The Mediterranean Diet: What Can I Put in My Coffee?

When it comes to following a heart-healthy diet, the Mediterranean diet is one of the most effective dietary patterns you can follow. Packed with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, this diet has been shown to promote overall wellness and reduce the risk of heart disease. And while water should be your #1 beverage of choice, coffee is still allowed.

As coffee lovers, many people wonder what they can put in their coffee while adhering to the Mediterranean diet. In this article, I will explore the topic of coffee. I delve into American coffee culture as well as Mediterranean coffee culture and finally answer the question, “What can I put in my coffee on the Mediterranean diet?”

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To learn more about the Mediterranean diet, check out “Mediterranean Diet For Beginners (Get Started Today!)“.

moka pot filled with coffee beans

Benefits of Drinking Coffee

Coffee itself has many health benefits. It is packed with antioxidants and bio-compounds that can protect against heart disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Some of the active health-promoting compounds in coffee include:

  • caffeine
  • chlorogenic acids
  • diterpenes (i.e. cafestol and kahweol)

Research on the beneficial nature of coffee towards cardiovascular health is conflicting due to the high caffeine content of coffee. For example, caffeine may cause anxiety, headaches, or palpitations in some individuals. Additionally, caffeine-sensitive individuals should limit or avoid drinking coffee.

However, for other people, recent studies highlight the benefits of light to moderate coffee consumption on heart health (1, 2, 3).

Coffee intake may also be beneficial in the prevention of certain cancers and inflammatory diseases.

The recommended dosage of coffee to reap these health benefits is one to four cups per day.

Related article: Tea is also full of heart-healthy benefits. Check out “Tea for Heart Health: How a Cup a Day Can Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

The Problem With Some Coffee Drinks

As you can see, coffee can be a very healthy beverage choice. The problem that has come to be, is that American coffee culture focuses less on relaxation, as those in the Mediterranean do, and more on speed and productivity.

Mainstream coffee shops and their trending fat and sugar-loaded caffeine concoctions have become a craze. What was once a health-promoting, enjoyable beverage, is now loaded with saturated fat, added sugars, and artificial ingredients.

Commercially prepared sweetened creamers available at grocery stores can also be high in calories, saturated fat, and added sugars. They may also contain partially hydrogenated oils, which is another name for trans fat.

Consuming large amounts of coffee with these ingredients daily can lead to obesity, elevated total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and/or triglycerides, and increase your risk of heart disease.

For heart health, even adding natural ingredients like heavy cream or half-and-half along with sugar may not be the best option. These are also high in saturated fat and sugars which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Mediterranean Coffee Culture

First of all, in case you missed it, you CAN drink coffee on a Mediterranean diet.

But Mediterranean coffee culture is much different than American coffee culture.

In many Mediterranean regions, coffee is a beloved beverage and is often served in small cups called “demitasse.” It is also a daily habit for many living in the Mediterranean, with some drinking coffee multiple times per day. However, coffee-drinking habits vary from country to country and person to person.

For example, in Italy, it is common to have a morning espresso as a quick pick-me-up. Italians often drink coffee after meals as well.

In Greece and Cyprus, coffee is usually consumed more leisurely, with a popular style being Greek or Turkish coffee, which is often accompanied by social gatherings.

The timing of coffee consumption can also vary depending on personal preferences and schedules.

Overall, those of Mediterranean culture tend to savor their coffee slowly (think sips), enjoying the ceremony of drinking it with friends and family.

coffee in a cup with a foam art in the shape of a heart

Quality and Methods of Preparing Mediterranean Coffee

How coffee is prepared in the Mediterranean also differs from how it is prepared here in North America.

In Greece (and in east-Mediterranean Turkey), coffee is usually boiled over the stovetop, in a briki*, without a filter. This results in a rich and creamy flavor but leaves fine coffee granules on the bottom of your cup.

And in Italy, coffee is made using an eight-sided aluminum pot, similar to an espresso machine, called a moka pot*. This produces a more intense, flavorful cup of coffee compared to drip coffee.

The Greek briki method uses finely ground coffee. Alternatively, the Italian moka pot method uses coffee grounds that are slightly finer than what is used to make drip coffee.

The health benefits can be enjoyed both ways.

I will tell you that traditional Italian espresso and coffee are occasionally sweetened with cane sugar. Sometimes milk is also added.

And in Greece, sugar is often added directly to the pot as the coffee is being brewed. So don’t be discouraged if you just aren’t feeling those black coffee-drinking vibes. It’s alright, we’ve got some solutions.

What To Put In Your Coffee

I’ll reiterate this very quickly…for the simplest way to enjoy coffee on the Mediterranean diet, drink it black. However, I know that this option may not sound very pleasant for those who are accustomed to adding cream and sugar. I understand completely. I, myself, am NOT a black coffee drinker.

So, what CAN you put in coffee on the Mediterranean diet? Here are some options for coffee creamers, sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners, and aromatic spices and extracts.

Creamer Options for Mediterranean Diet Coffee

Adding milk to coffee has led to some controversy over the years. Some studies suggest that adding milk decreases the antioxidant activity and absorption of beneficial chlorogenic acids in coffee. These negative effects may be related to the fat globules in dairy. However, other more recent studies, show that added milk protein in dairy may help increase the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in coffee.

Either way, my suggestion is to add what you will enjoy drinking. Just remember to practice moderation and be mindful of the conflicting evidence.

