Is Coffee a Health Food?

by | Nutrition Questions Answered

Can you boost your health with coffee? Is it a guilty pleasure or a natural superfood?  We thought we would shed some light on the science behind coffee.

If you are like me, coffee strikes an emotional cord  – you love starting your day with a warm comforting cup of coffee. Is this a guilty pleasure or can your morning coffee be a part of a healthy, balanced diet? Good news! Coffee is a natural superfood. Today we are breaking down 5 ways coffee can boost your health. Plus, what to consider when making coffee part of your healthy lifestyle and fun ways to enjoy it.

Five ways coffee can boost your health:

  • Provides Antioxidants

    • Coffee beans are rich in antioxidants. These components protect you from damaging free radicals that can cause harm in the body. As you can see in the chart below, coffee delivers more antioxidants than certain fruits and vegetables!
  • Improves Athletic Performance

    • Athletes who take in caffeine pre-exercise burned 15% more calories for three hours post-exercise than those who don’t. A little caffeine post-workout may have benefits too. Compared to consuming carbohydrates alone, a caffeine/carb combo was shown to increase muscle glycogen by 66% after intense exercise, allowing athletes to exercise harder and longer next time.

  • Diabetes Prevention

    • This 2014 study showed that participants who increased their coffee consumption by more than 1 cup per day over a 4 year period had an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes in the subsequent 4 years compared with those who made no changes in their coffee consumption. Participants who decreased their coffee intake by more than 1 cup per day had a 17% higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Lowers Risk for Liver Disease

    • This meta-analysis suggests a 40% reduced risk of liver cancer in coffee drinkers. Research also suggests that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of other liver conditions as well.
  • Cancer Prevention

    • Coffee is valued for its high antioxidant value and phytochemicals, so it is no surprise that coffee has been linked to lower risk for certain types of cancers and may promote longevity. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, “coffee drinkers may live longer than non-coffee drinkers, having lower risk of dying from many cancers – as well as other chronic diseases.”  You can read more about the research on the AICR website here.
Lucy pouring water into a primitive drip coffee maker during our Costa Rica Wellness Adventure.

Most are pleased to hear that there is evidence that supports the theory that coffee is a health food. And, all of these benefits are great. However, there are some things to keep in mind when enjoying your coffee. When thinking about how coffee fits into your lifestyle, ask yourself the following questions:

So my indulgent latte is good for me? Well…

If we are being honest, it’s really easy to outweigh the benefits of coffee when you start adding a lot of creamer, sweeteners, and syrups. Added sugars and artificial sweeteners have negative health consequences. There are healthier ways to enjoy a cup of coffee. Try frothing your own milk at home or slowly weaning yourself away from the syrups and creamers.

Is regular or decaf coffee best? It’s Personal.

Some individuals may benefit more than others from the effects of different food and beverages. This holds true for caffeinated coffee. Genetic variations can affect how fast you metabolize caffeine. Those who are fast metabolizers may get the most benefit from drinking regular coffee and those who have impaired caffeine metabolism actually may have some risk associated with drinking caffeinated coffee. Similarly, certain genetic variations have been linked to caffeine consumption causing anxiety. If caffeine doesn’t sit well with you or gives you an edgy feeling, you may want to stick with decaf or give up coffee for a week to see if makes a difference for you.

Does quality matter? Absolutely.

When it comes down to it, quality really does matter. We love a good bargain, but if you go for the cheapest coffee grounds at the store or get your coffee from the gas station, those coffee beans may contain a higher ratio of bean defects (such as insect damage, over-fermentation, and oxidized beans) and higher levels of mold. Plus, the coffee could be stale and acidic. Many of the benefits of the coffee compounds will still be present, but so will toxins and chemicals that can create adverse health effects.

Ways to enjoy your coffee:

When we add artificial sweeteners, corn syrup, sugar on sugar, syrups, more sugar– they start to outweigh the benefits of coffee. If you want some sweetness to your coffee try adding a little stevia, monkfruit, or erythritol. Get creative and throw in some cinnamon or ginger. If you use creamer, make sure to check out the ingredient list. You may be surprised about what’s in it.

Think outside the coffee mug. Check out these fun ways to add it to your food.

Coffee isn’t just for drinking, try cooking with it! Use the grounds in anything from baked goods, smoothies, energy bites, or [combined with dried herbs] as a coating for steak or fish. Here is just one of the delicious coffee recipes from our meal plans for you to try  – another favorite to search for in our database is the Salted Caramel Latte Smoothie 😋. {Sign up for a free trial of any plan to explore all coffee recipes}:

Vanilla Coffee Bean Cashew Butter 


Drink it hot or pour yourself a nice glass of cold brew…

Because coffee acids are better extracted at high temperatures, cold brew can be up to 60% less acidic than hot brewed coffee. Great news if you worry about acid reflux. Plus, many people love the smoother, sweeter flavor of cold brew. Since fewer acids are extracted than from a typical heated brewing process, it doesn’t have the same bitter bite to it that can be off-putting for some. Here is a guide to brewing the perfect cup of coffee.

Now you can sit back, relax, sip, and experience the health benefits that coffee has to offer. Have any questions you want to ask us? Let’s grab a cup of coffee and chat – reach out today.

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