Is coffee a health food?

Dietitian says it's time to look at coffee in a new light


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Can't start your day without your morning coffee? Stop feeling guilty about it.

Experts say a cup of coffee not only provides a little pick-me-up, but you may also be pouring real health benefits into your mug each morning.

Studies have shown certain compounds in coffee can have a positive effect on our bodies.

Kristin Kirkpatrick is a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute. She says it may be time to look at coffee in a new light.

"We shouldn't look at coffee as something that is not good for our health anymore," said Kirkpatrick. "There have been so many studies that show the benefits of coffee.  Coffee consumption has been linked to decreases in diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers."

Kirkpatrick says researchers have linked coffee to a decrease in the risk of prostate cancer in men and endometrial cancer in women.

A 2012 study found a compound in coffee may block a substance that plays a role in the development of diabetes.

Kirkpatrick says coffee drinkers may also slow the development of dementia later in life and protect themselves against skin cancer. A couple of recent studies also found people who drink three or four cups of coffee per day tend to live longer.

Even decaffeinated coffee appears to provide some of the same protection, which may mean the benefits are in the bean.

"The benefit may be coming specifically from the coffee bean," said Kirkpatrick. "It has that rich, dark color. It is a plant-based food. A lot of times we forget about that, it is a bean."

Kirkpatrick says two to three cups of coffee a day should be all you need to see the health benefits. She recommends drinking it black, since adding lots of sugar and cream adds fat and calories.

"If you want to spruce up your coffee you can do it with a little bit of skim milk, or some almond milk. If you absolutely have to have some sweetness, you can maybe try a little bit of Stevia," said Kirkpatrick.