The Health Benefits of Coffee
If you’re like me, you always look forward to those first sips of your morning brew…possibly more than you look forward to anything else you’ll consume the remainder of the day! No matter how hot or cold it is or how alert or exhausted I am, my morning coffee never disappoints.
And, the good news is this: If consumed in moderation, coffee can be beneficial for your health! Studies have shown that coffee may protect against Type 2 diabetes, lower one’s risk of stroke, ward off heart attacks, fight off the oxidative damage that causes cancer (through it’s antioxidant properties), slow down the metabolic processes that drive aging, and even help us live longer. I’m sold!
However, Coffee is Healthy Only if it’s “Clean,” a.k.a. 100% Sugar-free
The only problem is this: All of the aforementioned benefits come from plain ‘ol coffee in its black and most natural state. Once you add a lot of sugar and flavored syrups to the beverage, its long-term benefits are overshadowed by the terrorizing toll that sugar–real or fake!–takes on the body. Instead of beginning your day with a healthful mug of goodness, you may be beginning your day with a milkshake. The most notable big name coffee sellers have spent millions (billions?) of dollars on marketing campaigns trying to convince us that specialty, sweetened coffees are nourishing. For the most part, their campaigns have worked! Among the most ordered drinks at Starbucks across the United States are the Skinny Latte, White Chocolate Mocha, and Frappuccino. Further, they propagate the idea that that sugar-free syrups are guilt-free and healthier than their sugar-filled alternatives. However, in reality, our bodies react to all forms of sweeteners (even sugar-free syrups!) in the exact same manner: terribly. (To learn more about how sugar wreaks havoc on our bodies, read my previous posts “Sidestep that Sneaky Sugar“ and “Snack Like a Smartie.“)
The Sugar Content of Common (and Seasonal) Starbucks Coffee Orders
If it seems as if I am villainizing Starbucks, I assure you I am not. I generally make my coffee at home using my Nespresso machine (highly recommend!) to save money, but I visit Starbucks just as much as the next person when I’m on the go or in a pinch. But, when discussing the sugar content of popular coffee beverages, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight some of the most common drinks produced by the coffee behemoth.
Caffè Latte (16oz): Milk and Brewed Espresso
- 2% milk: 18 GRAMS OF SUGAR (There are 17g of sugar in a Hershey chocolate bar.)
- Whole milk: 18 GRAMS OF SUGAR
- Nonfat milk: 18 GRAMS OF SUGAR
- Coconut milk: 12 GRAMS OF SUGAR
- Almond milk: 5 grams of sugar (Clearly, this is the best latte option…but why consume an extra 5g of sugar when you can drink a clean coffee free from all sugar? Read on to find out how!)
A basic Starbucks latte does not include any flavoring. Now, let’s take a look at a popular flavored holiday latte.
Pumpkin Spice Latte (16oz without the whipped cream): Milk, Pumpkin Spice Sauce [Sugar, Condensed Skim Milk, Pumpkin Puree, Contains 2% Or Less Of Fruit And Vegetable Juice For Color, Natural Flavors, Annatto, Salt, Potassium Sorbate], Brewed Espresso, Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid)], Pumpkin Spice Topping [Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, Sulfiting Agents].
- 2% milk: 48 GRAMS OF SUGAR (There are 47g of sugar in a bag of Skittles.)
- Whole milk: 48 GRAMS OF SUGAR
- Nonfat milk: 49 GRAMS OF SUGAR
- Coconut milk: 44 GRAMS OF SUGAR
- Almond milk: 38 GRAMS OF SUGAR
What about the classic and beloved “healthy,” “skinny,” flavored-with-sugar-free-syrup latte?
Skinny Flavored Latte (16oz): Nonfat Milk, Brewed Espresso, Sugar-free Vanilla Syrup [Water, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Maltodextrin, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid, Sucralose, Sodium Benzoate]: 16 GRAMS OF SUGAR
Clearly, my clean coffee focus is on sugar content. However, take a quick glance at the ingredients in some of these beverages. Do you really want to start of your morning sipping “maltodextrin,” “cellulose gum,” and/or “sulfiting agents”?
I hate to break this to you, but the overwhelming truth is this: Most mainstream coffee beverages contain shockingly high amounts of sugar. Even the most basic latte with nonfat milk contains 18g of sugar because cow’s milk contains lactose, and lactose–or any “-ose” word, for that matter–is a type of sugar.
Some of the Cleanest Coffee Options
Fear not! I am not advising you to give up your daily coffee
addiction ritual. I am merely recommending that you train your tastebuds to appreciate the pleasant, pure flavor notes in one of the following clean versions:
- Plain black coffee (iced or hot) — If your first thought is, “GROSS!” ask yourself…have you ever tried a cup of super high quality black coffee? Trust me. It tastes completely different and 1000% better than the crappy pot your coworker brewed at the office. If you’re on board to clean up your coffee habit, try ordering black coffee from different artisanal coffee shops for a week and see what you think. (After all, a cup of black coffee from an artisanal shop is still cheaper than a Starbucks latte!)
- Plain black coffee (iced or hot) with a splash of heavy cream — 1T of heavy cream contains <0.2g of sugar, and adding it to a cup of black coffee makes all the difference. If heavy cream isn’t available (and it often isn’t because most coffee shops know their consumers still think low-fat is the way to go), then a splash of half and half (1T contains 0g of sugar) is also fine. (If you’re someone who prefers non-dairy creamers, try a splash of unsweetened almond, soy, or coconut milk. They all have less than 1g of sugar per tablespoon.)
- A Shot (or two…or three!) of espresso
- Caffè Americano (espresso + hot water)
Caffè Americano with a splash of heavy cream, half and half, or unsweetened almond/soy/coconut milk
What about Splenda, Sweet-n-Low, and Sugar-Free Syrups?
If you didn’t click the link to this article above, I highly recommend you do so now to realize “how artificial sweeteners confuse your body into storing fat and inducing diabetes.” The propaganda surrounding sugar alternatives is devastatingly misleading, but, once you know and embrace the truth, you’ll be worlds smarter than any marketing claim!
Have you reconsidered the “cleanliness” of your preferred coffee drink? If so, please share your realizations and thoughts in the comments!
In each blog post, I aim to bring you food for thought (pun intended. Note: my day job is teaching English), but don’t take my word for it! Click on and read all of the links above to become your own expert on this topic; knowledge is power. The more you know and understand the “why” behind each biohack, the easier it will be to stick to it and realize you can’t live without it!
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