Is Coffee Worth the Perks?

By: CHRISTINA COLAVECCHIA

Coffee drinking and caffeine intake has become one of the most highly debated issues in the health world.  Nutritionists and dietitians across North America seem to disagree about coffee’s nutritional value and whether or not it has health benefits like helping to lower depression rates in women or warding of various types of cancer.  Get Fit Get Life has researched and come up with the facts you need to know about coffee.
How much is too much?
Caffeine in its natural and added forms is found in a growing number of consumer products like coffee, tea, cola beverages, chocolate and energy drinks.  While it’s difficult to suggest precise intake levels of caffeine because tolerance varies significantly from person to person, Health Canada has set out recommendations for the average adult.  Here are some of the facts:
    • Canadian adults get an estimated 60 percent of their caffeine from coffee, about 30 percent from tea and the remaining 10 percent from cola beverages, various chocolate products and medicines.
    • The general population of healthy adults is not at risk for potential harmful effects of caffeine if they limit their intake to 711 ml a day (a Grande at Starbucks measures 470 ml and a Trenta, 920 ml).

What are the health benefits?
A growing body of research has begun to show that coffee may not be as harmful as we once thought.  Coffee drinkers, for example, are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia and have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes.  While coffee isn’t proven to prevent these diseases and conditions, studies have shown that people who down 1-3 cups of coffee a day are at lower risk of developing these health ailments.  In the case of type 2 diabetes, for example, a cup of coffee contains the antioxidants and nutrients that help prevent tissue damage caused by molecules called oxygen-free radicals.  Coffee also contains minerals like magnesium and chromium that help the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar.
What are the negative effects?
Studies over the years have shown that the potential adverse effects of coffee drinking include things like muscle tremors, increased heart rate and blood pressure, calcium imbalance, bone health and potential effects on reproduction and fertility.  James D. Lane, a PhD professor of medical psychology at Duke University Medical Center, explains to MedicineNet.com that caffeine temporarily boosts blood pressure.  After much research, he has concluded that these repeated elevations in blood pressure and increases in your reactions to daily stress that occur with caffeine intake could boost the risk of heart disease.  Almost every doctor and dietitian stresses the importance of controlling the amount of daily caffeine intake.
What’s the best way to have a cup?
Coffee is relatively low in calories.  Instant coffee, Espresso and brewed coffee are all equivalent to 4 or less calories if left black and without milk, cream or sugar.  A McDonald’s Mocha (16 oz of coffee) is 330 calories, a Starbucks Caffe Mocha (16 oz) is 290, and a Dunkin Donuts Latte (10 oz) is around 120 calories.  It is obvious, then, that preparing your own cup of coffee is the right way to go.  Try honey, Agave nectar or the natural herb stevia instead of artificial white granulated sugar.  These sugar supplements are low in calories and great for diabetics or people trying to limit their sugar intake.  Use skim milk instead of whole milk or cream to cut calories or almond or soy milk for vegans or those looking to cut out dairy.  These milk and cream alternatives are low in calories and are a great source of protein, vitamin A and vitamin C.

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Categories: Home, Sections, Your Lifestyle, Your Nutrition

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