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How Coffee Affects Blood Glucose Levels

November 3, 2021
Written by
Team NutriSense
Reviewed by

If you're an avid coffee drinker, chances are you've thought about whether that morning cup has any effect on your blood glucose levels. If so, you're not alone. Some studies show that drinking coffee might cause some people to experience blood glucose spikes or crashes. Still, the effects of caffeine on your blood sugar are a little more complex than that.

If you want to understand what happens to your blood sugar when you drink coffee, it's crucial to know all of the factors that come into play when you’re drinking it. Even with all the information we’re about to give you, remember that everyone has different responses to different food and drink. To track how your body responds to coffee in real-time, consider getting yourself a continuous glucose monitor!

Coffee and Blood Glucose

Coffee has been getting a lot of attention lately, especially for its possible ability to help with weight loss—although you may want to take that with a grain of salt. Research suggests that its polyphenols may have health benefits, including increasing insulin sensitivity, lowering blood pressure, and even reducing liver damage caused by chronic alcohol use.

Caffeine is a stimulant, so you may expect it to cause a larger glucose response, as it can stimulate our central nervous system and increase adrenaline in the bloodstream. This is partially correct—a recent review of clinical trials showed that although caffeine causes a temporary increase in glucose, due to a temporary reduction in insulin sensitivity for some. Still, some research also suggests that long-term consumption can improve glucose responses over time.

So, what can we take away from all of this? For starters, we know that everyone responds differently to caffeine, and the effects may be dose-dependent. For some people, coffee may lower blood glucose levels, but it may do just the opposite for others. 

Additionally, you may observe more benefits from drinking coffee long-term vs. acute increases in glucose. However, as with most things, its effects on blood glucose vary and are still being researched. It's essential to track, monitor, and remember that if it's negatively affecting your blood sugar levels or how you feel during the day, you should consider switching up your coffee intake.

Can Coffee Really Lower Your Blood Glucose Levels?

We've said this before, and we'll say it again—there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to your health. With that in mind, remember that coffee can have different effects on different people. And for some, yes, it can lead to lower blood glucose levels.

Wondering why and how this might happen? Epidemiological research suggests the answer could lie not in the caffeine per se but the other components of the coffee bean. Certain bioactive compounds in coffee, particularly chlorogenic acids (CGA), are antioxidant-rich and have potent anti-inflammatory benefits that may improve glucose metabolism. Regular consumption of these powerful polyphenols may be the driving force behind the long-term glucose benefits observed in coffee drinkers. 

Not a coffee drinker? These powerful benefits don't just come from coffee! CGAs are also present in tea, berries, cocoa, and citrus fruits, to name a few.

Does the Amount of Caffeine Matter?

Don't start loading up on coffee to lower your blood glucose levels. Your response to caffeine will also depend on your baseline blood glucose level, how much caffeine you consume, genetics, and how your body handles caffeine. Most healthy people can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day without adverse side effects. 

One thing to consider is that your response may depend on more than just CGAs. Recent studies suggest the difference in your glucose response may stem from your genetic makeup, with specific genes linked to your rate of caffeine metabolism. For some, this could mean they metabolize coffee quicker, resulting in more dramatic glycemic responses from the same amount of caffeine.

Before you decide what a healthy level looks like for you, the best thing to do is to experiment and pay attention to your threshold to figure out how much caffeine is appropriate for your daily limit. Even if you're healthy, it's a good idea to consume caffeine in moderation and find what amount is right for you. Remember that, like everything else, caffeine has its side effects and risks. It can lead to headaches, restlessness, and anxiety. Certain types of coffee, like unfiltered coffee, can lead to an increase in cholesterol, and there may also be an increase in your risk of things like heartburn. And, of course, if you're loading up on the cream, milk, and sweetener, too, you may be putting yourself at risk of diabetes.