  1. Skim or Low-fat (1%) Milk: This is a good option if you want a skinny latte. This will add little to no fat to your coffee but not give as much creaminess as almond or soy milk.
  2. Almond Milk: If you want a creamy touch in your coffee, try almond milk. This plant-based alternative adds a delicate nutty flavor while keeping your coffee lactose-free and in line with the Mediterranean diet. Look for unsweetened almond milk to keep sugar intake to a minimum.
  3. Soy Milk: Like almond milk, this plant-based, lactose-free option adds creaminess but has more protein than almond milk. Soy milk protein may also help reduce harmful LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, which are beneficial to cardiovascular health. Again, look for unsweetened varieties.
  4. Evaporated Milk: Notice I said evaporated milk, not condensed milk. These are two completely different types of milk and should not be confused. Sweetened condensed milk has added sugars that you do NOT want in your coffee if you’re trying to be heart-healthy or follow the Mediterranean diet. Evaporated milk, on the other hand, is a great low-sugar, low-fat, creamy option.
  5. Non-fat Milk Powder: As a powdered alternative, non-fat milk powder can add creaminess without fat. Keep in mind this is not lactose-free.

Sweetener Options for Mediterranean Diet Coffee

Some of these sweetener options are natural and some are artificial. The World Health Organization recently in May 2023 that habitual use of non-sugar sweeteners may be linked to a modest increase in diabetes, hypertension, and stroke. Because of this, I highly recommend keeping intake of all types of sugars, both artificial and natural, to a minimum.

Contrary to this, there are also other studies suggesting cardiometabolic benefits to using non-sugar sweeteners in place of sugar-sweetened beverages. Research on this is ongoing but consult with your registered dietitian or doctor for more information if needed.

While natural sugar sources, like honey, cane sugar, and maple syrup are not “non-sugar” sweeteners, they are still considered added sugars.

For reference, the American Heart Association recommendation is that women limit added sugars to ~24 grams per day while men should limit added sugars to 36 grams per day.

  1. Sugar: Yes, regular sugar IN MODERATION. One teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams of added sugar.
  2. Honey: A natural energy source that has vitamins and minerals. It is a popular sweetener used in the Mediterranean. One teaspoon of honey = 6 grams of added sugar.
  3. Maple Syrup: Another natural sweetener with vitamins and minerals. One teaspoon of maple syrup = 5 grams of added sugar.
  4. Stevia: A non-sugar sweetener that comes from the Stevia plant. It’s 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar and is FDA-approved. It will not add any calories to your coffee and is commonly found in grocery stores.
  5. Monk Fruit: Also a calorie-free, non-sugar sweetener derived from plants. Monk fruit is 300 times sweeter than table sugar, is FDA-approved, and contains mongrosides, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Note: Both stevia and monk fruit sweeteners do not show evidence of raising blood sugars in those with diabetes.

Spice and Flavor Options for Mediterranean Diet Coffee

  1. Cinnamon: This adds a warm and fragrant flavor to your coffee. Cinnamon blends with the natural bitterness of coffee and adds a touch of Mediterranean flair to your morning routine. It also offers potential health benefits, such as stabilizing blood sugar levels.
  2. Unsweetened Cocoa: Add a teaspoon to give your coffee a chocolatey, mocha-esque boost of antioxidants.
  3. Turmeric: Add 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon to coffee for antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other health benefits. It has an earthy flavor that may take some getting used to.
  4. Cardamom: In many Middle Eastern countries, cardamom is used to enhance the flavor of coffee. Its distinctive floral and citrusy notes provide a unique twist to your cup of joe. Sprinkle ground cardamom in your coffee after brewing for an aromatic experience.
  5. Vanilla Extract: For those who crave a hint of sweetness, a small amount of pure vanilla extract can do wonders. Opt for high-quality vanilla extract. Add a few drops to your coffee for a subtle and natural sweetness without relying on artificial sweeteners.

Try this recipe: Turmeric Coffee: A Simple Recipe With Many Health Benefits


Is coconut milk okay for coffee?

While coconut milk does contain some nutrients, like potassium, it is still high in saturated fat. According to the USDA, even light coconut milk contains 4.5 grams of total fat and 4 grams of saturated fat per 1/3 cup serving.

Is it better to use whole milk or half and half in coffee?

If you HAVE to choose between these two as a coffee creamer, pick whole milk. Whole milk contains 30% of its total calories from saturated fat. Alternatively, half and half is a mixture of cream and milk but contains a whopping 45% of its total calories from saturated fat. Whole milk will also have less cholesterol than half and half.


While following the Mediterranean diet, there’s no need to worry any further about what to put in your morning cup of coffee. There are several options to choose from to help elevate your coffee-drinking experience.

Whether you prefer it black, with a touch of cinnamon, or a creamier mouthfeel, there’s an option to suit everyone without any guilt. Remember to sip your coffee slowly, just as they do in the Mediterranean, and savor the moment. By choosing wisely and adding these Mediterranean-inspired ingredients, you can continue to enjoy this beloved beverage while supporting your heart-healthy lifestyle.

I hope this article has provided some valuable insights into what you can put in your coffee on the Mediterranean diet. You really can have your coffee (not cake) and drink it too!

Don’t forget to visit the recipe page to find more foods and beverages that follow the Mediterranean-style dietary pattern. Here are a few:

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