For many people, coffee is a daily staple we rely on to feel energized and focused. And while you may love it for the caffeine, experts say drinking coffee is good for your heart too (if you drink the right amount).
People used to think coffee was bad for heart health. It was thought to increase abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), raise cholesterol and blood pressure, and increase your risk of heart attack and disease. But recent research shows this actually isn’t the case, and in fact, the opposite may be true.
5 Ways Coffee Is Good for Heart Health
When it comes to heart health, the benefits of coffee may come as a surprise. Here are a few important ones to take note of.
1. It Lowers Several Heart Disease Risk Factors
New research exploring coffee drinking and heart disease risk shows that sipping your morning brew is probably protecting your heart in a few ways, according to the October 2022 findings reported by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC).
People who drank 3 cups per day versus none had a significantly lower risk of stroke, abnormal heart rate and hypertension, according to the ISIC research. On top of all that, the researchers also found coffee drinkers were far less likely to die from heart disease or from any cause.
2. It’s Tied to a Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Heart failure is a progressive form of heart disease that prevents the heart from effectively pumping blood through the body. Risk factors for heart failure include uncontrolled type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Some studies have shown a negative association between the cups of coffee people drink and their risk of heart failure, according to a February 2021 review in Circulation: Heart Failure. When compared to people who drank no coffee, those who had one cup per day had a 5 to 12 percent drop in heart failure risk, while those who drank two cups had a 30 percent lower risk.
Interestingly, decaf coffee doesn’t offer the same benefits. In fact, drinking decaf coffee increases the risk of heart disease, according to results published in the same study.
3. It’s High in Antioxidants
Inflammation is a major contributor to heart disease and many other chronic illnesses. Antioxidants are nutrients that fight inflammation in the body by neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals, according to Hopkins Medicine.
Coffee is rich in antioxidants, which have been linked to a lower risk of conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association.
What’s more, if you love the taste of coffee it may be one of the easiest ways to get heart-healthy antioxidants into your diet. Most of the dietary antioxidants we take in come from beverages like tea and coffee, according to an October 2014 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science.
4. It May Rev Your Metabolism
A few sips of coffee can make you feel energized and alert, but there’s also some evidence coffee can affect your metabolism and even play an important role in fat loss, which ultimately affects your heart health.
An older study in the American Journal of Physiology showed caffeine increases metabolism and fat burning. More recent research supports these findings, showing a more specific association between drinking 4 cups of coffee per day and significant fat loss, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Add to that, caffeine can also improve physical performance, according to an older meta-analysis in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
It also helps to fend off tiredness, and most people can agree, that you’re more likely to be physically active when you feel energized.
5. It’s Associated With Improved Cholesterol
Drinking black coffee was associated with a positive effect on HDL cholesterol levels, according to November 2020 research in the Journal of Multiplidiscinary Healthcare.
HDL cholesterol is known as the “good” one because it helps remove bad cholesterol from your bloodstream, which ultimately lowers your risk of heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But the relationship between coffee and cholesterol is a bit more complicated. Coffee contains natural oils from the coffee bean called diterpenes, and these may raise total and LDL cholesterol, according to the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC).
The amount of diterpenes in coffee varies with the brewing method, though. Coffee brewed through a filter will have less of these oils, while unfiltered coffee will have more.
An August 2018 study conducted at Emory University School of Medicine in Georgia, shows that people with HDL cholesterol levels of 41–60 milligrams per decilitre have the lowest risk of heart disease.
How Much Coffee Should You Drink?
Drinking too much coffee can cause issues like insomnia and anxiety, yet if you don’t drink enough, you might not see any significant benefit.
“There is a dose-related effect, in that too little or too much coffee does not provide significant health benefits,” says Adedapo Iluyomade, MD, a cardiologist at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute. “Two to three cups is where the heart-health benefits seem to occur.”
All types of coffee — including ground, decaf and instant — were linked to a lower risk of heart-disease-related incidents and death in a September 2022 study in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology. The effects were observed in people who drank two to three cups of coffee per day.
While two to three cups seem to offer the greatest benefit, it’s also a good idea to take your caffeine sensitivity into account. Those who feel jittery after a small dose may want to drink less.
If you have a pre-existing heart problem, it’s best to talk to your doctor before you start adding cups of coffee to your routine.
“Some doctors advise people with heart disease to avoid coffee completely, perhaps because caffeine may stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and potentially raise heart rate and blood pressure. But more recent studies hint that moderate amounts of coffee are okay for most people,” he suggests.
Stick with 2 to 3 cups of coffee if you can tolerate the caffeine to get the heart health benefits. If you have an existing heart condition, talk to your doctor before adding more coffee to your diet.
Making Coffee Heart-Healthy
The way you take your coffee may affect the health benefits.
“The most nutritious way to drink coffee is plain with nothing added — also known as drinking it black,” Iluyomade says. “Ideally, you shouldn’t put sugar in your coffee or other additives that are often rich in calories, carbohydrates and fat.”
Taking in a lot of sugar causes inflammation in the body, and remember, inflammation is a contributing factor to heart disease.
People who drank sugar-sweetened beverages raised their risk of heart disease by 20 percent, according to a May 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Full-fat dairy products, like cow’s milk and whipped cream, are high in saturated fat, which are linked to higher LDL “bad’ cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease. Try using these in moderation, or opting for black coffee, which offer more benefits for your ticker.