Coffee has a way of filtering itself into a person’s morning routine until it becomes a habit. And, for many, “habit” may not even be a bold enough word. Call it what you will—ritual, dependency, obsession—a borderline-caffeine-addiction is widely considered manageable, if not beneficial. Several studies (perhaps conducted by hopeful coffee lovers) point to ways in which java can be healthy. As we’ve reported in the past, coffee may help you live longer, give you better vision, even boost your metabolism.
“Caffeine can improve weight loss efforts,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD. “Coffee can be beneficial by providing the body with antioxidants, acting as a diuretic, and improving bowel movements in those with digestive issues. It can also help increase energy which is a necessary factor in exercise, which can lead to weight loss.”
But those potential health perks hinge entirely on how you take your cup of Joe.
Coffee itself is naturally antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory, but adding sugar negates those inherent positives. An over-sugared coffee becomes inflammatory, and the nutritional deficits of the added sweetness quickly outweigh any of the benefits the caffeine may offer. Plus, as Clara Lawson, RDN, explains, the amount of coffee many Americans drink in a day would easily result in maxing out recommended sugar intakes, if that coffee is too sweet.
“Women should stick to 6 teaspoons of sugar and men should stick to 9 teaspoons in a day to maintain a healthy body weight and prevent diseases,” says Lawson. “So if you are drinking 3 to 4 cups of coffee along with artificial sweeteners, you are ruining your body to a great extent.”
The solution here? If you don’t want to sacrifice adding sugar to your coffee, just be mindful of your sugar intake beyond the java habit.
If you’re committed to the frap life (say, for example, the aforementioned funnel cake Allstar is calling your name) that’s okay, but you cannot depend on your cup of coffee to lead you to a flat stomach.
“Fancy forms of coffee such as lattes and mochas have a very high sugar content that can exceed your daily required calorie count,” explains Lawson. “The fancy ingredients that are worst for your belly include high sugar, whipped cream, and chocolate syrups.”
Luckily, though, Lawson has an easy fix.
“For a leaner stomach, it is advised to make your coffee at home so that you can avoid all these fancy ingredients that are eventually going to accumulate and increase your waistline,” she says.
You can also try making healthier versions of your favorites at home with these 12 Tastiest Homemade Coffee Drinks From a Nutritionist.
Coffee, the way we currently consume it, is so inextricable from cream and sugar that one is rarely offered without the other. But in the same way sugar can mess with your ever-emerging abs, creamers will likely do the same.
“By adding high calorie and fat creamers you are increasing the likelihood of your regular coffee beverage causing weight gain,” said Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD.