Coffee has gotten a bad rap over the years from the medical community. It’s been accused of stunting your growth, causing heart attacks and everything in between.
But things are changing for the black brew. Coffee got a mention and a nod in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, the first time that the federal government’s food policy recommendations have ever addressed the drink. The guidelines state that moderate coffee drinking can be part of a healthy pattern of eating, as long as people can keep it to three to five cups per day to limit the effect that caffeine, a stimulant, has on sleep patterns. Three to five cups of coffee has up to 400 mg of caffeine in it, depending on how strongly it’s brewed.
The nation’s top nutritionists who helped shape the guidelines approved of coffee because there’s strong, consistent evidence that coffee-drinking isn’t linked with an increased risk of cancer, premature death or cardiovascular disease. In fact, there is also moderate observational evidence to show that drinking coffee is actually linked to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver and endometrium cancer. While we can’t say for sure coffee causes a reduction in disease risk, we can say that it definitely doesn’t increase risk, and that people who drink it are also more likely to have lower rates of certain diseases.
The guidelines' only word of warning about caffeine is that women who are breastfeeding, pregnant or trying to become pregnant should consult with their doctors if they want to continue imbibing. A certain amount of caffeine may increase miscarriage risk, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend less than 200 mgs of caffeine a day for nursing moms.
For serious javaheads, this information is welcome and long overdue. But is coffee so good for you that people who don’t like it should learn to like the taste? Not so, says Miriam Nelson, a nutrition professor at Tufts University. Nelson worked on the coffee section of the scientific report that shaped the guidelines, and she says that if people don’t like coffee, they shouldn’t start drinking it.
But for those who love the taste, there’s no reason to stop drinking it either, Nelson said. To make the brew even healthier, don’t load it up with cream and sugar, she advises. The healthiest way to drink coffee is black, any way you like it (espresso, americano, etc.) and either plain or with milk.
Besides the delicious taste and mild stimulate you get from coffee, some drinkers may also find that having a cup of joe makes you want to go … to the bathroom. A complex mix of factors, which include caffeine, the natural acids in coffee and the things we add to it, like sweeteners and dairy, all help stimulate muscle contractions in the large intestines. This, in turn, makes people feel like they need to poop. For the most sensitive, drinking too much coffee can result in diarrhea.
Coffee’s potential laxative properties don’t stop 54 percent of American adults from drinking coffee every day, mostly around breakfast time. They down an average of three cups a day, and each “cup” is about nine ounces. In all, we spend about $40 billion a year on our love affair with coffee.
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