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Over the past several years, it seems that not a month goes by without some new report about the health benefits of coffee. Since the 1990s, scientists have learned that coffee seems to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, lowers the risk of developing Alzheimers disease, is associated with lower levels of a number of different types of cancer and appears to reduce the long-term risk of developing high blood pressure and related heart diseases. At the same time, there is some research that correlates caffeine consumption with a higher risk of miscarriage, and scientists do know that the caffeine in coffee can raise blood pressure in the short term, prompting doctors to advise patients with hypertension to avoid drinking coffee.
With all the hubbub about whether coffee is healthy or harmful, it’s not surprising that many people aren’t sure whether they should brew up another cup or throw out the coffee maker. If you’re among those who are wavering between coffee-yes and coffee-oh-no, here are some healthy coffee drinking tips from medical experts to help you enjoy your caffeinated habit.
People react to the caffeine in coffee differently, so it’s important to pay attention to what your body is telling you. If an after dinner coffee keeps you up all night, you should probably confine your sipping to earlier in the afternoon, for example. Switch to non-caffeinated beverages, or, if you really like the taste of coffee in the evening, try different brewing methods to see if there’s one you can tolerate. Espresso, for example, may taste stronger than drip coffee, but it generally has less caffeine than coffee brewed in other ways.
In general, researchers find that one to three cups of coffee a day have no negative effects on most healthy people, and as much as four to five cups may have some health benefits. Most medical professionals, however, suggest that you confine your caffeine consumption to about 300 mg of caffeine daily. As a general rule, an 8 ounce cup of drip coffee has about 75 to 80 mg, but caffeine levels can vary hugely from one brand of coffee to another. A 16-ounce Dunkin Donuts coffee — non-turbo — has about 143 mg of caffeine in it. The same size house blend coffee at Starbucks has an average of 259 mg of caffeine.
Caffeine passes through to your little one if you’re pregnant and is passed along in breast milk if you’re breastfeeding. Research has also shown a correlation between miscarriage and high caffeine consumption. Doctors recommend that pregnant women have no more than 200 mg of caffeine daily — about the amount of caffeine you’ll find in a 12-ounce cup of coffee. If you’re breastfeeding, a small amount of caffeine will pass through into your breast milk. Most experts recommend that you limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 to 300 mg daily, unless you feel like being up all night with a cranky, wide-awake baby.
In particular, if you have a peptic ulcer, high blood pressure or heart diseas, talk to your doctor about your coffee habit. He may want you to restrict your caffeine to avoid further health problems. Older adults may also want to restrict their caffeine intake as the effects of caffeine appear to be stronger in the elderly.
Keep in mind that coffee is not the only source of caffeine in the modern diet. Chocolate, tea and many sodas also contain caffeine, some in greater concentrations than a cup of coffee. In addition, many energy drinks that claim to contain no caffeine do contain natural ingredients that have the same effects on the body as caffeine. Finally, a lot of cold medicines and headache remedies also contain caffeine. Be sure to count all sources of caffeine in your diet when you’re figuring out how much coffee you can safelly drink.
If your doctor prescribes a new medication and you’re a regular coffee drinker, be sure to ask him or your pharmacist about any possible interactions between caffeine and the medication and follow any instructions.