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Coffee: Pros and Cons

“To drink coffee or not to drink coffee?” That is the question!

Many people wake up thinking about coffee first thing in the morning, feeling the “need” to have it in order to have a productive work day. More than 50% of Americans drink (and rely on) coffee everyday. Coffee is an acquired taste, but it usually grows on people quickly due to the ‘beneficial caffeine factor.’ It’s even estimated that coffee is second most valuable after oil. Over 100 million people in developing countries depend on coffee as their main source of income.

However, there are conflicting views on whether coffee is a healthy choice or not. One important thing to note is that only black coffee is “calorie free,” meaning it contains less than or equal to 5 total calories. Remember, that the way coffee is prepared is usually the culprit (i.e. added cream, sugar, syrups, sweeteners, etc.). Courtney Walberg, registered dietitian, gives us her views on the benefits and risks of drinking this (delicious) beverage:


  1. Antioxidants: Coffee is loaded with antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid and melanoidins. They help prevent oxidation, a process that causes damage to cells and contributes to aging, cancer or other related inflammatory diseases. Cancer fighting antioxidants can also be found in many fresh, bright colored fruits and vegetables.
  1. Diabetes: Good news! Studies have shown that people who consumed a moderate amount of coffee on a regular basis reduced their risk of developing Type II Diabetes. This is very positive, seeing that there is a Diabetes epidemic that we are trying to fight/stop.
  1. Parkinson’s Disease: A number of studies have shown that those who drink coffee on a regular basis are less likely to develop Parkinson’s (mostly in men). However, more studies need to be done before this can be confirmed.
  1. Gallstones: Harvard Nurses’ Health Study followed 80,000 women for 20 years and proved a 25% lower risk of gallstone formation when drinking 3-4 cups of coffee per day versus those who avoided drinking coffee.
  1. Improved mental performance: Caffeine is one of the most well known stimulants. It promotes attention, focus and overall improved cognitive function. Coffee drinkers performed better on tests, and had an increased capacity to learn new information.



  1. Sleep deprivation: Because coffee is a stimulant, the timing of your consumption can have a large impact on the resulting effects. For example, it’s best not to drink coffee after 1pm if you’re trying to get to bed by 9 or 10pm. The later you consume the coffee, the more likely you’ll be awakened by sudden noises, or have interrupted sleep patterns. And do you know what that means…? Less sleep = increased cravings for sugar, sweets and “quick energy foods,” which makes you worse off when trying to slim down before summer!
  1. Osteoporosis: heavy coffee consumption (~600 ml or more per day) can induce an extra urinary excretion of calcium. However, coffee is a healthier alternative than “diet coke” or “coke zero” because they also leaches calcium from your bones without providing any nutritional value.
  1. Blood pressure: Coffee does not have a significant impact on hypertension, however it can make those who are more prone to high blood pressure, more susceptible. It’s important to monitor your salt intake throughout the day. Many people crave a combination of salty and sweet (i.e. Frappuccino) foods together.
  1. Dehydration: The caffeine in coffee is a mild diuretic and can therefore increase urine excretion. Also, many people replace coffee with water at mealtimes and forget to hydrate properly. Pay attention to your thirst signals and make a conscious effort to bring a large water thermos with you to work as a “reminder” on your desk to drink more water. Let’s be honest, we could all use a little more water in our lives, especially with summer approaching!
  1. Dependence: Although coffee is generally recognized as “safe” by the FDA, caffeine is still a central nervous system stimulant and produces dependence when consumed daily in excessive amounts. For example, when cutting coffee cold turkey or significantly decreasing your intake over a short period of time, you may have a headache and experience irritability. It’s best to wean off coffee slowly to avoid these side effects.

In summary, coffee can be a healthy part of your diet and lifestyle, when consumed in moderation. If you don’t like coffee, substitute green, black or herbal tea and enjoy the antioxidants benefits. Avoid fattening up your coffee, when possible by leaving out the sugar and heavy cream, chocolate sauce or added syrups. Try a splash of steamed almond or soymilk, to add a hint of flavor and sweetness, from a natural source. As long as you pay attention to how coffee is prepared and what’s actually in the coffee, you’ll be able to fit into your favorite swimsuit this summer!


For more information on nutrition and healthy foods to incorporate in your diet regularly, Consult Courtney Walberg, Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer and Founder of Nutrition For Body and Mind @




About the author

Courtney Sullivan

Courtney’s addictions: Running, healthy cereal, breakfast any time of the day, traveling, fresh fruit from the Farmers Market, the beach, Lake Tahoe, being active outdoors, a good cup of coffee, soup from Whole Foods, bright nail polish, foot massages. View All of Courtney's Articles



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