Is coffee literally the best part of your morning routine? Good news: Science says your coffee also gives you a dose of disease-fighting antioxidants. But just how much antioxidant power do you get from your daily cup (or cups) of joe?
Antioxidants help your body wage war on free radicals that can cause oxidative stress. Research suggests oxidative stress may contribute to a variety of health issues, including diabetes and high cholesterol.
Antioxidants help you avoid oxidative stress by keeping the right balance of free radicals in your bod.
So, where do you get antioxidants? Everyday food and drinks. There are oodles of antioxidants in plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, chocolate, tea, and, yes, coffee.
Coffee is actually one of the best ways to get antioxidants from your diet, packing 200 to 550 milligrams per cup.
Most of coffee’s antioxidants fall into two categories:
- Hydrocinnamic acids. These micronutrients neutralize free radicals, thus preventing oxidative stress.
- Polyphenols. These plant compounds also neutralize free radicals and may help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
A 2019 study found that light and medium roasts contained more polyphenols than dark roasts, and organic coffee beans had more antioxidant compounds than conventional beans.
PSA: Not all coffee is created equal
Just because coffee is high in antioxidants doesn’t mean it’s always healthy. Guzzling down too much caffeine is no good, and syrupy Frappuccinos aren’t what the health experts had in mind.
- Moderation is key. This is true of antioxidant-packed wine and chocolate too.
- Skip the sweetener. Or at least, y’know, dial back on the caramel drizzle or spoonfuls of sugar.
- Watch the caffeine. Racing heart and shaky hands? The FDA considers 400 milligrams of caffeine (4 to 5 cups of coffee) per day safe for most people.
Java not your cup of tea? Try humankind’s other favorite morning beverage for some antioxidants.
Coffee does have more antioxidants, at 200 to 550 milligrams per cup, but black tea still has 150 to 440 milligrams per cup and is lighter on the caffeine.
Like coffee, tea contains antioxidants in the form of polyphenols. But coffee typically has flavonoids and chlorogenic acid, while tea has theaflavins, thearubigins, and catechins.
White and green teas have even more antioxidants than black tea. Research has shown that the water temperature and the length of steeping time also affect the amount of antioxidants in tea.
Whether your mug is full of tea or coffee, you’re sipping your way toward some antioxidant-fueled benefits.
Bonus coffee perks
There’s no shortage of research on coffee. Coffee consumption has been linked to benefits like:
- lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- a healthier liver
- reduced chance of depression and Alzheimer’s disease
- lower risk of some cancers
- a longer life
In a 2010 review of more than 3,000 foods and bevvies, coffee ranked 11th for the most antioxidants. And in another 2010 study of the 100 best dietary sources of antioxidants, coffee ranked higher than any other beverage.
Some foods, like berries, cloves, and cocoa, are fantastic sources of antioxidants, but most folks don’t eat these daily. Since people around the world drink coffee regularly, it’s basically the king of dietary antioxidant sources.
Even if you don’t drink coffee, you probably get your daily dose of antioxidants from liquids. In a small 2014 study in Japan, researchers found that participants got 79 percent of their daily antioxidants from beverages — mostly coffee, tea, and beer.
Want more antioxidant power?
Stock up on these fantastic food sources of antioxidants:
- goji berries
- red cabbage
If you can tolerate drinking plain black coffee, that’s the healthier route. But adding sweetener, cream, or milk doesn’t make it unhealthy. Just don’t go overboard with the additions if you need your coffee toned down.
If you want a coffee mix-in that supercharges your java’s vitamin or antioxidant content, try these fun additions:
If you want to get the most antioxidant power out of your coffee, go for an organic light or medium roast.
Drinking coffee is a great way to get a dose of antioxidants, but it shouldn’t be the only way. You’ll still want to get antioxidants by eating fruits and veggies.
In general, it’s best to get your fill of antioxidants and vital nutrients from eating a variety of whole foods. Coffee *plus* a nutritious diet will help your body fight off free radicals and stay healthy.