Antioxidants in Coffee

Coffee is good for your health. Daily coffee consumption reduces your risk of type II diabetes and various forms of cancer. The caffeine in coffee elevates your mood and reduces the risk of clinical depression, neurologic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and even the risk of suicide. Aside from caffeine the active ingredients that are responsible for all of these good things are the antioxidants in coffee. Just what are antioxidants and what are the antioxidants in coffee?

List of Antioxidants in Coffee

The American Institute for Cancer Research says that coffee contains the following:

  • Chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant compound that is the major phenol in coffee
  • Quinic acid, a phytochemical that contributes to the acidic taste of coffee
  • Cafestol and kahweol, compounds that are extracted from the beans’ oil during brewing. Unfiltered coffee, such as French press or boiled coffee, contains these compounds
  • Caffeine, a naturally occurring stimulant that affects the central nervous system
  • N-methylpyridinium (NMB), created by roasting, may make the antioxidants more potent

Chlorogenic acid may be slightly lower in decaf coffee according to limited research, but it still contains plenty of phytochemicals. Lab studies suggest that instant may be lower in antioxidant potency than brewed coffee, though more research is needed.

And just what do antioxidants do?


An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits cell damage and cell death in human cells caused by oxidative breakdown of other molecules. Oxidation is a factor in sickness and aging.  Antioxidants in coffee do the same things chemically as other antioxidants and because we drink so much coffee worldwide coffee is the primary source of antioxidants.

Antioxidants help prevent the damage caused by excessive oxidation and to a degree inhibit the aging process. When an oxidative reaction brought on by disease gets going it produces free radicals that start chain reactions which in turn cause cell and tissue damage. The human body has or uses antioxidants to control this situation. Natural means of controlling oxidation include vitamins C and E as well as glutathione. It is low levels of antioxidants that can lead to a condition referred to as oxidative stress and resultant damage to cells in the body. Methylpyridium is one of the organic coffee antioxidants and is created during the roasting process of organic coffee. This breakdown product of trigonelline has been found to increase activity of phase II enzymes. Doctors believe that these enzymes protect against colon cancer, which is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the USA. Recent research shows that organic coffee antioxidants include chlorogenic acid lactones and lipophilic antioxidants. Chlorogenic acid lactones and lipophilic antioxidants are capable of protecting nerve cells when challenged with hydrogen peroxide.

Blueberries, celery seeds, etc. have very high levels of antioxidants but due to the sheer volume of coffee that we consume, antioxidants in coffee outshine all other sources as a benefit to human health.

Antioxidants Content of Coffee

The Nutrition Journal published a study of antioxidant content of foods in 2010. In the beverage section the researchers found a total antioxidant content range of

0.89 mmol/100 g for one type of brewed coffee with milk to 16.33 mmol/100 g for one type of double espresso coffee.

These measurements were taken from commercially available coffees. In short, antioxidants in coffee are good for you and readily available at the nearest coffee shop or in your own kitchen.

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