Millions of people the world over start their day with freshly brewed coffee. It’s often described as being the “world's most popular beverage”, enjoyed for a number of different reasons. Be it as a pre-workout stimulant, or a pre-work stimulant, it holds a special place in many people's lives.
However, with more and more individuals becoming health-conscious, a number of consumers have started to question their coffee intact, specifically their caffeine consumption.
Naturally, this has led to greater research into the positives and negatives of drinking decaffeinated, or decaf, coffee for its reduced caffeine content.
But what is decaffeinated coffee and what are the benefits and drawbacks of drinking it? Read on to find out!
What is decaffeinated (decaf) coffee?
Decaf coffee is very similar to its regular coffee counterpart. However, the main difference is that the coffee beans used to produce decaf coffee have had 97% of their caffeine removed when compared with regular beans.
In order to remove the caffeine from the coffee bean, manufacturers have a number of options available to them. However, most commonly, it involves the beans being soaked in water and an additional solvent - usually methylene chloride or ethyl acetate.
These chemicals help to hasten the decaffeination process, which ensures that the coffee beans retain their distinct flavour.
How much caffeine is present in decaf coffee?
As we have established, decaf coffee isn’t entirely caffeine-free. Comparisons between decaffeinated coffee and regular coffee have found that decaf coffee contains, on average, 97% less caffeine.
On average, a 236-ml cup of decaf coffee contains up to 7 mg of caffeine, whereas a cup of regular coffee can contain anywhere between 70-140mg.
It should be noted that there can be slight variations in caffeine content across different decaf coffees, dependent on which decaffeination process has been undertaken.
Benefits of drinking decaf coffee
Lowers the risk of diabetes - Numerous studies have suggested that decaf coffee can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The antioxidants present in decaf coffee help to neutralise free radicals. This reduces oxidative damage and can prevent diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and cancer. Decaf coffee also contains magnesium, which acts as a shield against diabetes.
Detoxification - Decaf coffee contains vitamin B-3 which cleanses your body. Its effective at combating free radicals and foreign materials that are produced as a result of stress and anxiety.
Improved memory - Decaffeinated coffee contains compounds called polyphenols, which are known to boost cognitive performance and alertness. These polyphenols have also been reported to ward off cognitive problems, such as early onset dementia.
Drawbacks of drinking decaf coffee
Harmful to the heart - Some researchers have found that decaffeinated coffee may have a harmful impact on the heart through increasing the levels of a specific cholesterol in blood. Caffeine-free coffee is often extracted from the Robusta bean, instead of the more popular Arabica bean, due to it’s more intense flavour. However, Robusta beans naturally have a higher fat content than their counterpart.
Lose out on health benefits associated with normal coffee - The decaffeination process makes decaf coffee an ultra-processed food item. Whilst normal coffee goes through a natural process, with decaf coffee, it can be considered as very much the opposite.
Due to the process of decaffeination, and the solvents involved, many of the natural bioactive chemicals that boost your health defenses are lost. Chlorogenic acid is one of these natural bioactive chemicals, designed to activate your immunity and even slow cellular aging.
Risk of dangerous chemicals - The decaffeination process has been found to increase fatty acids that can have an impact on our metabolic syndrome and lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Perhaps even more frighteningly, Methylene Chloride, a solvent often used in the decaffeination of coffee, has been marked as a potential human carcinogen.
Is the jury out on decaf coffee?
Coffee is an extremely beneficial drink if consumed in moderation. It’s a drink that stimulates the mind, is loaded with antioxidants, and proven to reduce the risk of harmful diseases.
However, not all people want to consume caffeine for one reason or another, some people strictly can’t consume it. For those of us in that position, decaf coffee is an ideal substitute.