Food Facts

Is Coffee Fattening or Is It Healthy?

Coffee powder, in itself, is not fattening at all. Whether it is in the form of instant coffee or ground coffee beans, it has negligible calories and basically no real nutritional value. If you make a 6 ounce cup of black coffee (plain water and coffee powder) it would just contain 2 – 3 calories of energy, in the form of protein and some fatty acids. However, roasted coffee beans have a bitter taste, due to the presence of certain acidic compounds present in them, and hence very few people prefer drinking black coffee without additives like milk, sugar or some flavored syrup, which basically increases the calorie count of your cup.

It’s also becoming rare for people to just drink black coffee, nowadays, with preferences shifting to various preparations of milk-based, and cream-based, coffee – cappuccinos, lattes, iced mochas, and frappes are the vogue nowadays and most of these preparations can clock 120-160 calories for a 10 or 12 ounce cup (depending on the outlet). If you are on a journey towards weight-loss you would do well to stick to black coffee as much as possible – coffee in its pure form will not make you fat.

Various coffee preparations and their calorie counts

The more additives you put into your coffee the more calories you clock. There are some coffee connoisseurs who would consider it a sacrilege to drink anything other than black coffee to get the real taste of the coffee beans – they would also shy away from instant coffee and would prefer brewed/percolated coffee makers. Health wise, this is would be the best way to drink coffee, not only does it not hike your calories but it also ensures that you don’t end up taking in a lot refined sugar and saturated fats with your coffee.

Addition of milk, cream, chocolate, refined sugar and flavored syrups, can give you some refreshingly tastes and there are various concoctions being prepared at different coffee houses, and eateries, to cater to growing interest in coffee treats. Here are some calorie counts of some popular coffee drinks.

  • A Tall cup of Caffe Latte with non-fat milk (12 ounces) – 120 calories.
  • A Tall cup of Cappuccino with non-fat milk (12 ounces) – 65 calories.

If instead of non-fat milk, you go in for whole milk, you can basically “double” the above calorie counts respectively.

  • Iced Coffees, like Iced Mocha, made with non-fat milk (12 ounces) – 130 calories (without cream).

Compared to the above, a cup of espresso (6 ounces) will clock only 2-3 calories and a cup of coffee with skimmed milk (10 ounces) would give you 12 calories.

There is no harm is treating yourself to some delicious coffee concoctions now and then but it would be prudent to stick to black coffee, or plain milk coffee with non-fat milk, most of the time.

Is coffee healthy for you?

People have been drinking coffee for several centuries and there is no concrete evidence that coffee, taken in moderation (3-5 cups a day) can harm your health in any way. In fact, there are a few researches which have provided some solid evidence towards the fact that drinking coffee (the plainer versions) can help prevent conditions like Aging Dementia (including Alzheimer’s), Parkinson’s and even Type 2 diabetes. It’s also seen the drinking a cup of coffee an hour before a workout can help prevent muscle cramping and reduce muscle pain to a large extent. There is also some evidence to suggest that drinking coffee in moderation can assist in preventing onset of liver sclerosis. Coffee is known to contain several anti-oxidants which can assist in reducing free-radical in the body which create inflammation.

Of course, drinking too much coffee (more than 8 cups a day) can lead to some health issues, for example caffeine present in coffee creates constriction of blood vessels which can accentuate conditions of high blood pressure. Too much coffee also results in nervousness, restlessness and frequent urination (since is a diuretic) which can cause dehydration in the body. It’s been found that unfiltered coffee (like espresso and Turkish coffee) can cause an increase in your cholesterol levels up to 2% (due to certain compounds present in the coffee oils which are not filtered out), so if you have a cholesterol problem you should be careful about taking unfiltered coffee (Instant coffee powder is usually filtered coffee, and a lot of coffee maker machines have the option of selecting filtered coffee over unfiltered coffee depending on your preference)

Coffee can create some hunger pangs

coffee in a plastic cup
It’s been seen the drinking coffee can lead to sudden cravings for food due to the insulin hike that happen when one imbibes a couple of cups of coffee (especially on empty stomach). This is what happens after you finish your cup of coffee.

Cells get insulin resistant: As you know, pancreas generate insulin to maintain the blood sugar levels in the cells of your body. Caffeine creates “insulin resistance” in the cells. So as long as there is caffeine present in your blood stream you will not feel hungry because your blood sugar levels will stay high as the your cells are insulin resistant. This is a well know negative effect of drinking coffee.

Over working pancreas: Your pancreas will over-work to generate more and more insulin in order to counter the insulin resistance of your cells, after all it’s the job of the pancreas to control your blood sugar levels. Now when the caffeine levels in your blood goes down, say within 30-60 minutes or so depending upon how strong the coffee was, the large amounts of insulin generated by the pancreas will take effect and rapidly bring your blood sugar down.

Food cravings due to blood sugar levels dipping: And what happens when the body sugar levels go down? You feel ravenously hungry and weak. In order to quench this sudden break of hunger you feel enticed to eat sugary or sweet foods – no wonder most coffee shops are stocked with chocolate coated donuts, twinkies, muffins and cakes. You would have noticed that people who are addicted to coffee will also have the habit of eating frequent snacks.

So if you find yourself feeling very hungry after excessive coffee drinking, consider reducing coffee and see if the situation is averted. So is coffee fattening? Yes, indirectly it can be fattening.

In conclusion

If you stick to drinking the plainer versions of coffee (like black coffee or coffee with skimmed milk), you don’t have to worry about it being fattening for you. Also, drinking coffee in moderation, 3 to 4 cups a day, will keep you from attracting any form of caffeine related health issues.

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