Common Types of Coffee and Your Blood Glucose

There are many types of coffee, and so, caffeine content can vary. But let's start with a simple baseline. The average American will drink two cups of coffee per day, which is around 280 milligrams of caffeine in total. And the way your body responds can depend not just on the amount, but also on what type of coffee you're drinking. Here's a little more information about the different types and variations of America's favorite beverage.

Black Coffee

Whether you're making it by adding water to your espresso or using a drip coffeemaker, a cup of black coffee has around 80-100 milligrams of caffeine. While we've established it's also rich in antioxidants—the phytochemicals that promote health and fight free radicals in your body—too much caffeine can wreak havoc on sleep quality for some people and may work best in moderation. A cup or two a day may have cardiovascular benefits, including reducing risks associated with heart disease and Type 2 diabetes for some people.

Espresso

Small, strong shots of coffee that'll jolt you awake—who doesn't love an espresso? Espressos are made by grinding and roasting coffee beans, then passing a small amount of nearly boiling water through the ground coffee at high pressure. The result is a concentrated drink with a relatively strong taste and creamy texture.

When you drink it on its own, there are no significant amounts of naturally occurring sugars in a cup of espresso. Drinks with added sugars and flavors are more likely to produce bigger spikes in glucose and result in energy crashes or cravings throughout the day. A single serving of espresso contains about 60 milligrams of caffeine and may not produce much of an impact on glucose on its own. However, remember that caffeine can affect everyone differently, so higher doses may be essential to monitor. When we say a serving of espresso, we don't mean a cup full! Espresso servings are around 30 milliliters.

Espresso in Other Coffee

Espresso on its own is great, but it's often just one of the ingredients in other types of coffee. Everything from cappuccinos and lattes to Red-Eyes and Café Americano's include espresso shots, but because of the milk, cream and flavor additions, your body will likely respond to them differently.

Since espresso shots are a popular base for mixed coffee drinks, let's focus on those for a minute. With so many variables at play (genetics, duration of coffee consumption, and other additives, to name a few), it can be challenging to know how each type will impact your glucose. For example, a cappuccino is an espresso mixed into a cup of foamed milk, then topped with anything from cocoa powder and cinnamon to a range of other toppings.

A simple cappuccino made with plain milk and no added sugar provides around 160 milligrams of caffeine and 50-70 calories. It also has a lower glycemic index, around 35. Milk contains both protein and fat, which can slow digestion and allow for a more gradual glucose curve for most people. Any added sugars or flavorings could contribute to a larger glucose and insulin response.

Cold Brew

Technology has changed how we brew coffee, and you can now make more potent brews with fewer chemicals. If you're trying to watch your blood sugar but love coffee, try cold brewing it. Cold brewed coffee often has a fuller flavor and is less traditionally 'bitter' than regular brewed coffee, translating to it needing less sugar. This type of coffee may also be less acidic than regular hot coffee. For those with sensitive stomachs, this option may be easier to tolerate. As with all coffee drinks, the critical thing is to avoid high sugar flavoring, milk, and syrups to get an optimal response.

Decaffeinated Coffee

As we've touched on already, research suggests caffeine can improve glucose handling in the long run. Since decaf has around 2 milligrams of caffeine in a typical cup, the caffeine content may not impact blood glucose. Decaffeinated coffee still seems to have similar associations with a lower risk of developing some forms of glucose metabolism disorders as its caffeine-containing counterpart. It's likely because a cup of decaf also contains CGAs, and can provide similar benefits.

As you can see, it's not easy to give you a comprehensive list of how every single coffee type, flavor, and brew that exists will react to your system. When in doubt, the best way to find out is to learn how to monitor your glucose levels and track how your body responds to different types of coffee yourself.

Personalize Your Healthcare with NutriSense

Ready to see how your body reacts to caffeine? Start monitoring blood glucose levels with a CGM so you can start on your preventive healthcare journey. People with diabetes have been using them for years, but the CDC recommends checking your glucose levels even if you're not showing symptoms.

Now, anyone can get a CGM with NutriSense, which offers the same technology for the public for the first time. And the best part is you can use their monitors with an innovative app that tracks your blood glucose levels in real-time. There's also a team of registered dietitians that help you read and understand the data. 

