To drink or not to drink? This has been the question about coffee for decades. One reason people say you should not drink caffeine is caffeine. Another reason people say you should drink coffee is antioxidants.

Caffeine and antioxidants have been a topic of keen interest for years, so much so that some people are becoming suspicious that it is a marketing strategy.

But there is no denying the trend among the general population—drinking coffee as a powerful health promoting beverage. Not only does coffee help to boost energy and clarify the mind, research has shown it to be an important source of antioxidants.

Coffee is an unexpected health-giving food. A clue to coffee’s exceptional antioxidant content is found in its extreme growing environment and harvesting measures. Thought to have originated near the Horn of Africa, the coffee plant grows in some of the hottest and highest regions in the world, often times near the equator. These severe climates force the coffee plant to create formidable antioxidants that protect it from high levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Research has found that medium-roasted coffee preserves the highest bioactive properties of the bean compared with dark coffee. Whether or not the coffee is caffeinated doesn’t appear to influence the antioxidant levels.

As it turns out, coffee is the leading source of antioxidants in the American diet. Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at theUniversity of Scranton Pennsylvania notes, “The point is, people are getting the most antioxidants from beverages, as opposed to what you might think.” His research team found that a standard adult consumes 1,299 mg of antioxidants daily from coffee compared to 294 mg from tea, the second highest contender. Bananas were next at 76 mg.

Not only is coffee a rich source of antioxidants, it also helps to alleviate other health concerns. Studies have shown that individuals who ingest one to two cups of coffee per day have less depression and anxiety than those who abstain from the beverage. Those struggling with asthma and type II diabetes also showed improvement when coffee was consumed in moderate amounts on a daily basis.

More and more pills and over-the-counter drugs are being supplemented with Antioxidants and presented as miracle or heal-all drugs. The truth is, beyond the wave created by some intuitive and business-oriented marketers, and the abuse some people might make out of this: Antioxidants remain very useful and beneficial to the health. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemical substances produced internally by the body or found in some food substances, thus ensuring an external supply.

They enhance the immune system and help to protect the body’s cell from damage caused by an excess of free radicals generated during normal metabolic processes and exposure to ionizing radiation, UV light and pollution, just to name a few.

A nutritionist and Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Dr. Batholomew Brai describes coffee as a complex mixture of biologically active compounds including carbohydrates, lipids, nitrogenous compounds, vitamins, minerals and phenolic compounds, which combines in a perfect balance to give a pleasurable and unique aroma and taste.

Brai says the interest of coffee lies in the richness and diversity of its antioxidants. He explains that a 200 ml cup of Arabica coffee contains 70 – 200 mg chlorogenic acid whereas a 200 ml cup of Robusta coffee contains 70 – 350 mg, which would provide about 35 – 175 mg of caffeic acid.

A public health physician and lecturer at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Kemi Odukoya also states that apart from releasing the unique aroma of coffee, the roasting process is actually a key factor in enhancing the richness of coffee antioxidants.

She said the antioxidant activity of commonly consumed beverages prepared per cup serving and concluded that soluble coffee had the highest antioxidant activity.

Also coffee was found to be four times more effective as an antioxidant than green, black or herbal tea. Also, among most consumed fruits and beverages, coffee is one of the best sources of phenolic acids containing 97 mg/100g.

Odukoya notes that unlike common belief, adding sugar, milk or creamer and drinking regular or decaffeinated coffee does not affect the quantity or bioavailability of antioxidants in your cup. However if you prefer your daily cups, you will still enjoy the full goodness of antioxidants. Odukoya holds that if results or modern research are anything to go by, then, coffee is part of those lifestyle habits which actually partner for your good health.

But is coffee addictive? Odukoya opines that the mechanism of action of caffeine is very different from that of a drug of abuse because it does not affect the brain circuit and structure for reward, motivation or addiction.

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