How many coffees is good for us a day? Nutritionist Sarah Di Lorenzo reveals the magic number

Headshot of Sarah Di Lorenzo
Sarah Di Lorenzo
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Coffee has health benefits depending on what you add to it.
Coffee has health benefits depending on what you add to it. Credit: sutichak - stock.adobe.com

Coffee — how much per day is too much?

The good news? More than a few cups can actually be good for your health.

That wonderful smell of coffee in the morning is so wonderful and inviting. I love this smell. There is such a dopamine hit from just that, and there are so many coffee lovers out there who look forward to their morning cup. People line up at their favourite barista, have their own coffee machines or love it brewed, espresso, decaf, while others simply love a cup of instant coffee.

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But how much is too much, are there any health benefits or is it bad for us as once thought? Let me break down the wonderful world of coffee to put your mind at ease.

Coffee comes from a plant and can grow up to 10m tall. Most of our coffee grows within the Bean Belt, around the equator between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn.

Coffee has some amazing health benefits. To start with, it will boost your energy levels because caffeine regulates energy levels and dopamine. Plus it lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes when consumed long-term, mainly due to coffee preserving the function of beta cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin-regulating blood sugar. Coffee is antioxidant-rich and that affects insulin sensitivity, boosts metabolism, makes us more alert and lowers inflammation.

Coffee lowers the risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and supports our brain. This is clearly demonstrated by observational studies. When it comes to weight loss and managing weight, coffee is fantastic. Coffee is associated with decreased body fat and suppresses appetite, so it’s perfect to have between meals to help stick to your plan or even after a meal for those who struggle to feel full. Research shows the more you drink, the lower the incidence of depression. Our liver also benefits because coffee is associated with decreased liver stiffness.

When it comes to heart health, coffee drinkers have a lower incidence of heart disease and four cups a day can lower the incidence of stroke by 21 per cent. There was a fantastic study of 450,000 people over 12 years that demonstrated four cups of coffee per day meant a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

When it comes to longevity, coffee drinkers can rejoice because of all the wonderful health benefits and antioxidants fighting free radicals. For those wanting to improve their athletic performance, coffee can also improve endurance and decrease perceived exertion.

So how much should we be having? The guidelines say around four cups a day is best. For some, having too much coffee can lead to insomnia, headaches, irritability, muscle tremors, racing heart, nervousness and increased urination. Plus, coffee can interact with some medications. Coffee is a diuretic too, so match your coffee with a glass of water.

Now I do need to mention that I am referring only to black coffee. What you add to it can make all the difference to the health benefits. What we add such as milk, cream, chocolate, syrups, sugar, honey or artificial sweeteners can all have an impact. Artificial sweeteners in my world are a hard no, as is table sugar. My advice is to have one coffee a day with milk and keep the rest black. For the sweet tooth, a dash of honey will do.

Coffee is the third most consumed beverage globally and has been studied extensively but those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, people with health conditions and children need to be mindful.

Otherwise, embrace and enjoy your morning coffee!

Sarah Di Lorenzo is resident nutritionist for Seven’s Sunrise

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