of caffeine to the average person’s diet.
In recent years, we’ve seen the number of studies researching coffee nutrition facts skyrocket — and while some of the results signal this beloved beverage might have some serious health benefits, there is a lot of science backing coffee nutrition health benefits, too.
In fact, in July 2017, a pair of large studies published in the Annals of Medicine actually found drinking coffee seems to promote longevity. Looking at roughly 700,000 people from different racial backgrounds, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, drinking more coffee was linked to a lower risk of death.
The first study looked at non-white populations and found drinking two to four cups of coffee translated into an 18 percent lower risk of death during the study period compared to non-coffee drinkers. Drinking more coffee appeared to lower the chances of dying from cancer, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes or chronic lower respiratory disease. (1)
The second study looked at people living in 10 European countries, finding that the top coffee drinkers were 25 percent less likely to die during the 16-year-study compared to the non-coffee drinkers. (2, 3)
But this isn’t the first time coffee nutrition benefits surfaced in the literature.
Previously, researcher Miriam Nelson, a professor in the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said: “We looked at all the science … we have found no negative, adverse effects on health when you drink up to three to five cups a day. In fact, there is a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and a couple of cancers, including breast and prostate cancer.” (4)
Newly Emerging Coffee Nutrition Facts and Benefits
You might be surprised to know coffee beans are a high-antioxidant food and coffee is one of the leading contributors of disease-fighting antioxidants in the American diet. Because it can help reduce inflammation, which is the root of most diseases, according to research, coffee is now being linked with the following benefits:
- protection against neurodegenerative diseases
- improved heart health
- cancer protection
- diabetes protection
- ability to fight depression
- increased energy and concentration
- better physical performance
- improved asthma control
- lower risk of select gastrointestinal diseases
That being said, there’s still a lot of disagreement about whether or not coffee is more beneficial then harmful. Coffee seems to be a double-edged sword: While it can make you feel more alert, productive and motivated, for some people it has the opposite effect — leaving them feeling anxious, jittery and unable to focus.
Regular Coffee Nutrition Facts:
Coffee is a centuries-old brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, which are the seeds of “berries” from the Coffea plant. Records show that coffee has been enjoyed for over 500 years, dating back to the 15th century where it was first drank by people living in Yemen during religious ceremonies. Today, coffee beans are cultivated in over 70 countries worldwide, primarily in warm, tropical regions along the equator, such as in Central and South America, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa.
The two most commonly grown types of coffee are arabica and robusta. While not a big contributor of vitamins and minerals to your diet (with the exception of being a riboflavin food), coffee is a much better choice than energy drinks, soda, and sweetened teas or juices. It contains no sugar or carbs and virtually no calories.
One eight-ounce cup of regular coffee contains about: (5)
- 2.4 calories
- 0 grams fat
- 0 grams sugar
- 0.3 grams protein
- 0.2 milligrams vitamin B2 riboflavin (11 percent DV)
- 0.6 milligrams pantothenic acid (6 percent DV)
- 116 milligrams potassium (3 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams manganese (3 percent DV)
- 7.1 milligrams magnesium (2 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligrams niacin (2 percent DV)
How much caffeine is there in coffee? The level varies a lot depending on the exact cup: The type of bean used, manufacturer and method for making the coffee all impact caffeine levels. For example, a standard cup from Starbucks is known to be a lot higher in caffeine than the average medium-roast coffee you’d make at home.
According to the USDA, an average eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee from ground beans contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. But the same size cup from Starbucks (which would be a “tall”) has just about double this: 180 milligrams! (6) In contrast, an average espresso contains about 64 milligrams and a cup of green tea has about 44 milligrams. That means drinking a tall regular coffee from Starbucks provides more than four times the amount of caffeine as a green tea made using one tea bag.
How Much Coffee Is Safe — Can You Drink Too Much?
Wondering how much you need to drink to get these mentioned benefits and how much caffeine from coffee is too much?
A “moderate amount” for healthy adults maxes out at 500 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is about five cups of home-brewed regular coffee or a little more than one grande Starbucks coffee (which has about 360 milligrams).
For pregnant women, the amount is less — around 200 milligrams daily or less (but many pregnant women still prefer to have none at all). In a recent study, coffee consumption among pregnant women was associated with preterm birth, low birth weight and pregnancy weight. Women who are also prone to fractures increase their risk. (7)
Most health experts recommend drinking between one and two cups a day ideally, which isn’t associated with negative reactions but seems to be beneficial for most people. Of course, for people with specific health conditions, much less or even none might be appropriate, but we’ll get to that later on.
6 Health Benefits of Coffee
1. High Source of Antioxidants
Somewhat surprisingly, many health care practitioners now recommend drinking coffee and consider it a “guilty pleasure” that you don’t necessarily need to feel “guilty” about. That’s because some sources show that coffee is a natural anti-aging beverage, with potentially more antioxidant activity than cocoa or even some forms of tea leaves.
