Is drinking artificially flavored coffee bad for you?

As long as your coffee has no added sugars, dietitians give you the green light to sip it.

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Vanilla, hazelnut, caramel. There is no shortage of artificially flavored coffees. And that makes sense: 62% of Americans drink coffee every day, according to the National Coffee Association. Of course, there has to be a flavor for every type of coffee drinker.

But if you’re a French vanilla buff, you might be wondering: how healthy is it?arethose fake flavors in my morning cup?

Below, we break down the basics of common additives and ask health experts for their take on the question: Is drinking artificially flavored coffee every day “bad” for you?

What are artificial flavors?

Chances are you’ve scanned a food label and seen the words “artificial flavorings” among the ingredients. The vague term is basically a catch-all that refers to all the flavoring agents thatare not​derived from natural sources like spices, fruits, vegetables, herbs, or animal products, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The problem? Artificial and natural flavors (which may actually be chemically the same) serve the same purpose: to add flavor — not nutrients — to food substances, says Mary Matone, RD, dietitian at virtual private practice Culina Health.

Moreover, artificial flavors can even undergoFollowingRigorous laboratory testing against natural flavors, by Harvard University. So there is this.

Where does flavored coffee get its flavor?

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Propylene glycol is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use in foods by the FDA.

Are there any health risks associated with artificially flavored coffee?

Not really. The effects of daily consumption of artificially flavored coffee have not been widely studied in occasional coffee drinkers.

In general, artificial flavors are considered “safe for consumption at intended levels,” according to research from the Michigan State University Center on Ingredient Safety. But what about exposure at much higher levels?

Research suggests that very high exposure to various food flavorings (think: among workers in manufacturing plants) may increase the risk of lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Of course, it’s important to note that tossing around food chemicals day in and day out is far from the same as sipping a cup of French vanilla on the way to work.

People Who Should Limit Artificially Flavored Coffee

Anyone with a rare food allergy

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), flavoring agents that contain one of the nine most common food allergens must disclose their presence, but less common allergens are not required to be listed.

“Anyone with allergies, especially rare food allergies, should be extra careful when consuming foods [or drinks] with added flavorings, because we often don’t know what chemicals are in those flavorings and some could cause an allergic reaction,” says Matone.

Anyone on an anti-inflammatory diet

“While not everyone needs to completely eliminate products containing artificial flavors, we need to consider the amounts of these foods and beverages we consume, especially if we are aiming to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. “, said Matone.

Simply put, artificial flavors are commonly found in processed foods and beverages that also contain other pro-inflammatory ingredients, such as certain vegetable oils and refined sugars.

When it comes to artificially flavored coffees, the beans themselves are usually unsweetened. The creamer and three pumps of caramel syrup you added to your flavored coffee? Well, that’s another story…

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Artificial flavors tend to be applied to very poor quality coffee beans. If you pride yourself on drinking good stuff, consider opting for a less processed, higher quality roast, then add one of the flavoring agents below.

How to Add Flavor to Coffee

The most nutritious way to flavor your coffee is DIY. Buy unflavored beans (bonus points if they’re organic), then add your own blends, like antioxidant-rich spices.

“Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, or cocoa powder are some fun ideas to start with,” says Matone. “In addition to tasting great, many of these spices have anti-inflammatory properties, which can give your morning coffee an extra nutritional boost.”

Cow’s milk or unsweetened plant-based milks are low-sweet ways to lighten your cup. If you’re into cream, be a label sleuth and check out what’s in your favorite product.

“Coffee creamers often contain thickening and stabilizing agents like carrageenan as well as partially hydrogenated oils,” says Matone. “These ingredients are important to consider, as some have been linked to negative health effects such as cardiovascular disease.”

Many creams are also sweet, and their added sugars can add up quickly, especially for people trying to manage their blood sugar.

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Of course, serving size is also important. “The amount of cream you use is important when assessing the risk of these ingredients,” adds Matone. “For someone who only uses a splash of cream once in a while, these ingredients aren’t likely to cause harm.”

“There are no major health risks associated with regular consumption of artificially flavored beverages,” says Megan Meyer, PhD, senior director of science communications at the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

Still, if you’re trying to minimize the amount of processed foods and beverages in your diet, consider opting for unflavored coffee beans and adding your own nourishing ingredients, like blood sugar-stabilizing cinnamon, for a boost. natural flavor.

“When it comes to good nutrition, what matters most is what we eat. [and drinking] over the long term,” notes Meyer. “And of course it is important to control caffeine consumption. Try to stay below 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which equals about four 8-ounce cups of coffee.

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