Avoid These Foods When Drinking Coffee

foods to avoid with coffee

Coffee is well-known for providing a temporary energy boost and several health benefits when consumed in moderation. Studies have shown that it can help prevent inflammatory and oxidative stress-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. However, coffee can also impact the absorption of some nutrients, which can either lessen or heighten the effects of certain foods. To maximize the benefits of your daily cup of joe, it’s important to consider which foods to avoid consuming with it.

Citrus Fruits

Consuming coffee alongside citrus fruits can lead to digestive discomfort. Both coffee and citrus fruits are naturally acidic, with coffee’s pH levels averaging between 4.85 and 5.13. The combined acidity can contribute to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), leading to symptoms like nausea, bloating, and heartburn. Additionally, the tart taste of citrus fruits can make your coffee taste more bitter and less enjoyable. To fully appreciate the flavors and health benefits of citrus fruits, it’s best to consume them separately from coffee.

Red Meat

Coffee can interfere with the absorption of iron, particularly the heme iron found in red meat. Studies have shown that drinking coffee with meals can significantly reduce iron absorption by about 39%. Iron is crucial for blood circulation, hormone production, and immune function. Given that iron deficiency anemia is a common nutritional problem globally, it’s advisable to consume red meat at times when your body can more effectively absorb its iron content, rather than with your morning coffee.


Milk is rich in calcium, essential for bone health, muscle function, blood clotting, and hormone production. However, the caffeine in coffee can hinder the absorption of dietary calcium. This unabsorbed calcium is then excreted through urine, which can increase the risk of kidney stones and bone health issues. Those who enjoy milk in their coffee should ensure they meet their calcium needs through other foods throughout the day. Consulting with a registered dietitian can help tailor a meal plan to your specific calcium requirements.

Fried Foods

Increased coffee consumption has been linked to dyslipidemia, characterized by abnormal levels of fats in the bloodstream. Drinking three or more cups of coffee daily can raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which negatively impacts heart health, while lowering high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is beneficial for the heart. Frequent consumption of fried foods also raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. Those who regularly drink coffee should limit their intake of fried foods to maintain optimal heart health. Research suggests that consuming fried foods four or more times a week can increase the risk of chronic diseases.

Fortified Breakfast Cereals

Many breakfast cereals are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, including zinc. However, coffee can affect the bioavailability of zinc. While specific research on coffee’s impact on nutrient absorption from fortified cereals is limited, it’s prudent to consume them at separate times. An RD can help design a balanced meal plan that ensures you receive adequate nutrients throughout the day.

Foods to Enjoy with Coffee

Certain foods can complement coffee and enhance its nutritional benefits. For instance, bread and coffee together at breakfast may help reduce abdominal fat. A study indicated that daily coffee consumption was linked to a 25.4% decrease in visceral obesity, with an additional reduction when bread was included.

Other great options to pair with coffee include:

  • Oatmeal: High in fiber, it helps regulate blood sugar levels, providing sustained energy alongside coffee’s boost.
  • Fresh Berries: Packed with vitamins and natural sweetness, they pair well with the robust flavor of coffee.
  • Almonds and Nuts: Offer healthy fats and a satisfying crunch that complements coffee’s richness.

Tips for Drinking Coffee

To make coffee a beneficial part of your diet, consider these tips:

  • Timing: Drink coffee in the morning or early afternoon to avoid disrupting sleep patterns.
  • Spacing: Consume coffee 3-4.5 hours before meals to minimize its impact on nutrient absorption.
  • Nutrient Consideration: Be mindful of the iron, calcium, and zinc content in your meals and try to avoid drinking coffee during these times.
  • Medication Interaction: Caffeine can interact with certain medications. Consult your doctor about timing your coffee intake if you are on prescription drugs.
  • Caffeine Limit: The FDA recommends a maximum of 400 mg of caffeine per day, equivalent to about 4-5 cups of coffee.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy your coffee while optimizing your overall nutrition and health

A Quick Review

Coffee offers various health benefits, including reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. However, consuming it with certain foods like citrus fruits, red meat, milk, fried foods, and fortified cereals can impact nutrient absorption and cause digestive discomfort. Pairing coffee with foods like oatmeal, fresh berries, and nuts can enhance its benefits


Why should I avoid citrus fruits with coffee?

Citrus fruits and coffee are both acidic, which can cause digestive discomfort and exacerbate symptoms of GERD.

How does coffee affect iron absorption from red meat?

Coffee can reduce iron absorption by about 39%, decreasing the health benefits of iron-rich foods like red meat.

Is it okay to add milk to my coffee?

While milk provides calcium, coffee can hinder calcium absorption, potentially increasing the risk of kidney stones and bone health issues.

Can I eat fried foods with coffee?

Both coffee and fried foods can negatively impact heart health, so it’s best to limit fried food intake if you drink coffee regularly.

What foods are good to eat with coffee?

Oatmeal, fresh berries, and nuts are excellent choices that complement coffee and provide additional health benefits.

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