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Enjoy the benefits of coffee

Melissa Bess, former Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Small mug of black coffeeMany people like to start the day with a fresh cup (or cups) of coffee. In the past, it was believed that coffee could be harmful. But research has shown that there is little evidence of health risk and there is actually evidence of health benefits for adults consuming moderate amounts of coffee (3-4 cups per day, which provides 300-400 mg of caffeine).


September 29 is National Coffee Day and there are many reasons to celebrate this beloved beverage. Preliminary studies have indicated these possible valuable health benefits from coffee:


  • Lowers risk for Type 2 diabetes
  • Lowers risk for Parkinson’s disease
  • Protects against development of colorectal cancer
  • Lowers risk for cirrhosis and liver cancer
  • Reduces risk for all-cause mortality


However, some people are more sensitive to the adverse effects of coffee so they should reduce or eliminate consumption. This includes:


  • Those that drink more than moderate amounts of coffee
  • Those with borderline or high blood pressure
  • Those who are sensitive to caffeine
  • Women who are pregnant (should limit to no more than 2-3 cups daily)
  • Those who have issues with calcium deficiency. Older adults in particular need to make sure they get plenty of vitamin D and calcium because coffee can interfere with calcium absorption.
  • Those who have issues with iron deficiency. Drinking coffee with meals that contain nonheme iron (non-animal sources of iron) can inhibit absorption of the iron. However, vitamin C can help offset that effect, or you can drink coffee between meals rather than during meals.


A plain cup of brewed coffee only has between 2-5 calories, but adding extras to our coffee can add extra fat and calories. Here are some common coffee drinks and the amount of calories and/or fat in each:


  • Iced coffee (without syrup or with sugar-free syrup) – 16 ounce has 90-140 calories and may have anywhere from 0-5 grams of fat, depending on how it is made
  • Hot chocolate (with 2% milk) – 16 ounce has between 300-400 calories and 9-18 grams of fat
  • Vanilla latte (with syrup and 2% milk) – 16 ounce has between 250-300 calories and 6-8 grams of fat
  • Sugar-free vanilla latte (with nonfat milk) – 16 ounce has between 90-150 calories and no fat (this option has quite a bit less fat and calories than the regular vanilla latte)
  • Pumpkin spice latte (with 2% milk) – 16 ounce has about 300 calories and about 6 grams of fat (switching to nonfat milk saves you about 50 calories)
  • Mocha (with 2% milk) – 16 ounce has between 200-450 calories and 8-12 grams of fat, depending on what type (switching to nonfat milk saves you 50+ calories)
  • Cappuccino that you buy at a convenience store would be similar to the mocha amount, and could have even more fat and calories if made with whole milk
  • Medium frappe or frappuccino (coffee with ice cream) – 16 ounce has 500+ calories and anywhere from 5-20 grams of fat, depending on what type
  • Whipped cream will add over 100 additional calories to any of these drinks


Many of these drinks have only small amounts of actual coffee, so you are consuming extra calories and fat without the health benefits. It’s best to limit these drinks and just stick to a plain cup of brewed coffee.



Information from:
Micronutrient webpage on coffee from Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University;
Starbucks and McDonalds nutrition webpages


This article was adapted from a blog post written by Melissa Bess:


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Last update: Monday, September 25, 2017