Image credit: Coffee geek via Pexels


For many of us, a daily coffee (or two… or three…) is a non-negotiable. Given how frequently we consume coffee, it’s natural to want to ensure you’re making it a healthy part of your diet to get all the wellbeing benefits possible out of the humble bean. So what is the healthiest coffee order? Well, the healthiest coffee you can order at your local cafe or make at home really depends on what healthy means to you! There are many different healthy coffees and the best coffee for you might be guided by your health goals, taste preferences and any allergies or intolerances. So we’re exploring the healthiest coffee orders as well as how much coffee you should drink per day and any downsides of caffeine consumption.


How much coffee should you drink per day?

Caffeine is the component of coffee that acts as a stimulant on the brain and nervous system, speeding up the messages between your mind and the rest of your body. Caffeine is also found in many teas, chocolate, and energy drinks. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) hasn’t defined an acceptable daily intake of caffeine and the research isn’t clear on the amount of caffeine you should consume each day. However, it’s generally advised that healthy adults can consume around 400mg of caffeine a day safely  — which equals around two espresso coffees. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding it’s a good idea to limit your intake to 200mg per day and children should consume less than 100mg per day.


Health benefits of coffee

Research shows that coffee consumption is linked to a range of health benefits including a reduced risk of some cancers, a lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and a lower risk of depression. Overall, studies seem to show that coffee drinkers live longer than people who don’t drink coffee but more research is needed to show causation.


Negative side effects of coffee

As with all things in life, there are some downsides to coffee consumption. Research has also found high caffeine intake versus low/no intake was associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes (such as low birth weight, preterm birth and pregnancy loss), and fracture risk. Some people are particularly sensitive to caffeine and can experience uncomfortable symptoms like a racing heart rate, sweaty palms, and extra anxiety, so if that’s the case for you, don’t push it.

As much as coffee can help with providing a good energy boost, that 4 pm pick me up can cause sleep problems. If you are sensitive to caffeine and find yourself struggling to sleep, try having your last cup of coffee before midday and switching to decaf coffee after that. Most individuals can tolerate between 1-3 coffees a day without experiencing negative effects. Also keep in mind that coffee, as delicious as it may be, is not a meal. Replacing a meal with coffee can lead to you feeling hungry quickly and miss out on important nutrients. It lacks the fibre, healthy fats, and protein of a well-balanced meal.


So what’s the healthiest coffee you can order?


1. Flat white… if you’re after a solid nutritional profile

You’ll get the benefits of an espresso shot with an extra punch of protein (8.9 grams) from the milk when you order a flat white. A full cream flat white is roughly 120 calories and a skim or skinny flat white is 70 calories. However, the fat from the full cream is likely to keep you fuller for longer.


2. Long black… if you’re being mindful of your energy intake

The lowest calorie option (clocking in at 1 calorie) would be a long black or iced long black – a shot of espresso with hot or cold water. Research shows that black coffee with 100mg caffeine can increase alertness and mood, while reducing fatigue, tiredness, and headaches.


3. Soy flat white… if you’re lactose intolerant or wanting a milk alternative

If you want to avoid cow’s milk for ethical, environmental or health reasons, the best milk alternative for your coffee is soy milk (around 72 calories). The plant-based milk has the most similar nutrition profile to cow’s milk when fortified with calcium and is high in protein (5 grams). Look for brands with at least 250mg calcium per 250mL serving such as So Good and VitaSoy. Most soy milks also have added refined sugars such as cane sugar and raw sugar. Aim for brands that have less than 2 teaspoons of sugar in a serve (less than 8.5g sugar).


Coffee orders to avoid

Be aware of the sugar content in syrups, whipped cream and added chocolate. You’ll likely find these in mochas and powder-based chai lattes. You don’t need to view these as unhealthy coffees because if you really enjoy adding these add-ons, keep it to a weekly treat and keep it simple with your coffee order every other day.