Anne Braly

I have my grandfather, John Sprague, to thank for my lifelong love affair with coffee. I remember as a child sitting on his knee as he placed a coffee cup in front of me, filled it with a couple thimblefuls of coffee and filled the rest of the cup with milk. I couldn't have been more than 4 years old, but I felt so grown up as I sipped on my "coffee."

That's where it all began, and I can think of no better time than to bring this memory forward as Saturday is National Coffee Day. Not on your calendar? I'm not surprised. It seems as though most every day is devoted to some sort of food or life event. But in honor of coffee day, you might want to give it a thought as you sip your morning java and wonder about the first time you tasted coffee.

Unlike my mother, who drank coffee morning till evening, I only drink a cup or two in the mornings and rarely in the afternoon, only when I need a little pick-me-up to get me through the night if I'm planning on going out past 8 p.m. — those days are rare, though. But having three to five cups per day, says registered dietitian Allison Knott, is actually OK.

"The most recent dietary guidelines for Americans specifically addressed caffeine intake in the form of coffee," she says. "Luckily, for avid coffee drinkers, three to five 8-ounce cups per day is shown to be safe."

This doesn't come without a few caveats, though, she warns. Those three to five cups should equal approximately 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, so if your coffee is brewed in a way that results in a higher amount of caffeine, such as many of those cups served at Starbucks, then you may need to cut back on your total quantity of cups to stick to the caffeine-per-day recommendation.

"Additionally," Knott continues, "the recommendations specifically point to healthy adults, not children, teens, pregnant or lactating women, or those with chronic conditions who may be more sensitive to caffeine."

Some research also has shown that moderate intake of coffee may be protective against cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, as coffee is a source of antioxidants, which have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Additional points to consider before taking your daily coffee break include, Knott says:

-Limit the number of cups with added sugar and saturated fats.

-Add no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men. A Starbucks Venti Iced Caramel Frappuccino has 84 grams of sugar, most of which are added — not those found naturally in milk in the form of lactose.

-Remember that some coffee beverages also can be high in saturated fat with the addition of creamers, whipped cream and other full-fat dairy products. So watch out.

And, according to, if you can stand it — and some people actually prefer it — instant coffee has less caffeine than freshly brewed. On a cup-for-cup basis of equally strong coffee, instant coffee has about half the caffeine of filtered, brewed coffee.

So there you have it. The latest lowdown on coffee. We've heard that it's bad for us. Then we hear it's good for us. Seems as though the truth lies somewhere in between. It's all about monitoring your intake, reading labels and watching what you put in each cup to sweeten the pot. And have yourself a wonderful National Coffee Day.

The latest in coffee makers

If you're in the market for a new coffee maker, Black & Decker has one that makes mornings a breeze and does some of the thinking for you. The Select-a-Size Easy Coffeemaker allows you to brew coffee multiple days in a row without refilling the tank. It has an extra-large, 80-ounce water reservoir that might even get you through the week — just one less step to worry with on those early mornings. You can choose your serving size, from four to 12 cups, simply by turning a dial — not having to level the water in a coffee pot with an unsteady hand when you're just out of bed. One more function allows you to choose how long you want the machine to keep the coffee pot warm — from 30 minutes to two hours. Pick one up at Walmart online or in-store for $39.92.

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