Coffee: Can drinking it in moderation actually be good for you?

Published Jun 20, 2024 • By Somya Pokharna

Despite its sometimes-controversial reputation, coffee remains one of the most popular beverages worldwide. While excessive consumption can lead to health issues, numerous studies have shown that moderate coffee drinking offers a variety of health benefits.

So, how can coffee positively impact your health? How much of it should you ideally consume in a day?

Grab a cup and read on to find out!

Coffee: Can drinking it in moderation actually be good for you?

Coffee is an integral part of daily life for millions of people around the world. In fact, the National Coffee Association's Spring 2024 National Coffee Data Trends report shows that 67% of American adults drank coffee in the past day, more than any other beverage, including water, and 75% had drank coffee in the past week.

Despite its popularity, coffee often gets a bad reputation due to its excessive consumption being linked to several negative side effects, such as:

  • Insomnia: Caffeine is a stimulant and can interfere with sleep if consumed in large quantities or too close to bedtime.
  • Anxiety: High doses of caffeine can increase anxiety levels and cause jitteriness.
  • Digestive issues: Some people may experience stomach upset or acid reflux from drinking coffee.
  • Heart palpitations: Excessive caffeine intake can lead to heart palpitations in some individuals.

Moreover, pregnant women, individuals with certain chronic health conditions, and those sensitive to caffeine can face adverse effects on consumption and should consult their healthcare provider to determine an appropriate amount of coffee.

Nevertheless, consuming coffee in moderation can actually offer several health benefits.

What are the health benefits of drinking coffee?

Rich in antioxidants

Coffee is one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the average diet. These antioxidants, such as chlorogenic acid and melanoidins, help fight inflammation and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. This protective effect can lower the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease​​.

Improved heart health

Moderate coffee consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Studies suggest that the antioxidants in coffee can improve blood vessel function and reduce inflammation, which are key factors in maintaining cardiovascular health. Furthermore, research indicates that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of stroke.

Enhanced metabolic health

Coffee can boost metabolic rate, aiding in weight management. The caffeine in coffee stimulates the central nervous system, increasing the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, which boost metabolism. Additionally, coffee has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Cognitive function

One of the most well-known benefits of coffee is its ability to enhance cognitive function. Caffeine blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter adenosine, leading to increased neuronal firing and the release of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. This results in improved mood, reaction time, memory, and overall cognitive function​​.

Protection against neurodegenerative diseases

Regular coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The antioxidants in coffee, along with its anti-inflammatory properties, are believed to protect brain cells and reduce the risk of these diseases​​​​.

Mood enhancement

Coffee has mood-boosting properties, primarily due to its caffeine content. Caffeine increases the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are linked to feelings of happiness and well-being. Regular, moderate coffee consumption can help reduce the risk of depression and improve overall mood​​.

How much coffee should be consumed in a day?

The right amount of coffee for daily intake can vary based on individual tolerance and health conditions. However, research suggests that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day is associated with the most health benefits and the lowest risk of adverse effects. This amount provides approximately 300–400 milligrams of caffeine, which is generally considered safe for most people.

The harmful effects of a cup of coffee can often also be attributed to the extra ingredients people add to it. Here are some common additives to be mindful of:

  • Sugar: Adding too much sugar can increase your calorie intake and contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and other health issues.
  • Creamers: Many coffee creamers are high in saturated fats, artificial flavors, and sweeteners, which can negate the health benefits of coffee and contribute to heart disease and obesity.
  • Flavored syrups: These often contain high levels of sugar and artificial ingredients, which can add empty calories and unhealthy chemicals to your coffee.
  • Whipped Cream: This adds extra calories and saturated fat, which can be harmful if consumed regularly.
  • Artificial sweeteners: While these are low in calories, some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism and gut health.

By choosing healthier alternatives such as low-fat milk, plant-based milk, or natural sweeteners like honey or cinnamon, or just plain black coffee, it can be enjoyed without compromising on health.

Key Takeaways

Moderate coffee consumption offers many health benefits, from improved physical health to enhanced cognitive function and mood. Its rich antioxidant content and ability to reduce the risk of various chronic conditions make coffee a valuable addition to a balanced diet. By choosing high-quality coffee and consuming it in moderation, you can enjoy its many advantages while minimizing potential side effects. So, go ahead and savor that cup of coffee without guilt, knowing that it can contribute positively to your overall health and well-being.

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Coffee Consumption — British Coffee Association

Coffee: Lowers Risk of Liver and Endometrial Cancers — American Institute for Cancer Research

Is coffee good or bad for your health? — Harvard Health

Grosso, G., Godos, J., Galvano, F., & Giovannucci, E. L. (2017). Coffee, Caffeine, and Health Outcomes: An Umbrella Review. Annual review of nutrition37, 131–156.

Poole, R., Kennedy, O. J., Roderick, P., Fallowfield, J. A., Hayes, P. C., & Parkes, J. (2017). Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ. British Medical Journal, j5024–j5024.
Grosso, G., Micek, A., Godos, J., Sciacca, S., Pajak, A., Martínez-González, M. A., Giovannucci, E. L., & Galvano, F. (2016). Coffee consumption and risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality in smokers and non-smokers: a dose-response meta-analysis. European journal of epidemiology31(12), 1191–1205.
Butt, M. S., & Sultan, M. T. (2011). Coffee and its consumption: benefits and risks. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition51(4), 363–373.

van Dam, R. M., & Hu, F. B. (2005). Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. JAMA294(1), 97–104.

Take a coffee or tea break to protect your liver — ScienceDaily.
Coffee drinking is associated with increased longevity — American Heart Association
Daily coffee consumption at 20-year high, up nearly 40% — National Coffee Association

Nieber K. (2017). The Impact of Coffee on Health. Planta medica83(16), 1256–1263.

avatar Somya Pokharna

Author: Somya Pokharna, Health Writer

Somya is a content creator at Carenity, specialised in health writing. She has a Master’s degree in International Brand Management from NEOMA... >> Learn more


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