Is coffee good for you?

Here’s some good news, coffee drinkers: There’s very little evidence coffee is bad for you. In fact, in moderation it may actually be good for you, says Joseph Hill, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of Cardiology at UT Southwestern.

Coffee is a complex beverage that consists of about 200 different molecules. Some of those molecules are flavonoids – a type of antioxidant that may have heart-healthy or immune-protective properties.

There’s more. The American Heart Association has published findings that drinking coffee in moderate amounts is associated with lower risk for heart failure.

Other studies suggest consuming more coffee may decrease mortality, reduce risk for prostate cancer, and benefit athletic performance. Dr. Hill notes that these types of studies can uncover associations, but the findings cannot be interpreted as cause-and-effect. As such, research in these areas isn’t definite and is still ongoing, but the initial findings are suggestive and interesting. 

A few potential drawbacks

Studies touting the health benefits of coffee almost always refer to “black” coffee – no cream, sugar, flavored syrups, or whipped topping. But not everyone likes black coffee, and it’s easy to get carried away and add a few hundred extra calories to your drink without realizing it.

Coffee is a mild diuretic – drinking too much might contribute to dehydration. A few cups a day won’t dehydrate you, but it’s important to drink water with your coffee.

If you’re sensitive to caffeine, coffee may affect you differently than it affects others. For some health conditions, including heart issues, your doctor may suggest you avoid or limit your caffeine intake.

Enjoying coffee in moderation is safe for most people who follow a heart-healthy lifestyle, and it may, in fact, be a health-promoting strategy.

Keep your coffee habit healthy

  • Limit coffee intake to four 8-ounce cups of coffee a day (400 mg of caffeine or less)
  • Drink it black – 8 ounces of black coffee contains just 2 calories
  • Choose healthier additives – try lower-calorie options like sugar-free syrups, cinnamon, skim milk, or unsweetened almond milk