Is Decaf Coffee Bad For You?
We get lots of questions about coffee here at Santo Remedio. And that’s a good thing, coffee is delicious! Let’s dive into the truths and myths about decaf.
First things first: Even though it’s called decaffeinated, decaf coffee still has some caffeine. The amount varies among coffeemakers, but 16 ounces can have anywhere from 5 to 14 mg of caffeine, compared to around 180 mg in regular.
Decaf has about 97% of the caffeine removed. Still, if you’re caffeine-restricted, you may want to avoid decaf, too.
Ok, back to whether or not decaf is bad for you. In short? No. Decaf and regular coffee are very similar nutritionally, though how decaf is made may influence which kind you choose.
How is coffee decaffeinated?
It might surprise you to learn that decaffeination happens in the earliest stage of coffee production—when the coffee beans are green and unroasted.
Solvents: This method soaks the fresh coffee beans in methylene chloride or ethyl acetate until the caffeine is dissolved. The beans are then rinsed and sent off to be roasted. This is by far the most common way to decaffeinate coffee.
Swiss water method: This is the trendy way to decafeinate coffee, and it’s quite the process!
First, coffee beans stew in very hot water, which leaches out the caffeine. The water goes through an activated charcoal filter that strips out the caffeine but leaves all the flavor oils and other nutrients.
The first batch of beans is discarded, but the flavor-rich water is used for the next batch. Since the water is already saturated with flavor oils, it only absorbs the caffeine.
Carbon dioxide (CO2): In what sounds like a scene from a science fiction film, the coffee beans are sealed in a steel container and blasted with liquid CO2. Caffeine, exit right. Beans, exit left.
Which decaf should I choose?
People have raised concerns about solvent-decaffeinated coffee because trace amounts of the solvents actually end up in the coffee you drink. Since these solvents are also used in paint strippers and nail-polish removers, many people don’t like the idea of drinking them.
The trace amount of chemicals in decaf coffee is well below the amount approved by the FDA, but if it still turns you off, look for coffee labels that say solvent-free or Swiss water. These will usually be fancier or more expensive brands, as the processes are more complicated.
Does coffee have any nutrients?
Decaf coffee, as well as regular, is loaded with polyphenols, which are antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress. Coffee also has a few other nutrients, like magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B3.
If you want to bump up coffee’s nutrition, try adding turmeric the next time you grab a cup. Make sure to use a turmeric supplement, not the spice in your cupboard. The supplement has concentrated levels of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Any other health benefits?
Research shows that decaf coffee can slow motor and cognitive decline associated with aging. Other researchers found that coffee helps protect neurons in the brain and may help prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzhemer’s disease.
The caffeine in regular coffee can contribute to acid reflux. Some studies have shown that people who experience heartburn when drinking coffee see an improvement when they switch to decaf.
In moderation, decaf coffee is a great part of your day. If you want all the flavor of coffee but not the effects of high amounts of caffeine, decaf coffee is definitely right for you.
Let’s stay healthier, together,
Your friends at Santo Remedio
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