How does the antioxidant level in coffee compare to other healthy beverages? Research shows that an average cup of coffee might even contain more polyphenol antioxidants than cocoa, green tea, black tea and herbal tea! (8) For many people, coffee supplies as much as 70 percent of the total amount of important antioxidants in their daily diet. While, of course, you should increase antioxidant intake from whole foods like vegetables and fruit, coffee might be another good addition if you tolerate it well.
Coffee is effective at fighting free radical damage because it increases antioxidants in the blood — what scientists call “plasma antioxidant capacity.” Two of the key antioxidants responsible for coffee’s health benefits are chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. Both are thought to be strong antioxidants, and coffee beans are the richest dietary source of these in the world.
It’s been estimated that coffee drinkers might consume as much as one gram of chlorogenic acid and 500 milligrams of caffeic acid on a daily basis, while non-coffee drinkers obtain little or none. Coffee also contains antioxidants like polyphenols, which are the same kind also found in red wine and cocoa. These might attribute to higher immunity, lower rates of oxidative stress and potentially increased disease prevention.
While more research is still needed, it’s believed that coffee’s anti-inflammatory effects could be widespread. As an anti-inflammatory food, it lowers oxidative stress because of its ability to induce mRNA and protein expression. Caffeine found in coffee also has an impact on metabolites and lipid fractions that act as a safeguard against some malignant cells by modulating certain detoxifying enzymes. This means coffee might potentially be protective against cancer in addition to brain disorders and heart disease. In fact, a 2017 study found that frequent coffee drinkers were at an 18 percent decreased risk for cancer. Occasional and moderate coffee drinkers showed a 13 percent decrease in risk. (7)
2. Can Improve Heart Health and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
Unfiltered coffee is a significant source of cafestol and kahweol antioxidants, which are diterpene compounds that have been implicated in the cholesterol-balancing effects of coffee. Habitual coffee consumption in large epidemiological studies is associated with reduced mortality, both for all-cause and cardiovascular deaths. (9)
In addition, coffee intake is associated with lower risks of heart failure and stroke. Surprisingly, coffee is even associated with neutral to reduced risks for heart arrhythmia even though many people feel it raises their heartbeat and makes them feel “jittery.” (10)
Recent studies have shown that consuming three to four cups of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee reduces cardiovascular-related death by 19 percent and cardiovascular diseases by 15 percent compared to not consuming coffee at all. (7)
3. Helps Preserve Brain Function and Prevents Cognitive Decline
Love drinking coffee? Well good news for you: For coffee drinkers, getting old doesn’t mean you losing your mind. Some evidence exists showing that beneficial antioxidants in coffee may help protect against Parkinson’s disease, an incurable neurological disorder, as well as preventing dementia and acting as a natural Alzheimer’s disease treatment. Coffee might even have protective qualities against depression in some people.
In animal studies, mice given caffeine in their drinking water from young adulthood into older age showed protection against memory impairment and lower brain levels of the abnormal protein (amyloid-beta or Abeta) thought to be central to Alzheimer’s development. “Aged” cognitively impaired mice exhibited memory restoration and lower brain Abeta levels following only one to two months of caffeine treatment. (11)
Researchers believe the cognitive benefits of caffeine administration is due to caffeine itself, and not metabolites of caffeine, so this means “decaffeinated” coffee isn’t as beneficial. Caffeine appears to provide its brain disease-modifying effects through multiple mechanisms, including a direct reduction of Abeta production, which is thought to happen through changes in brain activity (suppression of both beta- and gamma-secretase levels). Coffee’s antioxidants also lower inflammation, oxidative stress and might increase physical activity in some people, which are also important for ongoing brain health.
4. Might Help Prevent Diabetes
If you want to reverse diabetes naturally, in addition to avoiding sugary drinks and drinking plenty of water, coffee might be the next best drink for you. Coffee has also gotten a bad rap from the low-carb diet movement for a while now because of concerns about whether it raises blood pressure and insulin levels. The exact answer on this is not exactly clear yet, but some research shows coffee actually has an inverse relationship with insulin and blood sugar markers, which means it might have a positive effect and could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes instead of raising it.
There’s a good deal of evidence that drinking coffee (six or more cups a day) could significantly lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, but even less might be beneficial. According to the Nurse’s Health Study, two or three cups a day of coffee can help lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes and decrease gallstone formation, too. (12)
It’s believed that chlorogenic acid, the same antioxidant that provides cancer-reducing benefits, might also reduce the absorption of glucose from sugary or high-carbohydrate foods. This could slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream after a meal and be beneficial for preventing insulin resistance, but as of now more research is still needed to prove this. The thing is, caffeine might actually counter some of the blood sugar-lowering effects, so that means decaf might be a better choice for diabetics and others concerned about raising blood sugar.
That being said, other research shows that chronic coffee consumption may increase blood sugar slightly, although we don’t really know what this means for diabetes or weight gain risk.
