Your Coffee Habit Isn't The Problem, The Treat On The Side Is

Soz, brownies. It's me, not you.
Good news: This is not a coffee-shaming article.
Good news: This is not a coffee-shaming article.

There's quite a lot of contradictory (and rather unfair) advice floating around about coffee.

Somewhere along the way, the universe decided it was bad for us, but according to accredited dietitian Melanie McGrice (and frankly, years of research) this couldn't be more untrue.

"Coffee actually has a lot of nutritional benefits. Unless you are drinking huge quantities, are pregnant or have a specific medical issue [like problems sleeping], there actually isn't any need to cut down on your intake," McGrice told The Huffington Post Australia.

McGrice said this cloud of guilt we've forged around caffeine (particularly of the hot, creamy variety) needs to stop, because the danger isn't so much in the drink itself, but the treat that goes with it.

We're talking about the brownie, muffin or lemon slice that accompanies your afternoon hit.

"For the average Australian, 35 percent of their total daily energy intake is made from discretionary foods with cakes and slices leading the way," McGrice said.

No surprises, that Danish or hedgehog slice is more often than not consumed with a cup of coffee (they go hand in hand, no?).

For this reason, McGrice tends to focus on the habits around her clients' coffee intake. So whether they tend to buy a treat with their takeaway coffee, add sugar and also the portion size.

"It's about getting into the habit of ordering a small coffee as opposed to a large, avoiding adding sugar, and also cutting down on coffees later in the day and replacing with either tea or a warm glass of milk," McGrice said.

"Milk has a low glycemic index and contains calcium which is also very beneficial. Of course, if you are already having loads of lattes those kilojoules can obviously add up," McGrice said.

So really, what constitutes too much coffee?

"People can have up to 500 milligrams of caffeine per day (for optimum health), which equates to about three-and-a-half coffees," McGrice said.

She also advised being careful of the sugary syrups that are often added for extra flavour.

"Just as you would with other food, it's important to read the label and be mindful of the kilojoule count particularly within flavoured coffee and the powdered 'cafe style' varieties you can buy from the supermarket," McGrice said.