A Registered Dietitian’s Take on Coffee

Is Coffee Good or Bad? How Much Can I Drink?

A Registered Dietitian’s Take on Coffee

How much coffee is too much coffee? Is coffee good or bad for you? A few days ago, I asked my Facebook friends to share whatever questions they had about coffee. A hefty proportion of those questions were about coffee and health – and one of the people who responded was Jessica Cording, a Registered Dietician and nutrition coach. She noted that a lot of people she works with ask her whether they should drink coffee, and how much they should drink. She suggested that an article answering those questions might be helpful to a lot of people. “Would you be willing to answer a few questions?” I asked. Well, of course she would! And she did.

TAC: Is coffee good or bad for you?

Jess: Coffee actually has been shown to have some benefits, such as benefits to cognitive function, blood glucose management, improved exercise performance, and even (reducing the) risk of some cancers. However, the amount you consume matters, as does how you enjoy your coffee. For example, black coffee or espresso is a different story from a sugary coffee drink.

TAC: For those who don’t have a medical condition contraindicating coffee, what’s a “safe” amount to drink?

Jess: Research has shown that about 300-400 milligrams of caffeine per day is a safe amount for most healthy adults. That’s equivalent to about 3-4 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee. Just keep in mind that some places brew a stronger cup, so you may be getting more caffeine per serving. A few signs you’re drinking too much coffee may include: sleep disturbances, feeling jittery, heart palpitations, stomach discomfort, or feeling like you can’t function without it.

(the Mayo clinic has some helpful info on this)

TAC: Who should be more careful about their coffee habit e.g, pregnant women, people with a heart condition/hypertension, etc?

Jess: Ask your doctor if you need to be mindful of your caffeine consumption. In general, if you have a heart condition or are pregnant, you likely will need to cap your intake at a lower number. Also bear in mind that certain medications can impact how quickly we metabolize caffeine, causing us to feel the effects for longer.

TAC: Do YOU drink coffee and how much?

Jess: I used to drink a TON of coffee. When I was a new intern in the hospital and early in my clinical career, I drank 6-8 cups of coffee (at least) most days. Then after age 30, my body started giving me signs that was an absolutely ridiculous amount, and I finally had to admit that my insomnia and heart palpitations were connected to my coffee habit. Getting it down to those 3-4 cups per day was hard, but for me, that’s where I’ve found is a good place for now. I’m sure that throughout my life that number will change, though, as what works for us at one point in time may be totally different from another. Listening to your body and not trying to just power through when something doesn’t feel right is key.

TAC: Is there anything else you want people to know about coffee?

Jess: If you suspect you need to get your coffee habit in check, make it a gradual approach and give yourself time to adjust. Even just switching from a medium to a large for a few weeks when you’re in the early stages of cutting back can make a big difference!

A Little More About Jess

Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, INHC, is a registered dietitian and integrative nutrition health coach, and a writer with a passion for helping people navigate their relationship with food. You can learn more about her and her work at Jessica Cording Nutrition.

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