Is Coffee Good For You?
Coffee is the third most popular beverage in the world, following water and tea, according to recent studies. And with December around the corner, Starbucks has launched their new holiday drink menu for the 2021 holiday season. The new drinks have people questioning: Is coffee good for you?
- Coffee is among the most popular drinks across the world and is oftentimes consumed 2 to 3 times a day.
- Caffeine is an important component of coffee, and when consumed in moderation can help increase focus and productivity. But too much caffeine has adverse side effects such as anxiety and lack of sleep
- Black coffee is essentially calorie-less and poses no nutritional threat. However, if you’re someone who adds flavored syrups and creamers to every cup they drink, it may be time to cut back
What is coffee?
To answer this, we first need to understand exactly what coffee is. The coffea species are actually small shrubs or trees that are native to tropical and southern Africa and tropical Asia. These shrubs produce berries, frequently referred to as cherries. The berries are then picked off the trees either by hand, or by machine in recent years, and are harvested. After they are harvested, they are immediately processed to avoid any spoilage.
The most common way to process the cherries is the dry method. This is the most ideal method especially in places with limited water resources. The cherries are laid out in the sun to dry. They are turned over and over throughout the day and covered at night or during rain to prevent water intake. The process of laying out and turning them repeats until the water content of the cherries drops to at least 11%.
The dried out cherries are then hulled and polished to remove the outermost layer of skin. They are then graded and sorted by size and weight; this part is typically done with a machine, but some tribal places continue to do this process by hand. After this, the dried and stripped cherries are now beans referred to as “green coffee.”
The beans are ready to roast. Roasting turns the “green coffee” into the small brown coffee beans we are used to seeing at the local coffee shop. Roasting machines typically reach a temperature of about 550 degrees Fahrenheit, and this high heat causes the coffee fragrance we all love to be released. After the beans have cooled, they are ground up to either a coarse or fine powder-like consistency depending on the brewing machine. And finally, the coffee is brewed using a variety of methods and ready to be enjoyed.
Coffee consumption patterns in the U.S.
Consumption patterns of coffee vary greatly from country to country and from person to person. There are people that despise the bitterness of coffee, and there are people that need at least 2 to 3 cups a day in order to function. Currently, the United States ranks 25th in coffee consumption across the world. This is mostly due to the fact that our climate is not ideal for growing and harvesting the coffee plant. Even though we are not in the top 10 for coffee consumption, the data shows that the U.S consumes 9.26 pounds of coffee per person per year!
Gender also plays a role in consumption. According to recent studies, men drink more coffee than women, but not by much. Men drink around 1.7 cups a day and women drink about 1.5 cups a day. Although 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day may sound excessive to some, especially non-coffee drinkers, medical professionals say that it’s actually safe to consume about 4 cups of coffee a day. Now, this doesn’t mean that stopping at Starbucks 4 times a day and getting a venti each time is recommended. Doctors are referring to a standard 8 ounce cup. The reason no more than 32 ounces a day is recommended, is because of caffeine levels.
A guide to Starbucks sizes:
- Short- 8 ounces *Not available at all stores
- Tall- 12 ounces
- Grande- 16 ounces
- Venti- 24 ounces
- Trenta- 31 ounces *Oftentimes only offered for tea drinks
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant for the central nervous system and belongs to the methylxanthine class. It’s actually considered a psychoactive drug because of the effects that it has on the body and brain, but it is perfectly legal and regulated unlike other psychoactive drugs.
Because caffeine is a stimulant at its core, it increases brain and nervous system activity as well as circulation of chemicals such as adrenaline. This could be why some people experience shakiness and restlessness when consuming too much coffee. If you are drinking a responsible amount of coffee, it can make you feel awake, refreshed and more focused than without.
Too much caffeine can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Jitters or shakiness
Caffeine is also a mild diuretic, meaning that it causes your kidneys to flush extra sodium and water from the body through urine. However, according to medical professionals, the idea that caffeine dehydrates you is actually a myth. With that being said, it is still important to maintain your daily water intake along with coffee consumption.
Is coffee good for you?
But the question still remains, is coffee good for you? The answer is non-definitive, unfortunately. Coffee in itself is actually pretty healthy. An 8 ounce cup of black coffee has about 2 to 5 calories. So in terms of calories, consuming straight up coffee really will have no effect. It has 0 grams of fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, and 0 grams of all carbohydrates including sugars. It does contain a small amount of sodium, but nothing of concern. And it even contains 116 mg of potassium, an essential mineral to regulate heart rate, and ensures proper functioning of the nervous system and muscles.
The problem is, only a small percentage of the world takes their coffee purely black. Many people get lattes, macchiatos, mochas, cappuccinos and many more. Regardless of how you like your coffee, if it’s not black, it has added sugars from liquid syrups, sugar packets, and especially those flavored creamers. To put it into perspective, a grande iced vanilla latte has 190 calories and 28 grams of sugar.
Syrups and creamers
Now, while this doesn’t necessarily mean drinking one vanilla latte a day will cause you to gain unnecessary weight, the daily recommended intake of sugar is 24 grams. So one of these drinks is already over your daily intake. It’s coffee drinks like these that are considered unhealthy when not consumed in moderation.
Some may think that their coffee order is not as bad because they don’t get added syrups, but flavored creamers add just as much sugar and fat as syrups and sugar packets, and sometimes even more. So, although those pumpkin spice and caramel macchiato flavored creamers at the store taste so good, try not to add that to your coffee every single morning.
While not everyone enjoys the bitter taste of pure black coffee, it’s important to be conscious of everything you’re putting into your coffee. Try to cut back on the flavored syrups and creamers in order to not go over your sugar and fat consumption. Also remember that coffee contains a generous amount of caffeine and in moderation can be beneficial, but if you start to experience headaches, shaky hands and have difficulty falling asleep at night, cut back on how many cups you drink a day. Other than that, coffee is not all that bad for you, and I will continue to drink my cold brew every morning!
Written by Jordan Hammaren
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