There is no denying it, the western world is in the midst of a coffee epidemic. Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Caribou Coffee…the list goes on and on, and in each of these coffee hotspots, you can obtain everything from a simple cup of fresh coffee to a Frappuccino to an Espresso, most of which are usually served in some kind of tall, unnecessarily flamboyant glass. But is coffee fattening or not?
Not only is the western world in the midst of a coffee epidemic, but it is also in the midst of an obesity epidemic with more than one-third of U.S. adults now being obese. People are quick to blame fast-food restaurants and other high-fat foods for this problem but these are just one of the many causes. The truth is that your morning coffee could be causing you to gain weight just as much as (if not more than) your regular diet.
Is Coffee Making You Fat?
Basically, coffee isn’t fattening. It is estimated that there are only around 5 calories in a 6-ounce cup of black, unsweetened coffee and furthermore, there are virtually no carbohydrates, no fat and no sugars. There have even been studies that show coffee to increase metabolism, meaning that it could actually help with weight loss.
The problem is that these days, a cup of coffee is about as far from being a cup of coffee as it can get. Coffee is now often packed with things like full-fat milk, cream, sugar, chocolate and other ingredients that we already know to be fattening, which is where the extra calories creep their way into so many people’s diets and cause an increase in weight.
The thing is, you probably already knew this. It’s not rocket science and most people realise that a coffee topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles is going to be less healthy (and more fattening) than a simple cup of unsweetened, black coffee. The problem is, most people don’t realise the extent to which this is true and also, a lot of people don’t particularly like the taste of ordinary black coffee.
To illustrate just how fattening some of these coffee’s really are, let’s compare a few of the favourites on offer from U.S. coffee chain; Starbucks with favourites from fast-food chain; McDonalds.
White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino Vs. McDonalds Big Mac
Opt for a Venti White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino with whole milk and whipped cream and you’re going to be consuming 550 calories, the same as you would from eating a Big Mac. Sure, a Big Mac might derive more calories from fat but either way, it’s still over a quarter of the recommended daily calorie intake for adults, just from a cup of coffee!
Caffe Mocha Vs. McDonalds McChicken Sandwich
The Caffe Mocha is a Starbucks favourite but opt for a Grande with whole milk and whipped cream, and you’re drinking a massive 370 calories, more than a McDonald’s McChicken Sandwich at just 360 calories.
What Does This Mean?
As you can see, so many of the variations on offer from Starbucks are packed with calories so if you’re visiting just a couple of times a day, it is perfectly reasonable for you to be adding 600 – 1000 calories to your diet each day without realising it.
Keeping in mind that consuming 3500 calories more than you need a week leads to a weight gain of 1lb, a couple of your favourites coffees a day could quite easily be making you fat.
You might look at the examples above and think they’re quite extreme but really, they aren’t. Even less fattening options from Starbucks and many other large coffee-house chains are in the range of 200 – 300 calories, and that’s when making a conscious effort to opt for low-fat/non-fat milk.
To answer our original question, it isn’t coffee itself that is fattening, it’s the added ingredients. If you’re having a few mugs of simple, home-made coffee each day (and by simple I mean coffee, water and non-fat/low-fat milk), it probably isn’t going to make you fat. However, start adding sugar, cream or even just full-fat milk to your coffee and the calories are quickly going to escalate.
Personally, I’m not a fan of all these hard-to-pronounce coffee variations, but I do enjoy a mug or two of coffee a day, usually with semi-skimmed milk and no sugar. Sure, this might add an extra hundred-or-so calories to my diet each day but I enjoy it and it doesn’t make me overweight (although I do regularly exercise and eat relatively healthy) so I don’t see any problem with it.
Remember, so long as you’re not exceeding your daily calorific requirements, coffee (or anything else for that matter) isn’t going to make you fat.
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