Q: Is coffee good or bad for heart health? It seems like I've heard both.

By Willow Jarosh, R.D., and Stephanie Clarke, R.D.

A: The phrase “use moderation” may sound common, but that’s only because it’s so true. And coffee is no exception. The general medical consensus is, for most people, one to two cups a day is just fine. And you’re right, in new and emerging research there’s some evidence that coffee may offer some benefits such as reducing the risk of diabetes and Parkinson's disease; and contributing antioxidants to the diet. Plus, a little bit of coffee can also help boost your energy level. That said, some new and emerging research also suggests a few reasons to stick to the two cups a day or less guideline: Unfiltered coffee, such as espresso (or any drinks made from espresso such as lattes and Americanos) or French pressed, may raise cholesterol, especially in those who already have elevated levels. Scientists think that this is due to two compounds present in unfiltered coffee called cafestol and kahweol, which are removed in filtered coffees. Another new and emerging study found that people who metabolize caffeine more slowly might be more susceptible to heart disease if they drink two or more cups of caffeinated coffee each day. And, of course, weighing down any cup with cream and sugar will increase your fat and calorie intake considerably

The bottom line if you’re a java lover? One or two 8-ounce cups of coffee a day doesn’t seem to be detrimental to health (and may even hold some benefits based on these studies) as long as you choose filtered coffee (like the kind made in coffee makers with a filter) most often, opt for skim or 1% milk (such as Smart Balance™ Fat Free or Lowfat milks) in place of creamers, and stick with 1 teaspoon of sugar or less. Don’t forget, many coffee shops pour much more than 8-ounces into their medium and large cups -- a tall Starbucks coffee offers up 12-ounces of coffee while their largest size, a Venti, is 20 ounces, so be sure to ask how many ounces their cups hold and stick with the smallest size. And if you’re not a regular coffee drinker, there’s no need to start!

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