Calories in Coffee: The Difference Lies in You

Think twice about your health and how you take your coffee

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Coffee lovers the world over have something in common, they each like to have their cup of joe prepared in their own special way. Some prefer their coffee black, some want espresso, others like lots of milk. Then, there is sugar, soy and nut milks, and half-and-half to consider.

Interested in a specialty coffee? Do you prefer latte, cappuccino, mocha, cafe au lait, cold brew? The list goes on.

No matter how you like your coffee, at the end of the day, is coffee good for you?

Some research shows there may be underlying health benefits to coffee.

Is Coffee Healthy?

Healthy depends on how you interpret the word "healthy." If a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, low-fat diet is what is good for you, then a black cup of coffee works well in your diet. There is only one calorie in a cup of coffee if taken black. Nutritional facts regarding one of America's favorite beverages changes depending on what you add to that cup. Or, if you drink more than one cup as your serving.

Coffee Nutrition Facts 
Serving Size 1 Cup (270 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 1 
Calories from Fat 0 
Total Fat 0g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g 
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 6mg0%
Potassium 132.15mg4%
Carbohydrates 0g0%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Sugars 0g 
Protein 0.3g 
 
Calcium 0%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Is Coffee Nutritious?

Based on the nutrition facts, besides a nominal amount of potassium, a black cup of coffee has practically no nutritional value.

That changes if you choose to have a cup of java with milk. Most Americans who ask for milk with their coffee, get about a 1/4 cup of milk added. The nutritional value in that cup of coffee does go up, about the same as you would expect if you drank a 1/4 cup of milk. Of course, your nutrient factor changes depending on the type of milk you have added, for example, skim milk has no fat and adds about 43 calories to the cup of milk versus a cappuccino with whole milk, which would have 77 calories and 4 grams of fat.

Caloric Additives

Just like any food, the more you add on, like sugar, caramel and sweetened creamers, the more calories you introduce into your daily intake. 

AdditiveAdded Calories/Fat
Sugar (1 teaspoon)16 calories/0 fat
Half and half (2 tablespoons)40 calories/4 grams fat
Coffeemate French Vanilla Creamer (1 tablespoon)35 calories/2 grams fat

Potential Benefits of Coffee

Coffee is potentially linked to certain health benefits. For example, some studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a decreased risk of certain diseases including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, dementia, and even some types of cancer. Some studies have even linked coffee consumption to a decreased risk of death. But that does not mean that coffee causes these health benefits to occur. 

Researchers say that they do not know why coffee drinkers enjoy these health benefits. But medical experts generally advise that black coffee, rather than coffee drinks with sugar and fat, is likely to be more beneficial.

Coffee has caffeine, a stimulant, that may help people feel more energetic, but there are some people, like women at risk for osteoporosis and people with high blood pressure, who may want to limit their intake of caffeine.

Choosing and Storing Coffee

Coffee flavor is at its best when the beans are fresh. For that reason, many java fans buy fresh whole beans and grind them immediately before using. Whether you buy whole bean coffee or the ground version, coffee should be stored in an opaque, air-tight container at room temperature, according to the National Coffee Association.

Prepare Your Own Coffee

When you make your own coffee drink, you control the amount of sugar, the amount and type of milk and the amount of caffeine that goes into every cup. Many popular coffee shop drinks are loaded with calories and they are expensive, too.

So why not save time, save money, and save calories at the same time? 

When you make your favorite coffee recipe, use skim milk and sugar-free syrups to make sure that your coffee drink is low in calories. You can also use powdered cocoa or cinnamon on top of your drink for flavor instead of flavored syrup to cut additional calories. 

Need a caffeine pick-me-up in the middle of the day? Instead of reaching for a soft drink, make yourself an iced coffee. Brew an espresso, add ice, and add one-half cup of chilled skim milk. Soft drinks, like Coke and Pepsi, contain about 150 calories per 12-ounce serving and contain no healthy nutrients. An iced coffee with skim milk contains about 40 calories, 4 grams of protein, and other nutrients such as calcium.

Also, think of the time you save by skipping the morning trip to the coffee shop. The 15 minutes you might wait in the coffee shop line each day could be spent on a treadmill.

And, even if you invested in your own expensive espresso maker at home, you would still save yourself hundred of dollars down the line instead of spending on average $25 a week at your local barista stop or Starbucks.

A simple change to how you take your coffee every day can shave 100 or 200 calories from your daily diet and can have a big impact at the end of the month. Consider investing the time and money into learning how to make coffee drinks at home. The folks at your coffee shop might miss you, your wallet might be a little heavier, and you might be happier when you step on the scale at the end of the month. 

Sources

  • Butt, Sultan M. Coffee and Its Consumption: Benefits and RisksCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2011;51(4):363–73.
  • Freedman ND, Park Y, et al. Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-specific Mortality. New England Journal of Medicine. 2012;366(20):1891–1904. doi:10.1056/nejmoa1112010.
  • Powell, A. How Coffee Loves Us Back. Harvard Gazette. September 28, 2015. 
  • Rush Medical Center. Health Benefits of Coffee. Discover Health. https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-coffee.

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