Coffee’s reputation as a pick-me-up is well-established, but its status as a health food is less clear. Is it really healthy? The short answer is "it depends." Everything from the ingredients you use to your brewing methods can affect the health benefits of your cup. Here’s how to make the healthiest coffee possible – plus a nutritionist-approved recipe – so you can enjoy your brew, guilt-free.
Get Back to Basics
Sure, black coffee's sugar-free, low calorie content makes it automatically healthier than a cup with lots of added cream and sugar, but serving your coffee without milk offers other benefits as well.
Coffee naturally contains antioxidants – chemicals that fight aging and lower disease risk – that work best when they’re served without dairy, according to a study in Food Chemistry. That’s because the proteins in milk bind to the antioxidant compounds and prevents them from working properly. If you don't like the taste of black coffee, gradually reduce the milk you put in to wean yourself off and switch to natural flavorings.
Add Natural Flavors to Balance Acidity
The acidity in coffee can cause unpleasant side effects for those suffering from heartburn or GERD. Adding alkaline ingredients, like cinnamon and cacao powder, to your cup neutralizes coffee’s acidity and adds flavor. These mix-ins also offer their own health benefits. They’re both packed with antioxidants, and cinnamon boosts your natural immunity while Cacao promotes heart health and is naturally high in magnesium. Sprinkle them over prepared coffee, or add them to your grounds before brewing.
Beware of Certain Brewing Methods
The nutritional value of your cup also depends on how it was brewed. Heat and plastic do not mix, and though quite a few brands use BPA-free plastic, many do not. That means your daily cup of coffee could expose you to BPA, a known hormone disruptor. Even plastics made without BPA could contain other hormone-disrupting compounds, which are released into your coffee during brewing.
Try making your coffee in a French press or look for coffee makers that don’t have plastic parts and use paper or gold filters. If you make your coffee using a pod brewing system, look for reusable metal filter pods to avoid exposure to plastic.
Try This Spiced Cacao Coconut Coffee
Replicate the creaminess of a latte by blending your coffee with coconut oil. Coconut oil is naturally rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which boosts your energy and may help with fat loss. This superfood "latte" is also low in acidity, high in flavor, and loaded with antioxidants. All ingredients used are dairy-, soy- and gluten-free.
Brew a cup of organic coffee and add it to your blender. Add the cinnamon, raw cacao, reishi mushroom powder (if using) and raw organic coconut oil. Blend on low speed for 3 seconds to incorporate the coconut oil. Pour or strain the coffee into a mug.
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.