Diet & Nutrition

Is coffee good for you?

It’s hard to find a food or drink that is unanimously labelled 'healthy' these days, so what do the experts have to say about your morning cup of Joe?
Loading the player...

It’s not a secret that Kiwis love a good cup of coffee. We use coffee as an antidote to a poor night’s sleep, an introduction to a first date – “want to grab a cup of coffee?” – and a reason for a mid-morning meeting.

But while you may believe that your morning cup of coffee breathes life into you, the professionals are a bit more divided.

Registered dietitian, Sylvia North, says that with anything in health, it all comes down to the quality, type, dosage and frequency.

“Typically Aucklanders drink very strong coffee with a standard single dose being a double shot espresso. I would be wary on how this extrapolates from research where “4-6 cups per day” cited for providing health benefits may not necessarily mean 4-6 espressos,” says North.

According to Sylvia, the healthiest coffee order is a long black with no sugar, and adding a splash of cream (added fat), or coconut cream if you’re dairy sensitive, may play a role in nutrient/antioxidant absorption and slow the caffeine release.

So where did the notion that coffee is bad for us come from? And is there any merit to it?

“If a person doesn’t tolerate coffee for whatever reason, the evidence of potential health benefits is not a good enough reason to carry on or begin consuming.

“Signs that one should potentially reduce their consumption include fatigue, caffeine intolerance, difficulty sleeping, shaking or anxiousness and GI disturbance (bloating, diarrhea, constipation, reflux),” says North.

So what makes coffee unhealthy? “In short, excessive caffeine for anyone who’s caffeine sensitive. Some people also can have a digestive intolerance.”

But for those who can tolerate caffeine, there are a handful of potential benefits to be gained.

Recent studies have suggested that coffee may help prevent liver fibrosis, can reduce the risk of some cancers and reduce the risk of death from type 2 diabetes.

Tips for healthy coffee consumption:

  • To avoid feeling wired at night, avoid drinking coffee after 2pm.

  • Try to have a maximum of two coffees per day.

  • Avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach first thing in the morning as it upsets the digestive system (note: if you need a boost to get you to the gym, try half a kiwi fruit instead).

  • Don’t add any sweeteners or sugar to your coffee. We are recommended to have a maximum of six teaspoons of sugar per day.

Related stories