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Does Decaf Coffee Have Antioxidants?

What is Decaf Coffee and How is it Made?


Decaffeinated coffee is coffee made from coffee beans that have had their caffeine content removed or significantly reduced, letting you enjoy the taste of coffee without the effects of caffeine.

Decaf coffee is made by treating the green coffee beans to decaffeinate them. The process starts with swelling the coffee beans using water or steam to make the caffeine easier to extract. Next, a solvent is used to wash away the caffeine, and successive washes with water get rid of the solvent. Finally, the coffee beans are dried, reducing them back down to the same moisture level they were at before the decaffeination process started.


What is the Difference Between Decaf and Regular Coffee?


The obvious difference between decaf and regular coffee is that decaf does not contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that has a number of effects on your body.

These include acting as an adenosine blocker. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in making you feel tired and relaxed. Usually, this chemical builds up over the course of the day and makes you feel sleepy when it interacts with chemical receptors in your brain. Caffeine also interacts with those receptors, preventing them from receiving signals from the adenosine. As a result, caffeine can make temporarily make you stop feeling tired and be able to stay awake for longer.1

Caffeine also raises your adrenaline levels and increases the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. Combined, these have the effect of increasing your state of alertness. This can make some people feel more focused and able to concentrate, however with too high a dosage for your tolerance level, or if your body does not respond well to caffeine, it can also have the opposite effect, making your mind overactive and unable to focus on one thing.

Caffeine can have other negative side effects for many people, especially if you consume too much of it. These can include:

  • Restlessness

  • Irritability

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Sweating

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Heart palpitations

  • Higher blood pressure

  • Insomnia

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Increased urination

  • Dehydration

How Much Caffeine is in Decaf Coffee?

Instant coffee products must contain less than 0.3% caffeine to be advertised as decaf. Roasted coffee beans must contain less than 0.1% caffeine to be considered decaf. This works out as about 3 mg per cup. On the other hand, an average cup of normal coffee has about 70 to 140 mg of caffeine depending on the type of coffee and how it was prepared.2

Decaf Coffee is Loaded with Antioxidants and Contains Nutrients

Coffee is rarely considered as a health food, partly because caffeine is often used to prop up an unhealthy lifestyle or work schedule. However, it actually contains many valuable nutrients and is one of the main sources of antioxidants in many people’s diets. Antioxidants are compounds that eliminate free radicals from your body. Free radicals cause damage throughout your body through oxidative stress, linked to numerous diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

In addition to containing antioxidants, coffee also contains the following nutrients:

  • Magnesium

  • Potassium

  • Folate

  • Manganese

  • Phosphorus

  • Vitamin B1

  • Vitamin B2

  • Vitamin B3

  • Vitamin B5

Drinking decaffeinated coffee allows you to get all the benefits of consuming these nutrients without experiencing the effects of caffeine.

The decaffeination process can reduce the number of antioxidants in coffee by a small amount depending on the process used, but decaf coffee still contains enough antioxidants and other nutrients to confer a health benefit after the decaffeination process.


Health Benefits of Decaf Coffee

Drinking coffee has been linked to numerous health benefits. There is a shortage of research on the potential differences in health benefits from regular coffee to decaf coffee. However, the health benefits of coffee have not been linked to caffeine, which would suggest that decaf coffee will provide the same or similar health benefits to regular coffee. 2

The health benefits of drinking coffee include:

  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

  • Reduced liver enzyme levels, suggesting a protective effect on the liver

  • Reduced risk of strokes

  • Reduced risk of heart disease

  • Reduced risk of premature death

It is important to note that not all of these benefits are necessarily directly caused by the coffee itself. For example, while coffee drinkers are statistically less likely to die prematurely, there are many lifestyle factors involved that make it difficult to isolate drinking coffee as a factor with any major effect.

Coffee also appears to have a positive effect in protecting you from mental decline due to aging. Various studies have found two potential causes for this.

Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, which is believed to help protect the neurons in your brain from damage, helping to prevent or slow the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.3 Chlorogenic acid is found in both regular coffee and decaf coffee.

Chlorogenic acid also slows down the release of glucose into your bloodstream after meals. This can help level out spikes in blood sugar that can cause inflammation and fatigue and reduce the production of new fat cells. This means that decaffeinated coffee can help with managing your weight even without the calorie-burning effect of caffeine.4

However, caffeine itself has also been linked to very similar benefits, helping to reduce the risk of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. As a result, this is one area where regular coffee may offer more of a health benefit than decaf coffee, although it appears that decaf coffee is still of some use in protecting you from cognitive decline.

Coffee is also associated with some health benefits that are directly related to its caffeine content. Drinking decaf coffee will not provide any of the following short-term benefits associated with caffeine:

  • Increased brain function

  • Improved mood

  • Faster reaction times

  • Higher alertness

  • Faster metabolism

  • Increased exercise performance

When to Switch From Regular Coffee to Decaf Coffee?


For most people, drinking any more than 4 cups of regular coffee a day could increase your risk of suffering the negative effects of consuming caffeine. This works out at around 400 mg of caffeine per day. When it comes to the amount of caffeine that your body can safely tolerate, this varies a lot from one person to the next. For some people, especially people who do not consume caffeine on a regular basis, even one cup of coffee could leave them feeling irritable and restless.

If you are experiencing any symptoms that could be caused by or contributed to your daily caffeine intake, consider making the switch to decaffeinated coffee, even if you only swap one or two of your daily cups for decaf. This can help you manage the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, which can include:

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability

Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can last between 2 and 9 days, depending on how much caffeine you are used to consuming.

Swapping to decaf coffee can be hard if you feel dependent on coffee for your energy and focus throughout the day. This is usually a sign that you are not getting your body the fuel and rest it needs to keep going through the day. Try making a few changes to your lifestyle to help you cut out the caffeine:

  • Get more sleep so you are not constantly fighting off fatigue with stimulants like caffeine.

  • Stay well-hydrated. Dehydration can worsen some of the effects of caffeine withdrawal, including headaches and fatigue.

  • Avoid painkillers that contain caffeine. Some painkillers, especially those intended for headaches, contain caffeine. While this will provide temporary relief for a headache, it won’t help you reduce your caffeine dependency.

  • Get more exercise. Regularly exercising can boost your metabolism, making more energy available for your body to use. It can also reduce your stress levels and make it easier to get some good sleep at night.

  • Cut out added sugar and refined carbs. Both of these are processed into blood sugar very quickly by your body. This can give you a quick rush of energy but leaves you feeling worn out and exhausted only a short while later.

  • Eat more nutrient-dense foods. Many nutrient-dense foods act as slow-burning energy sources, such as many types of nuts and seeds. These foods release their energy slowly over time, meaning they can keep you going for much longer, although they lack the immediate kick into gear that caffeine can give you.

Conclusion


Coffee is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world, and it can provide several health benefits as well as giving you a boost of alertness and focus. However, consuming too much of it can be bad for you, leading to poor sleep, irritability, and many other health conditions. Switching to decaf coffee can give you almost all of the health benefits of drinking coffee, such as its rich antioxidant content and other nutrients, without the potential downsides of caffeine.


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References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20164566/

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32551832/

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25130715/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3766985/

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