Serve Your Coffee This Way for Antioxidants

Medically reviewed in January 2022

You could be putting a stranglehold on coffee's health perks by stirring in the wrong stuff. So consider these rules: no nondairy creamer, and go easy on the sweet stuff.

In a small study, sugar and nondairy creamers seemed to undo a big chunk of the health benefits of drinking coffee by binding up the good-for-your-body antioxidants in the brew. 

Coffee's Good Stuff
In the small study, coffee drinkers sipped instant joe three different ways -- black, with a little whole milk, or with sugar and nondairy creamer. Blood tests then showed that levels of chlorogenic acids (CGAs) -- antioxidants in coffee that may play a role in the brew's beneficial impact on diabetes risk and more -- were different across the groups. Milk seemed to have little effect on blood levels of the compound, while the lightened, sweetened cup appeared to reduce CGA levels anywhere from 23 to 29 percent. (Is instant as good as fresh-brewed? Truth is, it may be better.)

Have a Cuppa
Researchers aren't sure why sugar and creamer seemed to hamstring the antioxidants in coffee. And more research is needed to confirm the effect and also clear up remaining questions about milk (other research has shown that proteins in milk bind with CGAs in tea, making the antioxidants unavailable to the body). But the bottom line is that the less you put in your coffee, the better it probably is for you. No sugar means no extra calories. And if you must have milk, choose just a splash of fat-free. Whole milk and many nondairy creamers add saturated fat.

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