5. Increases Physical Performance and Endurance
Many studies show that coffee increases alertness and improves mental and physical performance in the short run. The slight increase in blood sugar from caffeinated coffee is actually potentially good for athletes who need blood sugar to go up in order to fuel their muscles before physical activity. According to the research, caffeine doesn’t improve maximal oxygen capacity directly but could permit athletes to train at a greater power output and/or to train longer. It has been shown to increase speed and/or power output in simulated race conditions and activities that last as little as 60 seconds or as long as two hours. (13)
Caffeine is an ergogenic aid widely used before and during prolonged exercise. This is one reason why many endurance athletes and fitness enthusiasts like to have some coffee before hitting the gym or competing, since it’s known to be a performance enhancer and contributor to higher concentration and stamina. In fact, one 2013 report published by the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University Of Birmingham found that athletic performance times were significantly faster among adult men who drank caffeine drinks and coffee prior to exercising compared to placebo and decaf groups. The average power exhorted by the caffeine-drinking men was also higher when compared to the placebo and decaf-drinking groups. (14)
When researchers investigated the metabolic, respiratory and cardiovascular post-exercise responses to caffeine in aerobically trained subjects, they found that three hours after exercise, the men’s heart rate, blood pressure, glucose, lactate and fatty acids were not affected by pre-exercise caffeine — however, caffeine raised post-exercise energy expenditure 15 percent above placebo. (15)
6. Helps Protect Liver Health
Several studies consistently show that coffee drinkers have a reduced risk of abnormal liver function tests. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that coffee may protect against alcoholic liver disease; for every one cup of coffee a day (up to four times daily), the study showed a 20 percent reduction in alcoholic liver syndrome. (16) Another study asssociated coffee with decreasing the risk for hepatic cirrhosis and liver cancer. (7)
The Other Side of the Coffee Argument: Potential Risks and Concerns with Coffee
Coffee is known to be one of the most contaminated crops worldwide, so make sure to buy and drink organic coffee whenever possible. Conventionally grown coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides, chemicals and combined with solvents. Another option is to purchase shade-grown coffee, which is the traditional way of growing coffee and often requires fewer pesticides and chemicals.
And finally, many people choose to purchase “Fair Trade” coffee, which means that it’s certified as having been produced to fair trade standards and produced by “organisations creating trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect” for their employees.
Another factor to carefully consider is your personal tolerance to caffeine. Depending on the type of coffee you drink, you could be consuming a lot more than you think at one time. For people prone to anxiety, sleep-related problems or insomnia or heart problems and palpitations, coffee might need to be off limits. You’ll have to experiment to see how much is tolerable and best for you.
Even if caffeine doesn’t make you feel anxious, you might be worried about what it’s doing to your body and long-term health. Because coffee contains caffeine, which is a substance that alters both mood and physiology, there are some downsides and risks associated with coffee drinking that you want to be aware of. Caffeine in coffee has the ability to impact hormones, neurotransmitters function, nerve signaling and muscles. This is especially true if you have existing health conditions — like anxiety, heart problems or diabetes — or if you turn to coffee to help change how you feel and to disguise underlying fatigue. (17)
Somewhat paradoxically, caffeine withdrawal can also mimic signs of caffeine overdose: headaches, decreased energy and focus, drowsiness, depressed mood and so on.
Certain people are more sensitive to caffeine than others and experience adverse reactions, including increased anxiety, nervousness and sleep problems.
Drip-brewed coffee is known to have the highest caffeine levels of any brew method. And the longer the brew cycle, the more caffeine is released into your cup. In general, darker roast coffees contain less caffeine since caffeine can be removed from the bean during the roasting process. Espresso and most coffee drinks that have a lot of milk usually have less caffeine, so these might be better options.
If you choose to drink decaffeinated coffee, be aware that small amounts of caffeine can still be found, so you’ll need to avoid all types of coffee if you’re particularly vulnerable to caffeine’s effects. Also, select water-processed decaffeinated rather than solvent-processed whenever possible, which uses less toxic chemicals on average.
The Bottom Line Regarding Coffee Nutrition Facts
Both coffee and traditional teas, while containing caffeine, are loaded with antioxidants. Virtually every scientific reference on the subject suggests that coffee’s active ingredients, especially chlorogenic acid, might actually contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases.
There are mixed opinions on coffee, but many experts believe that moderate coffee consumption has more in its favor than against it. That being said, it’s important for you to weigh pros and cons yourself, keeping in mind how you personally react to drinking it.
If you do drink coffee, ideally try to have it either black or sweetened with organic stevia extract. As far as milk goes, you can use no-sugar-added almond or coconut milk, raw dairy or goat milk, or even with butter and coconut oil (called “bulletproof coffee,” which some people swear by!).
Try this Coconut Milk Coffee Creamer Recipe as one way to avoid excess sugar and harmful ingredients.
Total Time: 2 minutes
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1–2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- honey or stevia to taste
- sea salt to taste, optional
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until well combined. Use in coffee as desired.
Read Next: 5 Steps to Kick Your Sugar Addiction
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