Can You Drink Coffee When Eating Clean?

So, you've decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle by exercising more and following a clean eating diet plan. The important question now is, can you drink coffee when eating clean?

Beautiful elegant girl having breakfast and coffee at outdoor cafe. Can you drink coffee when eating clean.
Eat-clean philosophy is about consuming a healthy diet

Clean eating is more of a lifestyle than a diet. As opposed to many diets that involve counting calories or starving yourself for days on end, the eat-clean philosophy is about consuming a healthy diet made up of whole foods such as fruits, lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains.

The main focus is to avoid refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and processed foods. If you’re a coffee addict like me, the million-dollar question is, “Can you drink coffee when eating clean?”

Fortunately, the answer is yes. Here’s why.

Why Is Coffee Allowed in a Clean Eating Diet Plan?

Having oatmeal with nuts for breakfast paired with black coffee.
Drink coffee without sugar if you're following a clean eating diet plan

As far back as I can remember, I have been hearing and reading about how unhealthy coffee is. Together with fatty sausages, sizzling bacon, and toast with margarine, coffee has often been regarded as one of the unhealthy components of the typical Western diet.

I have, throughout much of my life, regarded coffee as one of the many unhealthy lifestyle choices that we make in the West, and as one of the culprits when it comes to ailments such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Like so many other “truths” in my life, this popular narrative has turned out to be factually incorrect. In fact, according to multiple studies, coffee isn’t only not bad for us, it’s actually good for us.

Research has shown that moderate coffee drinking has all kinds of health benefits, including decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurological disorders. To gain the most benefits from coffee, you want to drink it without sugar.

This is especially so if you’re following a clean eating diet plan since it will definitely exclude sugary drinks.

What Is So Good About Coffee?

Coffee contains multiple bioactive compounds, such as flavonols and antioxidants, that are really good for us. Surprisingly, many studies claim that your average American, Scandinavian, Japanese, and European receive more antioxidants from coffee than from any other dietary source.

Although this can also be viewed as damning evidence that demonstrates how poor the average diet is, the fact remains that coffee contains powerful antioxidants and that adding them to our diets is beneficial.

Antioxidants are super important since they counteract and destroy free radicals, which are responsible for cell damage in the body. The oxidative stress that free radicals cause in cells also plays a key role in the aging process.

Prolonged oxidative stress causes all kinds of diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Foods that contain antioxidants, such as berries, honey, vegetables, fruits, and coffee, are therefore extremely important additions to our diets. The clean eating diet consists mainly of healthy, antioxidant-rich foods, which include coffee.

Does the Way You Prepare Coffee Matter?

A woman preparing French press coffee.
Choose hot brewed coffee to extract more antioxidants

OK, so we know it’s best to take our coffee without sugar, and many also advocate that it’s healthier to take your coffee black. However, does it matter whether you opt for a dark or light roast, Arabica or Robusta, or course or fine grinds? It probably does, since these aspects do not only affect the taste but also the compounds within the coffee.

However, more research is needed to ascertain precisely how the different levels of compounds are related to health. According to studies, you want to choose hot brews over cold brews, since the former contains more antioxidants than the latter, especially when it comes to the darker roasts.

Also, espresso offers the highest concentration of multiple compounds because it contains less water than, for instance, drip coffee.

The Good and the Bad of Diterpenes

However, the compounds present in espresso also include the diterpenes, cafestol, and kahweol, which are found in the oil contained in coffee. Research suggests that ingesting high levels of these compounds can raise LDL cholesterol — which is bad cholesterol.

Diterpenes are only present in coffee drinks made without coffee filters because filters tend to soak up most of the coffee oils during brewing. Coffee-brewing methods that function sans filters, such as espresso machines and the French press, allow coffee oils to escape into the final brew.

On the flip side, studies also show that diterpenes can play a protective role when it comes to some cancers.

The Low-Down on Caffeine

So how come caffeine is allowed in healthy diets such as the clean eating diet? Well, it turns out caffeine, taken in moderation, has many benefits. While you don't want to consume caffeine while you're detoxing, it's perfectly OK to do so when you're trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Since it's a mild central nervous system stimulant, caffeine can boost your metabolism and also help control your appetite. It is therefore a helpful agent in the diet plan of those who need to shed a few pounds.

As you no doubt know, caffeine also helps you get through the workday by improving your alertness and overall cognitive function. Lastly, caffeine also boosts physical performance, which is a very welcome benefit once you hit the gym.


  • Born and bred in South Africa, Niki B now does her writing from the distant shores of South Korea. A self-proclaimed coffee addict by day, and a writer by night, she gladly shares her knowledge with fellow coffee lovers.