If you’re anything like us, you probably don’t really feel like yourself until you’ve had your morning coffee. While coffee is undeniably delicious and, for many of us, the only way to get ourselves up and out of bed each day, it’s not necessarily known for its health benefits.
Many people assume that adding anything to your coffee will automatically make it less healthy. Today, we’ll be exploring the very best ways to drink your coffee for the maximum health benefits — is it really best black?
The Dangers of Coffee
We will be remiss if we did not caveat this article by noting that all coffee drinks come with a few unhealthy downsides.
The most notable is its high caffeine content. Containing roughly 95 mg per cup. According to most professionals, 400 mg is usually the maximum an adult should have per day. Too much caffeine has been shown to lead to side effects like anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, high blood pressure, and even fatigue.
Additionally, it turns out, caffeine can actually stop our bodies from getting the most out of vitamins and minerals from foods. This means that too much coffee can increase the number of vitamins and minerals that are lost through excretion.
While many people believe that coffee can be dehydrating, it turns out this is pretty much a myth. However, coffee can have a diuretic effect, causing you to urinate more frequently. If you drink too much coffee you may just need to rehydrate afterward.
Caffeine aside, coffees can be a sneaky way of getting more calories and sugar in your diet. There are dozens of coffee drinks out there — if you’ve ever spent a few minutes gazing at a Starbucks menu, you’ll know what we mean! While filter coffee, Americanos, and espressos don’t contain anything but coffee and water, other coffee variants are filled with creams, sugar, milk, and other ingredients. Depending on which drink you tend to order at your local cafe, you may be getting quite a few extra calories with your morning coffee.
The Benefits of Coffees
Despite our wishes, things are not always neatly black or white. While coffee can have downsides, all coffees also have a few benefits.
- Metabolism- While too much caffeine is dangerous, a small amount can actually help with your metabolism.
- Memory, Mood, and Energy- Caffeine has also been shown to have short term effects of memory, mood, and overall energy levels. You probably know this effect as the “caffeine boost.”
The Benefits of Black Coffee Specifically
A Drink With Few Calories
This is the main reason that people often choose to order their coffee black — fewer calories! In basic terms, more calories means more weight gain. Excessive weight on the body can lead to a myriad of health concerns including diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, gallbladder disease, and many more.
Black coffee contains less than 5 calories, which means it won’t really make any impact on your weight. The more you add to your coffee, the more calories you add too.
- Sugar adds roughly 16 calories per tsp.
- Full-fat cream adds 101 calories per 2 tbsps.
- Fat-free milk adds 10 calories per 2 tbsps.
It’s easy to see how a coffee could quickly become pretty high in calories.
And specialty coffees are even worse. At Starbucks a regular latte contains 190 calories, a cappuccino contains 120 calories, and a Frappuccino contains 210 calories.
A Dairy-Free Alternative
Dairy is often what causes the calories in coffee, but it also comes with other health concerns. Some of the risks associated with dairy include:
- Heart disease
- Lactose intolerance
- No actual benefit to bone health
Dairy can also cause unpleasant side effects like bloating and trouble digesting.
For this reason, many people prefer black coffee for its dairy-free properties.
A Way To Stay Hydrated
Black coffee can actually be pretty hydrating. After all, filter coffee and Americanos are mostly composed of water. Plain black coffee in moderation is actually just as hydrating as water! Other coffees like lattes and cappuccinos are much less hydrating as they are mostly made up of milk.
Other ‘Healthier’ Coffees You Can Try
While black coffee does have its health perks like hydrating, low calorie count, and lack of dairy, there are other types of coffee with other health benefits. Depending on what you’re hoping to get out of your morning coffee in terms of health benefits, one of these options may actually suit you more.
You may think that a flat white is the pretentious coffee order of the linen-wearing, bearded hipster in line in front of you at the cafe. But it’s actually a pretty healthy alternative to black coffee. Flat whites are smaller than lattes and contain less foam. Usually, a latte is around 240 ml, while a flat white should be around 160 ml. Purely due to its size, the flat white contains less milk and less dairy than a latte or cappuccino, while still giving you the same amount of espresso. For even fewer calories, try asking for skim milk or nonfat milk.
Soy Latte or Almond
For latte lovers who can’t imagine saying goodbye to their foamy morning brew, try switching up the milk you use. Milk alternatives like soy, almond, or oat come with their own health benefits.
Soy milk has roughly the same calorie count as regular milk, but it contains more iron, more protein, and almost as much calcium.
Almond milk has even fewer calories than regular milk, and can be a good source of vitamin D.
Soy Espresso Macchiato
For fewer calories but the same foamy goodness of a cappuccino, try opting for the chic Italian Espresso Macchiato, but switch out regular milk for an alternative like soy. Macchiatos are simply a shot of espresso topped with a little milk foam to improve the taste and creaminess. This is a great low-calorie option that doesn’t taste quite so bitter.
Types of Unhealthy Coffee to Avoid
When in doubt, try to avoid the following types of coffee orders, as they tend to pack on the calories without giving you any extra benefits.
These drinks are more like milkshakes than coffees. A simple Frappuccino is around 210 calories — once you start adding in whipped cream, syrups, and sprinkles, this drink can be upwards of 600 calories!
If you can’t bear the taste of black coffee, try to reach for the skim milk rather than the cream, as this can instantly add on plenty of unnecessary calories.
The Bottom Line
If you are trying to avoid sugar or high calorie drinks and cannot live with decaf coffees, black coffee is probably your best bet. However, if you want a coffee beverage that actually has a few additional health benefits and a relatively small number of added calories, you may be better off ordering something like a soy flat white or an almond milk latte. Remember, “healthier” doesn’t always have to mean low in calories!