Click here to listen to the podcast.
Listen to the full podcast:
How Coffee Affects Blood Glucose Levels
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Are Sardines Good for Your Health?
Are Sardines Good for Your Health?

Sardines are small, but they pack a big nutritional punch! Learn more about the health benefits associated with eating them and check out some fun facts about this flavorful, nutrient-dense food.

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9
min
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9 Essential Ways to Track Your Fitness (That Don’t Involve a Scale)
9 Essential Ways to Track Your Fitness (That Don’t Involve a Scale)

Most fitness tracking metrics involve stepping on the scale, but they don't always have to! Here are nine other ways to track your fitness.

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14
min
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Foods You Should Avoid Eating If You Have Prediabetes
Foods You Should Avoid Eating If You Have Prediabetes

There are many food items that can worsen the effects of prediabetes. Here are some foods you should avoid or limit your intake of throughout your day.

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11
min
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How Many Meals Should You Eat in a Day?
How Many Meals Should You Eat in a Day?

What's the perfect time to eat, and how many meals should you eat in a day? Explore how eating at different times and frequencies each day impacts your body and blood glucose.

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6
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Glucose-Friendly Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Glucose-Friendly Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks

Looking for a way to add apple cider vinegar into your diet? Start with some of these delicious glucose-friendly ACV drinks, recommended by our Nutrition Team.

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8
min
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Benefits of Walking After Eating: From Regulating Blood Sugar To Lowering Blood Pressure 
Benefits of Walking After Eating: From Regulating Blood Sugar To Lowering Blood Pressure 

Find out how taking a walk after your next meal can benefit various aspects of your health, including your blood glucose levels.

Podcast
55
min
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I Think, I Can—Using Technology as a Window Into Your Physiology
I Think, I Can—Using Technology as a Window Into Your Physiology

Molly explains how using a continuous glucose monitor is what personalized health care means. If you want to fine-tune your health, tune in to this special episode of I Think, I Can.

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10
min
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My Day | My Life: Nutritionist Carlee Hayes' Canine Cuddles
My Day | My Life: Nutritionist Carlee Hayes' Canine Cuddles

My Day | My Life explores the lives of people who have, in one way or another, mastered the art of aging. In this episode, meet Carlee Hayes, dietitian and Nutrition Manager at NutriSense.

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9
min
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Common Workout Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Common Workout Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Worried about getting injured during your next workout? Learn about the most common workout injuries, how they can affect blood glucose levels, and some tips to help you prevent them.

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6
min
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Eat with NutriSense This St. Patrick's Day
Eat with NutriSense This St. Patrick's Day

Would eating the same meal, at the same time, have the same blood glucose response for three different people? See what our team found out after sampling a delicious corned beef and cabbage dish in preparation for St. Patrick's Day!

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7
min
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Build Healthy Habits During Lent
Build Healthy Habits During Lent

Do you know what you're giving up for Lent this year? For those who observe it, this can be a good time to give up bad habits, and add healthy ones into your routine! Read on to find out more about how to build healthy habits this season.

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11
min
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Do You Know How Healthy Your Breakfast Cereal Is?
Do You Know How Healthy Your Breakfast Cereal Is?

Cereal is one of the most popular breakfast foods out there—but how healthy is it, really? Review the nutritional content of some popular breakfast cereals, and learn how to choose a healthy option for your individual needs.

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9
min
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Obesity: What You Should Know and Some New Research on the Condition
Obesity: What You Should Know and Some New Research on the Condition

Did you know that more than two in five adults have obesity? Find out more about the pressing public health issue, review some new research that is shedding light on the condition, and learn how to diagnose and treat it.

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7
min
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Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim
Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim

Purim, a joyous occasion celebrated around March or April every year, is just around the corner! Read on to learn more about the holiday and the delicious foods that accompany it.

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9
min
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Vinegar and Blood Sugar: Does It Lower It?
Vinegar and Blood Sugar: Does It Lower It?

