For many of us, our daily cup of coffee (or two, or three..) is non-negotiable. Given how frequently we drink coffee, it’s natural to be curious about how to make it a healthy part of your diet. There are a lot of benefits you can get out of the humble coffee bean, but what your healthiest coffee order is will depend on what healthy means to you. With so many to choose from, you could be guided by anything from health goals and taste preferences, to allergies and intolerances. Let’s take some time to discuss how much coffee you should drink a day and any downsides of caffeine consumption. From there we can more confidently ask: What is the healthiest coffee order?
How much coffee should you drink per day?
Caffeine is the component in coffee that acts as a stimulant on the brain and nervous system. It speeds up messages between your mind and the rest of your body. Caffeine can also be found in many teas, chocolate and energy drinks. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) haven’t yet defined an acceptable daily intake for caffeine, and we don’t have clear research about the amount of caffeine we should be consuming each day. However, it is generally advised that healthy adults can consume around 400 g of caffeine safely every day. This is equal to two espressos. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s advised to limit your intake to 200 mg per day, and children shouldn’t consume more than 100 mg per day.
To find out how your current intake is looking, here’s how much caffeine you can find in your favourites:
- 50 ml shot of espresso = 150-200 mg caffeine
- 250 ml can of energy drink = 80-100 mg caffeine
- 1 tsp instant coffee = 60-80 mg caffeine
- 50 g dark chocolate = 60 mg caffeine
- 250 ml cup black tea = 50 mg caffeine
- 375 ml can cola = 50 mg caffeine
- 250 ml cup green tea = 30-50 mg caffeine
- 50 g milk chocolate = 10 mg caffeine
The health benefits of coffee
Research shows that coffee consumption is linked to a range of health benefits. These include a reduced risk for some cancer, a lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and a lower risk for depression. Overall, studies have also shown that coffee drinkers live longer, but more research is needed on why exactly this is.
The negative side effects of coffee
As with all things in life, there are some downsides to drinking coffee. Research has found that a high caffeine intake was associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes compared to a low/no caffeine intake. These outcomes could include low birth weight, premature birth and pregnancy loss. High caffeine intake is also associated with fracture risks.
Some people are particularly sensitive to caffeine and can experience uncomfortable symptoms including a racing heart, sweaty palms and anxiety. If this is the case for you, it’s best not to push it. Caffeine is also a gut irritant, so can trigger gut symptoms for some individuals.
As much as a cup of coffee can help to provide a good energy boost, that afternoon slump pick-me-up can cause sleep problems. If you find yourself struggling to sleep, try having your last cup of coffee before midday, switching to something decaf after that. Most people can tolerate 1-3 coffees a day without experiencing negative side effects.
And don’t forget that, as delicious as coffee may be, it is not a meal! Replacing meals with coffee can lead to you feeling hungry again quickly as well as missing out on essential nutrients. Coffee lacks fibre, healthy and protein, all of which you should be getting from a well-balanced meal.
So what IS the healthiest coffee order?
1. FLAT WHITE
If you’re after a solid nutritional profile, you’ll get the benefits of an espresso with an extra punch of protein (8.9 g) from the milk when you order a flat white. A full cream flat white is roughly 120 calories, and a skim-milk or skinny is 70 calories. The benefit of going for the full cream is that it is likely to keep you fuller for longer.
2. LONG BLACK
If you’re being mindful of your energy intake, the lowest calorie option would be a long black or an iced long black, clocking in at just 1 calorie! This is just a shot of espresso with hot or cold water, and research shows that 100 mg of caffeine from black coffee can increase alertness and improve mood, while reducing fatigue, tiredness and headaches.
3. SOY FLAT WHITE
If you’re lactose intolerant or are looking for a milk alternative, this is a good option for you. Whatever you reasons for wanting to avoid cow’s milk, soy milk is the plant-based option that has the most similar nutrition profile to cow’s milk when it is fortified with calcium. It is also higher in protein than other alternatives. Look for brands that have at least 250 mg of calcium per 250 ml, like So Good and VitaSoy. Most soy milks also contain refined sugar such as cane sugar and raw sugar, so you can also look out for brands that contain less than 2 tsp/8.5 g of sugar per serving.
Avoid these coffee orders
Beware of the sugar content in flavoured syrups, whipped cream and added chocolate. You mostly find these ingredients in mochas and powder-based chai lattes. You don’t need to treat these as unhealthy coffee, especially if you enjoy them. Simply look for balance and keep them to weekly treats, while going for something more simple for your every-day coffee order.
We have so much more nutritious work-day deliciousness coming your way! Make sure you’re following us on Linkedin, so that you never miss a beat. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something good to eat with your first cup of the day, here are some healthy breakfast ideas for you to try.