Does coffee contain antioxidants?
Despite the variety of food products offered in supermarkets around the world, one beverage remains popular — coffee. Although coffee lovers may not think about its many benefits when they reach for their morning cup, coffee contains antioxidants that have several health benefits. In this article, we look at how coffee antioxidants keep you healthy and which coffee types contain the highest amounts.
Fruits and vegetables are widely considered good antioxidant sources, but research suggests that coffee is one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the U.S. American diet. Coffee isn’t only rich in caffeine, which is one type of antioxidant. It’s also an excellent source of a host of other antioxidants, including:
- Cafestol. This substance controls bile acid in the intestines and limits brain inflammation. It's found in both Robusta and Arabica coffee beans, though it’s more abundant in the Robusta variety.
- Trigonelline. This is one of the compounds responsible for coffee’s aroma and bitter taste. It also has antibacterial properties.
- Chlorogenic acid. Available abundantly in both green and roasted coffee, this compound has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.
- Melanoidins. This is the primary compound responsible for coffee’s distinct aroma. It also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial functions.
- Quinine. Quinine is another compound with antioxidant properties that contributes to coffee's bitter taste.
- Hydroxycinnamic acids. This group of compounds exhibits high antioxidant activity by neutralizing free radicals in the body.
Health benefits of antioxidants
While various groups of compounds found in coffee beans — chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, melanoidins, and polyphenols — exhibit antioxidant properties, the method of coffee intake also plays a vital role. This is because some compounds display antioxidant properties only when you drink coffee without roasting or lightly roasting the beans, whereas others are found in abundance in medium and dark roasts.
May prevent cognitive decline
Medical experts believe low dopamine levels are a primary cause of Parkinson’s disease, and research suggests that drinking coffee lowers the risk of this condition. A 2010 study found that the risk of Parkinson’s disease was reduced by 24% for every 300-milligram increase in caffeine intake.
Another 2008 study involving 6,710 participants over 22 years found that those who drank at least 10 cups of coffee daily were at a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease than nondrinkers. A separate 2001 study indicated that men who drank at least six cups of coffee daily had a 58% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease than nondrinkers, and women who drank one to three cups daily faced the lowest risk.
In a 2010 study, drinking three to five cups of coffee daily was also linked to a considerably lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Could help prevent cancer
Studies have revealed the potent effect of caffeine on cancer cells throughout their life cycles, and polyphenols in coffee can also prevent cancer cell growth. Coffee stimulates bile acid production and aids colon digestion, which lowers the harmful effects of carcinogenic compounds on colon tissues, thus protecting them.
Which type of coffee has the most antioxidants?
The antioxidant content in the coffee you drink depends on several factors, such as the brewing method, added sweeteners, added milk or cream, and the variety of the coffee.
Black coffee vs. coffee with cream
According to a 2021 study, adding milk to your coffee lowers the absorption of polyphenols into your body. This can limit your body's intake of the nutrients in coffee that improve heart health.
Hot brew vs. cold brew coffee
Cold brew is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. According to statistics, sales of cold brew coffee increased by 580% between 2011 and 2016. Although hot brew and cold brew coffee have similar acidity (pH levels between 4.85 to 5.13), research shows that drinking your coffee hot makes more antioxidants available to your system than when you have it cold.
Coffee aficionados believe that boiling coffee destroys the subtle flavors of the beverage. According to a 2020 study, boiling your coffee brew may leave you with a less-than-satisfactory taste, but it doesn’t affect the antioxidant content. Another 2020 study found that the antioxidant activity in hot coffee is higher than in cold brew. Nevertheless, avoid leaving your coffee pot at high temperatures for too long as this could break down vital nutrients.
Research has also found that specific antioxidants, like caffeoylquinic acid, are available in greater abundance in hot coffee than in cold brew.
There are two main coffee bean strains used commercially — Robusta and Arabica. A 2013 study indicated that the antioxidant content in Robusta coffee beans is almost two times the amount found in Arabica beans. While this is true for unroasted or light-roasted coffee beans, darker roasts show higher antioxidant contents in Arabica beans than in the Robusta variety.
So if you prefer light-roasted beans (commonly called blonde-roasted), go with the Robusta variety to get the most out of their antioxidant content. On the other hand, if you prefer medium- or dark-roasted coffee, Arabica is the better choice.
Research suggests that the method of brewing also impacts the level of antioxidants that ends up in your daily cup of coffee. A 2020 study revealed that out of the five coffee brewing techniques — Aeropress, drip, espresso machine, French press, and simple infusion — the Aeropress method retained the highest number of antioxidants. According to the study, the brewing method determined not only the antioxidant content but other parameters as well.
Basic brewing techniques, such as the simple infusion method and Aeropress, also increased the mineral content of the brew. The study indicated that coffee prepared using these techniques contained higher amounts of magnesium, manganese, chromium, cobalt, and potassium, whereas drip coffee retained higher quantities of silicon.
Which coffee contains the highest antioxidants?
Many foods contain antioxidants, but a 2010 study ranked coffee 11th in terms of polyphenol content, a potent antioxidant. However, no research conclusively states which coffee is the healthiest. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you can make sure it aids your health by avoiding sweeteners, very dark roasts (due to the low antioxidant content), and unfiltered coffee.
Coffee doesn't offer the same antioxidants as whole-plant sources, like fruits and vegetables. So make sure that coffee isn't your only dietary source of antioxidants.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
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