For many Canadians, coffee is a staple in their everyday routines. It gives you that extra boost of energy you need each morning and re-energizes you in the middle of the day. There are also certain ways in which coffee can benefit your health. In addition to making you feel more focused, studies have show the antioxidants in coffee can coffee can help to reduce risk of illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and improve cognitive function. However, did you know that cup of coffee you’re drinking each morning could also be sabotaging your health?
A normal cup of plain, black coffee generally contains less than 5 calories and has no fat. However, not everyone likes their coffee plain, and it’s when you add in all those extras that you start running into problems. For example, some people might like to sweeten their coffee with sugar or substitute 2% milk for cream, and those who drink coffee every day – sometimes multiple times per day – might not be aware of the harmful effects of things like cream and sugar. 1 teaspoon of sugar, for example, is the equivalent of 16 calories. On average, a coffee drinker has at least 2 to 3 cups per day. Multiple that together and that’s 32 to 48 calories per day; 224 to 337 calories per week; and while that might not seem like a large number, those calories only increase when you add in things like milk or heavy cream. Heavy cram can contain as much as 101 calories per 2 tablespoons, while half-and-half is 37 calories per 2 tablespoons. If you insist on having milk in your coffee, Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests sticking to fat-free milk, as it is lower in calories (though not entirely free of them.)
Then there are the speciality drinks that many coffee shops offer, some of which you can even make at home on your own if you have the right equipment. Everything from flavoured lattes, caramel macchiatos, frappuccinos and other brewed beverages. The biggest problem with these types of drinks is the sugar. A typical vanilla latte or caramel macchiato, for example, contains approximately 250 calories and 6 to 7 grams of fat, while fancier beverages like white chocolate mochas contain a staggering 360 calories and 11 grams of fat – and if you’re someone who drinks these kinds of beverages every day, you’re not doing your body or your health any favours.
So what can you do to cut back on all that caffeine, decrease those calories, and avoid that sugar? Well, if you’re a long-time coffee drinker, quitting cold-turkey isn’t something Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends as it can trigger severe withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, migraines, muscle pain and stiffness, and even depression. If coffee is something you eventually want to stop drinking all together, ask your barista for a half-caf beverage rather than one that’s fully caffeinated. You can then follow that by switching to decaf until you’re able to completely cut coffee from your diet. On the flip side, if coffee is something you just can’t live without, then the obvious answer would be to decrease the sweetness by avoiding sugar and all those flavoured syrups. If you want some flavour to your drink, many coffee shops offer sugar-free syrups as well as your choice of fat-free milk, soymilk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc. If you’re curious about how many calories are in your beverage, most coffee shops also list the calorie content on their menus. If you’re unsure of how many calories or how much sugar is in what you’ve ordered, simply ask your barista. They may even be able to help you choose a healthier alternative.