A study published in May last year in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that frequent coffee drinkers live longer. Apparently, they have a lower risk of dying from diseases like diabetes, heart disease, etc., compared to those who drink little coffee or none at all—a good 10-15% lower.
That’s great news for coffee enthusiasts. But when experts talk about coffee being good for health (it also helps bring down blood pressure), they are usually talking about a standard cup of coffee with little milk and very little sugar, if at all. They are definitely not talking about the supersized, sweet-as-the-devil mugs filled to the brim with milk foam and cream—what we down on a regular basis at cafés.
“The Italians and the French love their coffee and have a cup with almost every meal and still don’t gain weight,” says Jyothi Setlur
, a consulting nutritionist based in Bangalore. “But that’s because they are drinking espresso shots, pure black coffee with no milk or sugar. Most nations with a culture of coffee drinking look down on big cups of milky stuff, full of saturated fats from milk foam and cream, and high on calorific sugar. “It is not coffee itself, but the way you have it that determines the amount of calories in a cup of coffee. Which is why with coffee I believe in keeping it simple and basic; no unnecessary additives for me,” says coffee expert Sahil Jatana
, founder-partner of the Mumbai-based Caffeinated Solutions Llp(www.thecoffeecoach.in)
Try to develop a taste for unsweetened black coffee; it is almost a zero-calorie health drink. But like anything else, drink in moderation, because too much caffeine in your system does not help either. One cup of coffee gives anything between 65-150mg of caffeine, depending on the way it is brewed. “Caffeine causes the heart to pump faster and breathing to quicken; it is also a diuretic, and can be addictive,” Setlur says. “At lower levels, it makes one alert and energetic but too much consumption leads to jitteriness and nervousness, upset stomach and headaches. So stick to two-three cups of coffee a day (200-300mg of caffeine), to stay within accepted limits.”
If you take your coffee with milk and sugar, slowly reduce the amount you put of both. Skip the sweetener too, and forget the whipped cream please—you can reduce almost 80 calories with this one change.
Our panel of experts, Setlur, Jatana and Mumbai-based Kunal Ross
of Theindianbean.com, an online coffee venture that sells single-estate filter coffee, deconstructs the common coffees so you can choose your next cup wisely.
Cappuccino is an Italian coffee drink prepared with espresso, hot milk and steamed-milk froth. The layer of foam on top is ideally one-third of the content of the cup, approximately 150-180ml in the standard size available at coffee shops.
Calorie meter: Depends largely on two things: the amount of sugar and the type of milk (skimmed or full cream). For a standard-size cup, the calorie count is 75-150 calories without sugar.
Latte (short for “caffè-latte”) is a longer drink, with more milk, and varying amount of foam.
Calorie meter: Typically served in a 240ml mug, the calorie count can be 120-180 calories without sugar, depending on the type of milk used.
An espresso is one small and strong shot of coffee, and is the cup of choice for coffee connoisseurs since it is the purest form of the drink, brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans.
Making a good espresso—from freshly roasted beans ground on the spot and pulled with the right amount of water at the right temperature—is an art that is difficult to master. Most coffee shops will serve you from a machine, which is not the best, but good for the sake of consistency.
Calorie meter: Served in a demitasse, a small 80-100ml cup, it has 2-5 calories minus sugar.
This coffee is prepared by adding hot water to espresso, giving it a strength similar to, but flavour different from, regular drip coffee.
Calorie meter: Usually served in a 240-300ml mug, it has 2-8 calories minus sugar.
Espresso, milk and added chocolate, typically in the form of sweet cocoa powder, although a lot of people (and cafés) use chocolate syrup instead.
Calorie meter: Typically served in a 240ml mug, this has 175-250 calories without added sugar. When served with whipped cream, the calorie count can shoot up to 400 per cup.
Usually made with a shot of espresso, four spoons of vanilla ice cream and milk.
Calorie meter: A typical serving is 250-300ml in a tall glass, with or without ice. This is more dessert than coffee, 180-250 calories at the least.
This one is a sweet milky coffee made from dark roasted coffee beans (70–80%) and chicory (20–30%), and is especially popular in the southern states. It is prepared by using a decoction made using a south Indian filter and adding hot and sweetened milk.
Calorie meter: Sipped from a 100-120ml tumbler, it has 130-180 calories depending on the amount of sugar added (usually 1 teaspoon) and whether the milk used is skimmed or full cream.
Note: All the calories are indicative and may change with the method of preparation.
The extras that make our coffee add to the calorie count*
Cream: 30-45 calories
Whole milk: 9 calories
Skimmed milk: 6 calories
Soy milk: 8 calories
Sugar: 48 calories
Whipped cream (half-cup): 75 calories
Chocolate syrup: 54 calories
Coffee creamer: 30 calories
Ice cream (1 scoop): 130-170 calories
Sugar syrup: 85 calories
Chocolate sauce: 15-45 calories
*Calories are per teaspoon of additive, unless otherwise mentioned.
—Jyothi Setlur, consulting nutritionist, Bangalore.