Coffee is one of the beverages enjoyed worldwide mainly for the benefits of caffeine. But not too long-ago coffee has been proven to have more than just caffeine. In 1950, antioxidants were first identified in coffee.1 Recent research is now questioning whether coffee should be considered a functional food because of all the antioxidant properties and health benefits2.
I consider coffee to be a healing food because of all the positive effects it provides me with. Coffee provides me with a boost of energy, alertness and digestion. Besides the caffeine it also has antioxidants. Foods with antioxidants are considered be really good for us; which I will elaborate more on. But I have also heard both perspectives on coffee, that it good for you and that it is bad for you. To me coffee is like red wine in moderation it is good for your health.
Now that we know coffee has antioxidants more research is being done on how it supports specific diseases. New research is stating caffeinated coffee has positive effects on specific diseases. A study published in 2018 by the Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases has correlated the consumption of coffee with lower occurrence of erectile dysfunction (2-3 cups), less likely to develop obesity, (2-5 cups) lowers all cause of mortality rate in cardio vascular, T2D, liver disease depression and suicide.3 Several others studies have correlated caffeinated coffee to lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.2 Besides the antioxidants, coffee also has other nutrients that promote health.
Nutrients that support out health have also been identified in coffee. In regards to macronutrients, a recent study identified coffee to have soluble fiber.2 On the micronutrients, one study found Niacin is formed from the breakdown of trigonelline (antioxidant) when roasting coffee.2 Chromium is also found in coffee2; which is a trace mineral that helps control blood sugar4.
Another health benefit of coffee is that it helps us secrete gastric acid which helps breakdown our food and have better digestion; this study stated that ground caffeinated coffee and freeze-dried instant coffee both activate the gastric acid secretion.2 There is not a lot of research on the mechanisms of action on how the antioxidants of coffee work on our body. But most of the research does identify antioxidants as the ingredients that promote health.
Antioxidants are essential to protect us from free radicals that have the potential of damaging our cells. Free radicals have a structure of seven electrons, so when their floating in our bodies they can either attach to our cells or be neutralize by antioxidants. The accumulation of free radicals turns into oxidative stress and this leads to inflammation, changes of the structure of our cells, premature aging and numerous diseases.5 Every day we are exposed to free radicals through pollution, radiation, poor diet, pesticides, stress, medication, smoking and alcohol.5 We now know some foods and beverages have antioxidants; coffee being one of the most consumed beverage.
Coffee is full of antioxidants before and after it has been roasted. Since, most of us drink our coffee after it has been roasted I will focus on those antioxidants. The antioxidants in coffee after the beans have been roasted fall under the umbrella of phenolics and are part of the Hydroxycinnamic acid group such as ferulic , caffeic, n-coumaric acids, and sinapic acid.2 Ferulic acid in coffee has shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antibacterial, antiplatelet, and antiviruses properties; including the ability to stop free radicals from stealing electrons from lipids cell membranes.5
Not all coffee beans have healing properties; it all depends on the roasting temperature. Coffee is roasted in three different ways. The light roasted usually gives coffee a mildly spicy brew.6 Medium roast coffee has a bread and nutmeg flavor.6 Then the dark roast where coffee beans are almost black color will have an intense and bitter aroma.6 Several studies have shown the prolonged roasting time decreases the polyphenols (antioxidants) content.6 Therefore, coffee with the most antioxidant activity are those that are lightly and medium roast. In addition, adding milk to coffee has not shown the decrease the antioxidant level.5
Coffee can also be prepared different ways and that can change the content of health benefits. Several studies recommend to drink filtered coffee (using a filter) to decrease the amounts of diterpenes.3 Diterpenes have shown to slightly increase cholesterol.3 On the contrary, one study mentioned that unfiltered coffee (boiling coffee in water) could increase the glutathione which is another beneficial antioxidant2. Therefore, as of right now there is not enough research on what is the best way to brew coffee. However, to preserve the antioxidants in coffee the recommended way is to store it is in the refrigerator or freezer in an air tight container.7
To get the benefits of coffee I would recommended 2-3 cups (16-24 oz) of coffee a day. One research stated that moderate coffee-drinking is 2-4 cups of coffee a day; and that will no longer come with a warning from a doctor.2 However, six cups of coffee would no longer be healthy because it may interrupt sleep, increase urine extraction and that may lead to an imbalance of minerals.2 I would not recommend coffee to females who are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant; because most research states coffee is associated with delay conception, spontaneous abortion, or can have an infant with low birth weight.2
Now that I’m aware on how antioxidants work in our bodies; I would highly recommend foods and beverages that have these wonderful healing properties. After this research, I am furthered convinced that coffee is a healing food and in moderation it is good for us.
- Sulaiman SF, Moon JK, Shibamoto T. Investigation of optimum roasting conditions to obtain possible health benefit supplement, antioxidants from coffee beans. J Diet Suppl. 2011;8(3):293-310. doi:10.3109/19390211.2011.593618
- Dórea JG, da Costa THM. Is coffee a functional food? Br J Nutr. 2005;93(6):773. doi:10.1079/BJN20051370
- O’Keefe JH, DiNicolantonio JJ, Lavie CJ. Coffee for Cardioprotection and Longevity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2018.02.002
- Mateljan G. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Second. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data; 2015.
- Yashin A, Yashin Y, Wang JY, Nemzer B. Antioxidant and antiradical activity of Coffee. Czech J Food Sci. 2013;4(2):230-245. doi:10.3390/antiox2040230
- Dybkowska E, Sadowska A, Rakowska R, Dębowska M, Świderski F, Świąder K. Assessing Polyphenols Content and Antioxidant Activity in Coffee Beans According To Origin and the Degree of Roasting. 2017;68(4):347-353.
- Uman E, Colonna-Dashwood M, Colonna-Dashwood L, et al. The effect of bean origin and temperature on grinding roasted coffee. Sci Rep. 2016;6(March):1-8. doi:10.1038/srep24483