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It's Official: You Should Be Drinking More Coffee

Drink All the Coffee You Want

The release of a recent study by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, commissioned by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Americans' dietary guidelines, is turning some heads. Received wisdom on sodium and cholesterol is being revisited with surprising results. The report also had some welcome news for coffee drinkers. Let's find out what the buzz is about.

WHAT GOES: In a move that will surprise practically nobody, the study recommends cutting back on the consumption of meats, especially processed and cured meats (we'll pause to let lovers of bacon, sausage, salami, Serrano ham, pastrami, and various other processed, smoked, and cured animal bits wipe away a salty tear). Added sugars are likewise verboten, and should be limited to about 200 calories per day, though naturally-occurring sugars like the ones found in fruits, vegetables and dairy are fine in normal amounts.

WHAT STAYS: Plants, in their myriad forms. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes are all recommended as part of a balanced diet. And the key word here is balance; the panel does not suggest eliminating meats and sugars, but instead advises moderation amid a shift to a more sustainable diet.

WHAT'S NEW: The emphasis on a plant-based diet isn't exactly news; dietary guidelines have long suggested increased intake of vegetables and whole grains. What has changed is part of the rationale for doing so: for the first time, the panel has pointed to the environmental impact of a meat-laden diet as a reason to eat more fruits and veggies. Eggs are "allowed" again in moderation as well, given the rapidly-changing and often contradictory research on cholesterol. Even salt -- once touted as a one-way ticket to heart failure -- is fine in moderation. The biggest surprise, perhaps, is the panel's downright enthusiastic endorsement of coffee. Far from fearing their daily cup of coffee, it's suggested, coffee drinkers should feel free to indulge... to the tune of as many as five cups of coffee per day.

This is backed by other recent research that shows up to 400mg of caffeine can be beneficial -- even, the study suggests, helping to stave off Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. However, that finding does come with a major caveat: coffee drinkers should pay close attention to the effect that caffeine is having on their minds and bodies. For starters, if you're in the habit of drinking a cup of coffee every other day or so, you'd be ill advised to ramp up your consumption suddenly. It's also worth noting that the timing of your coffee drinking is as important as how much you have, since coffee can cause jitters, insomnia, and dehydration (among other things), and isn't advised for those with existing heart problems or for whom diuretics are a no-go. All else being equal, however, the original point still stands; coffee is in fact good, and good for you.

We should note that this is not the last word on the subject. Speaking about the recommendations and the process of translating them into working dietary guidelines, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “it is by no means over.” As bureaucrats at Agriculture and HHS weigh in, as industry associations and lobbyists have their say, and as politicians pick over the bones of what's left (having already cautioned the panel to include only nutritional and dietary information and “not extraneous factors” in its final guidelines), it's difficult to predict what relationship -- if any -- those guidelines will have to the initial recommendations. If, on the other hand, you're in the habit of paying attention to the science and not waiting to be told to do what's best for your body, you're certainly free to adapt the guidelines for a healthier and more sustainable diet. And with a few cups of coffee in your belly (like our Empire State Medium Roast ground coffee packs), you can even do it with a spring in your step.

Further Resources: Read more at PBS.org. Browse the full study: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/ Watch: Georgetown University’s Thomas Sherman, PhD, weighs in on the dietary guidelines: