Coffee Break With Health Expert Dr. Frankie Phillips

Introducing Dr. Frankie Phillips

Dr. Frankie Phillips is a registered dietitian and public health nutritionist with over 20 years’ experience. With a PhD in nutrition, Frankie has worked in the NHS and across the academic research and charity sectors. She has also been quoted in media publications and appeared on a number of TV programmes as an expert on nutrition. 


Registered dietitian Dr Frankie Phillips sat down with us to discuss the health benefits of coffee and how consuming caffeine in moderation can be extremely good for you.


How healthy is coffee?

“Drinking moderate amounts of coffee, that’s about 3- 5 cups per day, has been consistently linked to a healthy diet and lifestyle. Research studies have shown promising evidence that drinking coffee may bring some health benefits such as lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular (heart) disease, as well as reducing tiredness, increasing attention, mental performance, energy and alertness and even improving some aspects of sports performance.

“Many of the benefits of drinking coffee can be put down to the caffeine it contains, but there is increasing interest in the antioxidants present that might have beneficial anti-inflammatory and other useful effects. Coffee also contains small amounts of useful nutrients such as potassium and magnesium.”

How much caffeine is in an average cup of coffee? Does this depend on the type of coffee?

“The amount of caffeine in an average cup of coffee can vary a lot depending on how you prepare it. Typically, a cup of instant coffee might contain about 65mg of caffeine, a brewed coffee about 85mg and a single espresso shot has about 60mg caffeine. So, if you have your Americano or latte with 3 shots of espresso that could be 180mg caffeine at once.”

How much is recommended and therefore how much is too much caffeine for one day?

“All the research points to about 3-5 cups of coffee (equivalent to approximately 400mg of caffeine) per day being perfectly safe to enjoy (and that’s also the amount that has been linked with benefits to health and alertness).

“For pregnant and breastfeeding women, it’s still fine to enjoy coffee, but the recommendations are to drink no more than 200mg of caffeine per day, so you can still enjoy a latte during pregnancy.

“Drinking more than the recommended coffee can lead to adverse effects, such as agitation and disturbed sleep.”

Is there a difference in the nutrition of iced coffee to hot coffee?

“The coffee itself isn’t nutritionally different in iced or hot coffee, but there might be a difference in what you add to it.

“For example, if you drink hot coffee with just a splash of milk, there would be no added sugar, and very few calories, but iced coffee with a shot of syrup can have a few spoonfuls of sugar added to it whilst whipped cream on top can be a treat, but it adds a lot of fat too and this can really bump up the calorie content.”

What is the healthiest milk to have with your coffee (cow’s, soya, oat or any others)?

“Any of the milk alternatives or dairy milk are healthy, but if you’re having a plant-based milk alternative it’s a good idea to check if it’s fortified with calcium and choose an unsweetened version. Low-fat or semi-skimmed cow’s milk is a good choice too as it has plenty of calcium and no free sugars.”

Coffee has been linked to a number of serious illnesses – various forms of cancer, dementia, heart issues. Should people be concerned?

“There have been some reports raising concerns about the potential links to some diseases. Though, the research as a whole points to coffee being safe. The European Food Safety Authority issued a statement saying that 3-5 cups per day of coffee, or up to 400mg of caffeine, is safe to drink.”


Dr. Frankie Phillips recommended 5 healthiest Coffees to drink

A single espresso: Great if you need a quick caffeine boost before a meeting but have a glass of water alongside to making it more hydrating too

Flat white made with semi skimmed or skimmed milk: A decent amount of caffeine plus the benefit of the b vitamins and calcium in the milk as a bonus.

A decaf americano with a small amount of semi skimmed milk added: This will actually help to hydrate you and if it’s late in the day the absence of caffeine might be a good idea too, a good post-dinner choice

Try an alternative latte. Use oat or almond alternative to milk to give your latte a new taste without the high sugar flavoured syrups. Many dairy milk alternatives are fortified but check that yours has at least some calcium added. The beta glucans in oats provide fibre too.

Try a cappuccino with a twist:  Give the chocolate sprinkles a miss though and try a sprinkle of plain cinnamon instead.