Is Coffee Good for Your Heart? Medical Experts Weigh In
Coffee is an integral part of many people's daily routines. Whether you need a cup of the caffeinated beverage to jumpstart your morning or a mug to get you through an afternoon slump, coffee provides an energy boost that just about everyone can appreciate. But if you've ever felt your heart rate increase or began having palpitations after enjoying a cup of joe, you might wonder if it causes more harm than good to your overall heart health. To help ease these concerns, we've tapped several experts who explained the benefits of drinking coffee and how to know when you're consuming too much of it.
Coffee contains antioxidants.
While you may drink coffee specifically for the caffeine, the beverage does more than just get you out of bed in the morning. "Coffee is incredibly rich in multiple disease fighting superstars, like antioxidants—particularly hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols," says Rachel Brief, registered dietitian at Culina Health. "Antioxidants are tremendous because they mitigate and inhibit damage to cells that can cause cancer and other diseases." Additionally, antioxidant-rich foods and beverages have been linked to a reduced risk of developing heart disease. According to Brief, there is research indicating that coffee is one of the greatest sources of antioxidants humans consume daily.
It can help prevent heart disease.
Due to the compounds coffee contains, like antioxidants and several B vitamins, it's been associated with the reduction and prevention of various diseases like certain cancers, heart disease, liver disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. Brief notes that coffee is especially beneficial to heart health, as the beverage is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. While this may be surprising to some, as caffeine and coffee are often associated with an increased heart rate and palpitations, the American Heart Association found that, across three different studies, people who drank more coffee consistently had a lower long-term risk of heart failure.
Coffee increases endurance.
The caffeinated beverage is also a great way to make your workout routine more effective, which could improve heart health; exercise is associated with a slower heart rate and lower blood pressure. "Caffeine can help with shifting muscles to burn fat and increase muscle endurance," says Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, MD, the West Coast regional medical director at One Medical. She explains that aerobic activities, including long distance running and biking, seem to have the most benefits from caffeine, as do strength training and high intensity sports. According to Dr. Bhuyan, a recent study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that drinking coffee 30 to 60 minutes prior to aerobic exercise can increase the amount of fat you burn during your workout. Brief also notes that the mental clarity coffee provides can stimulate endorphins and improve concentration during fitness sessions.
Drink it in moderation.
Like most things in life, coffee is best enjoyed in moderation. While the beverage has several proven health benefits, it can be harmful to people with high blood pressure, insomnia, or those who get jitters or heart palpitations from caffeine. Dr. Bhuyan says to follow the Food and Drug Administration's recommended maximum intake of caffeine, which is 400 mg per day (four to five cups of coffee). "Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can cause an increase in your resting heart rate and can be dangerous at high levels," she explains. In general, caffeine in coffee will impact everyone differently. Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN, notes that several cups of joe a day may be acceptable for someone who doesn't notice symptoms like jitters and increased anxiety. "For those who notice more sensitivity when consuming coffee, it may be best to limit it to one cup per day, or enjoy decaf coffee more often than regular," she notes. If you do have high blood pressure, Rifkin says to consult your doctor on appropriate coffee consumption, as it may negatively impact your health.
Black coffee is best for your overall health.
If you're hoping to reap the most benefits from drinking coffee, Rifkin says it's best to consume it without adding sweeteners, milk, and flavorings. "Coffee on its own provides a wide array of health benefits," she explains. "However, most people do not drink coffee black, and instead dilute the health benefits of coffee with sugar and cream." If you prefer the beverage on the sweeter side, Brief recommends adding cinnamon or cacao to the coffee grounds before brewing a pot to add a subtle hint of flavor (and some extra antioxidants!). "Plus, there are a ton of new dairy-free and plant-based creamers on the market that are delicious—and low in sugar and fat," she adds.