Read on to find out what impact, if any, vinegar really has on our body’s ability to balance blood sugar.

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8
min
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Meal Frequency and Insulin Sensitivity: How Many Times Should You be Eating in a Day?
Meal Frequency and Insulin Sensitivity: How Many Times Should You be Eating in a Day?

If you have insulin sensitivity, is eating two large meals a day or three to five smaller meals better? Find out more about the relationship between meal frequency and insulin sensitivity, and how many times you should be eating in a day.

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9
min
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Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis
Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common yet often ignored condition. Learn more about the symptoms to watch out for, how you can seek treatment, and read first-hand accounts from two women who have dealt with endometriosis.

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8
min
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The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic healing system that dates back over 5,000 years. In the second installment of our series on the practice, review the benefits and risks associated with popular Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

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7
min
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Can Eating Pizza Raise Your Blood Glucose Levels?
Can Eating Pizza Raise Your Blood Glucose Levels?

Pizza can be challenging to enjoy eating without worrying about how it affects your health. But while it may be indulgent, it is possible to prepare or order it in a way that won’t wreak havoc on your health or blood sugar levels. Read on to find out more!

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8
min
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Do Artificial Sweeteners Raise Insulin Levels?
Do Artificial Sweeteners Raise Insulin Levels?

Review our post on the impacts artificial sweeteners have on blood glucose, insulin, and other areas of your personal health.

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8
min
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What Research Says About Sleep and Blood Sugar Levels
What Research Says About Sleep and Blood Sugar Levels

Recent research has shown that sleep and blood glucose are intricately connected. Read on to learn more about what this means for your blood sugar levels and overall health.

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8
min
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Understanding the Relationship Between Menopause and Metabolic Health
Understanding the Relationship Between Menopause and Metabolic Health

Did you know that menopause can affect your metabolic health, and vice versa? Read on to understand the relationship between metabolic health and menopause, and how to manage metabolic health during your menopausal journey. 

Podcast
57
min
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How a Continuous Blood Sugar Monitor Can Help You Find Your Perfect Diet
How a Continuous Blood Sugar Monitor Can Help You Find Your Perfect Diet

In this episode learn the truth about how we react to certain foods in regards to our blood sugar response and how you can tailor your diet according to your CGM results.

Podcast
66
min
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All About Blood Sugar With Molly Downey, RDN
All About Blood Sugar With Molly Downey, RDN

This week, dive into how to eat your carbs and manage your blood sugar, too with Molly Downey, RDN, LDN.

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8
min
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A NutriSense Dietitian's Favorite Kitchen Staples
A NutriSense Dietitian's Favorite Kitchen Staples

Food can be fun, pleasurable, and nutritious all at the same time. Read on to learn more about the two nutrient-dense kitchen staples one of our dietitians swears by to help optimize her health!

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10
min
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10 Tastiest Nutrient-Dense Foods From Around the World
10 Tastiest Nutrient-Dense Foods From Around the World

Instead of the type or amount of food you eat, you should focus on the amount of nutrients you're adding to every meal. Here are some of our favorite nutrient-dense foods from around the world to help you get started.

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7
min
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Do Pineapples Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Do Pineapples Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

Learn everything you need to know about pineapples, your health, and your blood glucose levels, and see how our dietitians like to eat the sweet, tropical fruit. 

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14
min
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Setting Up The Right Diet Plan For Prediabetes [+Sample Diet Plan Included]
Setting Up The Right Diet Plan For Prediabetes [+Sample Diet Plan Included]

Learn more about the relationship between prediabetes and your diet, and see how to build a diet plan that works for you with some great tips, tricks and recipes from our nutrition team!

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9
min
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What You Should Know About Acupuncture
What You Should Know About Acupuncture

Learn more about the research on, as well as the benefits and risks of acupuncture, a form of alternative medicine that involves inserting needles into your body for pain and stress relief.

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6
min
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Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]
Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]

Learn everything you need to know about the relationship between triglycerides levels and blood glucose.