5 myths about coffee you should forget

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks around the world, but is it worth the hype? A registered dietitian explains fact vs. fiction around the health benefits of coffee and caffeine.
Published 13 May 2021 | Updated 1 July 2024

Can’t start your morning without coffee? You’re not alone! Coffee is among the most widely consumed beverage around the world and one of WeightWatchers® members’ top-tracked foods. However, there are also a number of myths out there around coffee—Does it really wake you up? Should we all be switching to tea? And can you have too much of a good thing? We talked to Jaclyn London, registered dietitian, to set the record straight. Here’s what you need to know about coffee:

Myth 1: Coffee is just for waking you up

Sure, coffee is best known for its ability to jump-start your morning or at least signal the start of the day, but its benefits go well beyond the symbolic. Research has linked coffee consumption to a number of short and long-term health benefits. In the short-term, it’s been found to help boost alertness, cognition and mood. And over time, regular consumption (in the context of other healthy behaviours) may help reduce the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cognitive decline. Plus, the caffeine in a pre-workout coffee can help optimise performance.

That said, if you don’t enjoy the taste of coffee, you shouldn’t feel pressured to start drinking it in the interest of health. There are plenty of other ways to support overall health and wellness.

Myth 2: Coffee is dehydrating

Here’s where people often get tripped up, says London. Caffeine can have a mild diuretic effect, but it doesn’t mean it’s dehydrating. In fact, unsweetened coffee drinks can actually contribute to your daily hydration goals. “And since caffeinated versions also help you feel more alert and energised, drinking a cup can be an all-around great start to your morning,” she adds.

Myth 3: You shouldn't drink coffee everyday

If you’re feeling like you need to overhaul your entire morning routine because you heard coffee may be “bad” for you, think again. No single food in isolation of everything else you’re eating, drinking and doing can make or break your health, London says. Not to mention, many of the health benefits linked to coffee are based on regular coffee consumption over time.

Where coffee can sometimes get a bad reputation is from the added sugar found in certain pre-made bottled options or coffee shop varieties loaded with syrups or topped with whipped cream. While these can be enjoyed occasionally as part of a healthy pattern of eating—along with all other foods and drinks—diets high in added sugar have been linked to increased risk of heart disease and chronic disease.

Instead of forgoing your favourite flavoured coffee drinks for good, aim to reach for unsweetened cups most of the time. Not a fan of black coffee? London recommends turning to your spice rack. “I love adding cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger to my hot and iced coffees and lattes,” she says. You’ll get a boost of flavour—without extra sugar! If you’d rather opt for a milky coffee - that's ok too! Aim for low fat or skim varieties to reduce your intake of saturated fat and calories, and be mindful of how many cups you consume each day.

Myth 4: Limit yourself to one cup of coffee per day

It’s not unusual to hear people talking about reducing their caffeine intake or cutting back on their third (or fourth!) cup of the day. In this case, it’s all about what you consider one cup. So how much is too much? The research is not clear, but healthy adults can in general consume around 400mg of caffeine a day safely.

To put that into perspective, one cup of coffee has around 100mg of caffeine (the exact amount can fluctuate based on the coffee bean you’re using and how you brew it). That means 400mg of caffeine translates to about 3-4 cups of coffee.

“Your personal tolerance and sensitivity is individual, so keep that in mind as you consider what works best for you,” London says. There are also certain situations where you may want to curb your caffeine. If you’re concerned about your intake, talk to your health care provider.

Myth 5: Tea is better for you than coffee

Remember, nutrition is not a contest. Coffee and tea are both great choices to help you stay hydrated—and more. “There are a number of studies that link the antioxidant-and-caffeine combo found in unsweetened tea and coffee to health benefits,” London says. But if you’re looking for a boost, caffeinated coffee typically contains more caffeine than caffeinated teas. The bottom line, drink whichever you prefer!

Cooking with coffee

There are so many delicious ways to enjoy coffee that go far beyond your classic cup. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these delicious recipes.