Grass Roots Nutrition: Coffee

Grass Roots Nutrition: Coffee

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Dear Holly: Is coffee healthy? -Java Jive

Dear Java Jive: I am a huge fan of coffee. I have worked in two coffee shops and appreciate a pot or french press of freshly ground beans on a daily basis. Plain coffee, or with a bit of cream and sugar can have several health benefits. I find, though, when working with clients, the word “coffee” can mean different things to different folks.


Some clients say coffee when they mean a high-sugar, high-calorie, whipped cream decadence-in-a cup. As I have discussed before, an occasional treat is an appropriate part of living a balanced healthy live. But having a high-calorie, coffee-flavored dessert is a different category entirely from a cuppa joe.


A plain mug of coffee is only going to set you back about 5 calories. The level of caffeine depends on the type and roast of bean and how strong you brew your coffee. It is common to estimate 100mg of caffeine per 8oz mug of coffee, but in practice, it can contain a wide range from 70-360mg of caffeine.


Contrary to rumor, a shot of espresso has less caffeine than an 8oz cup of coffee. Each shot of espresso usually has about 50-65 mg of caffeine. Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are your body’s ninjas on a cellular level. Antioxidants are found in plants, giving them color, flavor and aroma. From the compound that gives chili peppers their heat to the compound that makes turmeric yellow, antioxidants do your body good.


Some, but not all, studies have found an inverse relationship with coffee intake and type 2 diabetes. This means that with greater coffee intake, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes decreases. It seems that there may be greater protection from diabetes with greater daily doses. Decaffeinated coffee does not appear to have this benefit


Some caffeine prior to physical activity may improve performance and lower pain perception, but individual responses to caffeine vary. Experiment with caffeine during practices, not during your big game or event.


The use of caffeine during pregnancy is controversial. However, moderate consumption, less than 200 mg/day, has not been associated with clinically important adverse fetal effects. Greater than 200mg/day carries an increased risk of miscarriage.


What about coffee for kids? The adverse effects typically associated with caffeine-containing coffee are usually more severe in children than adults. Keep coffee for the grown ups.


Most of the research is observational, meaning the scientists assess trends in consumption and trends in health, and look for relationships between the two. There is no placebo controlled trial. Another factor is that when asking about intake, “one cup” means a different number of ounces to different folks. A grande sized coffee at Starbucks is 16 ounces, when most researches are asking about 8 ounce increments.


So is it healthy? Maybe. Coffee can fit into a healthy eating plan in reasonable doses for most folks. Take caution with kids, pregnant ladies or folks with high blood pressure. And make sure you are choosing coffee most of the time and reserving those coffee-desserts as a rare treat.


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What’s your question for Holly? Send them to For more information and to make an appointment to work on your goals, visit Grass Roots Nutrition, LLC and BrideBod, owned by me, Holly Larson, a Registered Dietitian. Visit me online at and follow us on Facebook. Have a delicious, healthy day!