What’s in your coffee?

I start every workday with a warm drink: usually coffee. There is something about it that helps me take a second to prepare my mind and organize my day. Like most “nutrition news”, there is conflicting information about coffee and what we put in our coffee.

Coffee (like all food/drink preferences) is personal. I have a sweet tooth.  I like flavors: non-dairy, sugar free creamers and Truvia at home, or sugar free vanilla/hazelnut flavoring with a little cream and a sweetener at coffee shops.

I know, I know…it does not sound “healthy” with the unnatural products and the high-fat cream, but what can I say? I like it, and it makes me feel good! Here are some basic tips to consider:

You may have heard that coffee can dehydrate you because of the caffeine, but this is not true. Any liquid (excluding alcohol) will hydrate. Water is best, but other liquids will also provide fluids your body needs.

So then, what about the debate between Sugar vs. artificial sweeteners vs. natural sugar free sweeteners? I have type I diabetes; so, for me, the immediate risk of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is more concerning than worrying about the conflicting research findings regarding artificial sweeteners. If I drink a medium, 16 oz, coffee with vanilla or hazelnut flavor (NOT sugar free), I get 30 g of carbohydrates (and 120 Calories), which is almost a meal’s-worth or carbs! I choose sugar free sweeteners, with 0 g of carbohydrates (and 0 Calories), for this reason. I choose natural sweeteners (stevia, truvia, etc), when available, but if not, I use an artificial sweetener, even though I know they are processed. There are many people, though, who are not comfortable with sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners are, like the name suggests, artificial. They are chemically made, and there is worry that risk for certain diseases is increased with the use of these products. Artificial sweeteners have been deemed safe for consumption, though. One of the most talked-about research findings cautions us about risk of bladder cancer; but, this research was done on rats who were fed more sweetener in a short amount of time than any human could eat in a lifetime. Over 20 years of data has been collected from various experiments, and according to the findings: sweeteners are safe to use in moderation.

Let’s look at cream vs. low fat dairy vs. non dairy creamer. Cream is high in Calories and saturated fat, but also brings a creamy, comforting, and satisfying taste. Lower fat dairy has less saturated fat and Calories, which is great for our heart and waist line; but, does not have the same “mouth feel”. Personally, I love cream in my coffee. Since I only drink 1 or 2 cups each day, the 40 Calories and 2 g of saturated fat do not stop me. I would use 2-3 times as much skim or 2% milk to get the same consistency I get from 1 tablespoon of cream, so I would not save Calories anyway! Again, moderation is key (do we sense a trend?). Non-dairy creamers, like the artificial sweeteners, are not natural. But, for blood sugar and weight management, these can be sugar free and fat free. Soy or almond milks are other alternatives to try. These do not have the saturated fat that dairy does and may even add a little flavor!

If you like your coffee black, well GREAT! no need to worry about sugar or fat or Calories in a cup of black coffee. Another suggestion is to try tea. There are many flavors, and plain tea does not have any sugar, Calories, or fat. If you like lattes or frozen drinks, try ordering them with skim milk or low fat milk. Instead of a Chai Tea Latte (my favorite), I order plain chai tea with a “steamed skim topper” and 1 or 2 sweeteners. I also trade out my morning coffee for hot water with a squeeze of lemon and a sweetener a few days per week. It is refreshing and much lighter than the coffee alternative.

What are your favorite coffee drinks? Have you tried anything different with your favorites to make them “healthier”? Contact me with questions or for individual advice.


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