Coffee Part 2: Antioxidants

by Donna Easto C.H., H.C., M.H.,
Certified Herbal Educator

Our last piece focused on coffee as a stimulant. In this article, we turn our attention to the antioxidant activity1 of The Irresistible Bean2.  Research shows that the most antioxidant-rich beverages are coffee, tea, cocoa and red wine. Of these, coffee and tea provide a significant portion of the daily intake of antioxidants established for humans.

In terms of total antioxidant content, coffee and cocoa are comparable with tea. Cocoa is the most balanced product in terms of antioxidants but does not match coffee and tea consumption rates.  Coffee/ cocoa drinks provide the best antioxidant content. Good news for those of us who love our morning coffee with a dash of cocoa! A half teaspoon or so of pure, healthy vanilla extract and cinnamon will eliminate the need for sugar.

Why the interest in antioxidants? The body already produces antioxidants as part of its normal functioning. Is there a need to supplement our diets with them? Recent research indicates that it does bear consideration.

  • Coffee and cancer: the antioxidants in coffee may help reduce cancer-causing mutations to DNA. Studies done with humans have shown moderate-to-high (up to 400mg of caffeine a day) coffee consumption may be associated with slowing the progression or lowering the risk of some cancers, such as breast, colorectal, endometrium and prostate
  • Coffee consumption has also been linked to lower rates of Dementia and Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and coronary heart disease in women
  • Studies show that regular coffee consumption may keep the liver healthy by stimulating gastric enzymes

Recent studies with both humans and rats suggest that the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitizing effects of the caffeine and antioxidants found in coffee, alone or in combination, contribute to a wide range of healthy benefits.

Nevertheless, not everyone benefits from drinking coffee. There are serious adverse effects to drinking too much coffee. For some people, even one cup of coffee is too much resulting in headaches, insomnia, dizziness and other unwelcome symptoms. If your sleep is regularly disturbed, you always feel anxious or stressed or experience wide swings in your energy; then, coffee is not a healthy choice for you. Coffee can be addictive; stopping it suddenly leads to nasty withdrawal symptoms. It’s better to reduce intake slowly.

Caution:  Caffeine powder, a highly concentrated caffeine or caffeine anhydrous, is being used to stimulate athletic performance or weight loss.  According to the U.S. FDA, a teaspoon of caffeine powder could contain the equivalent of 28 cups of coffee.

  • The ability to inhibit the process of oxidation, which can damage vital molecules in our cells, including DNA and proteins
  • From an NFB documentary called “Black Coffee: Part one, The Irresistible Bean.
  • Grosso G, Micek A, Godos J, et al. Coffee, caffeine and health outcomes: an umbrella review. Annu Rev Nutr; 37:131-156
  • Processed, dehydrated form of caffeine