O ne day coffee can kill you; the next, it can prolong your life. If the flurry of contradictory news is preventing you from enjoying your daily cup, we can help answer the question once and for all: Is coffee good for you? Here are five coffee myths and truths.

1. Coffee Is Bad for Your Heart

False. A recent review of multiple studies, published in late 2017 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that healthy people who had a moderate amount of joe—three to five cups a day—had a 15 percent decreased risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those who drank no coffee. Scientists aren’t sure where the health benefits in coffee come from, but they may be due to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds it contains.

Still, government dietary guidelines recommend that most adults limit caffeine to about 400 mg per day, the amount in two to four 8-ounce cups of coffee. 

2. Coffee Boosts Your Brain

True. Numerous studies have found that caffeine can increase alertness and concentration, and may even boost cognitive performance. And research published in the past five years has found that regular coffee drinkers seem to have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, conditions that may affect the sharpness of your brain.

3. Coffee Helps You Lose Weight

False. Manufacturers of caffeine supplements sometimes make unproven claims that they “zap fat” or “burn calories fast,” for example, so you might think that drinking coffee has the same effect. While some studies suggest that coffee drinking may reduce your appetite, none have proved that it can help you shed pounds.

In fact, drinking coffee could contribute to weight gain. Black coffee has no calories, but a teaspoon of sugar adds 16 calories and a 1-ounce splash of cream adds about 60. Many people tend to use more than that, and the calories accumulate quickly.

4. Espresso Has More Caffeine Than Regular Coffee

True. The average ounce of espresso has 63 mg of caffeine, about 2½ to 5 times what’s in an ounce of regular coffee. So technically, espresso has more caffeine. But you can get more from a cup of regular coffee because you drink more than an ounce or two.

Why do some people think espresso delivers a bigger jolt? It might be because they down it more quickly, says Stephen Schulman, senior vice president at Lacas/Dallis Bros. Coffee.

5. Decaf Isn’t Good for You

False. Years ago, beans were decaffeinated with chemicals such as benzene, now known to be a carcinogen. Coffee manufacturers still use chemicals such as methylene chloride and ethyl acetate to strip away caffeine, but the Food and Drug Administration says the amount in decaf is too minuscule to affect health.

Plus, decaf may have health benefits similar to those of regular coffee. A large study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017 showed that people who had just one to three cups of coffee a day—regular or decaf—had a 12 to 18 percent lower risk of dying from any cause during the 16-year study period.

The Scoop on the Best Coffee

Many java aficionados say that life is too short to drink bad coffee, and we agree. So we had two coffee experts test various brews to find the best. Here, our top picks from each of the following categories—blended, Colombian, and Ethiopian. They received high marks for having smooth, complex flavors with no off-notes.

Heart Coffee Roasters
Stereo Blend (whole bean)
Price per pound: $19

Counter Culture La Golondrina Colombia Certified Organic (whole bean)
Price per pound: $25

La Colombe Ethiopia-YirgZ (whole bean)
Price per pound: $20

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the April 2018 issue of Consumer Reports On Health