Avoiding caffeine? Decaf coffee provides many of the same health benefits.

Trying to cut down on coffee because of the caffeine?

As much as coffee is a sensory beverage, it can be a functional one. We can drink for our enjoyment and social pleasure, we can drink it for our health, or we can drink it because it contains caffeine that keeps us alert. Caffeine is a natural plant compound found in plants like coffee, tea, and cocoa. It is also added to other beverages, such as soda and energy drinks, and can be found in certain over-the-counter pain-relievers. We are all aware of its stimulatory effect on the human body. People choose to drink decaffeinated coffee for many reasons. Maybe simply so they can go have a coffee date in the afternoon without sleep disruption. Maybe because they are concerned that caffeine has a harsh effect on the body. Some have been advised by their doctor to cut down on caffeine. Those who have sleep disorders, certain heart conditions, or who are pregnant often chose to forgo coffee under the advice of a physician. Whatever the reason that you may want to cut down on caffeine – I am here to tell you that there is no reason to give up coffee! Please, read on and consider trying some healthy, specialty decaf coffee.

The short-term effect of caffeine

We all have individual caffeine metabolism rates, as mediated by our genetics. That means caffeine effects everyone differently. That is why some people get the jitters with one cup, while other seem to be able to drink it all afternoon. This physiological effect has been shown to actually drive our preferences. In the short-term, the caffeine in coffee has a lot of positive effects on the brain – it can increase alertness, increase our concentration, and even improve our mood.

Caffeine’s effects of increasing energy and making you feel more alert are due to its interaction with adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a molecule naturally prevalent in your brain, which usually builds in the brain during the hours of the waking day, inducing sleepiness. Due to the fact that caffeine is a similar molecule to adenosine, it blocks the adenosine receptors. As a result, your brain does not detect adenosine, and nerve activity does not slow down. Instead, caffeine helps to sustain brain activity, making you feel more energetic. It generally also improves reaction time, concentration, and motor coordination. These short-term physiological effects usually peak in the body about 1-2 hours after caffeine consumption and gradually subside afterwards.

You can take advantage of the health benefits of coffee while drinking decaf.

Time and time again, scientific studies have demonstrated that a moderate coffee consumption is associated with a range of desirable effects in the body and can fit within a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It would be a shame to lose those benefits because of caffeine. The fact is, coffee is so much more than the caffeine! You can enjoy great tasting specialty coffee and still benefit from some of the key health benefits linked to coffee consumption. I am going to follow up on this point and write a more thorough review of the science in a separate article, but here I will give you the highlights.

In fact, there is a body of studies on the health effects of coffee which have observed no difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. Fortunately, coffee is rich in other biologically active compounds that contribute to its aroma and flavor. Some of these have been identified as playing potential roles in coffee’s health benefits, such as polyphenols (e.g. chlorogenic acids), trigonelline, and melanoidins, among others. These compounds are often hypothesized to play a strong mechanistic role in the health benefits of coffee. A strong example of this is that both decaf and regular drinkers have reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There is also good evidence that coffee, regardless of caffeine, can benefit liver health. New research even suggests that other components of coffee are responsible for the mood and alertness boosting effect of the brew. So, there is ample evidence that drinking decaf coffee can be a pleasurable, healthy way to improve your lifestyle.

What exactly is decaf (decaffeinated) coffee?

Technically, in order to legally be labelled decaffeinated, coffee must have had at least 97% of its caffeine removed. The caffeine is removed while the beans are still green and before the coffee is roasted. The history of decaffeination methods span the past 100 years. Decaf processes were developed utilizing various solvents of questionable safety such as benzene, chloroform, alcohol, acetone, sulfuric acid, ether, and ammonium hydroxide. Most of these resulted in coffee with a compromised flavor. Luckily, we have come a long way since then, and safe and great tasting decaf processes are abundant. The three processes that are used today to remove the caffeine from the coffee are caffeine extraction by water, solvent (ethyl acetate), or carbon dioxide.

The case for quality decaf coffee

Purity Coffee chooses organic Swiss Water® decaffeinated coffee. If you would like to tread carefully with caffeine, for any reason, Swiss Water® Process decaffeinated coffee is a great chemical-free way to still enjoy quality, great tasting coffee. The water process relies entirely on two concepts, solubility and osmosis, to decaffeinate coffee beans. Caffeine is water soluble, but many other compounds are as well, some of which might contribute to coffee flavor and we would rather preserve in our coffee. Therefore, a special process uses green coffee extract to soak coffee beans in hot water in order to extract only the caffeine. Since there is no caffeine in the water and coffee extract solution, this draws only the caffeine out of the coffee. The water solution is then filtered to remove the caffeine, and the coffee can soak again until it is fully decaffeinated. We love how this method does not use any chemical solvents and prioritizes coffee quality. On top of that, the Swiss Water® Company’s decaffeination facility is certified organic by the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA).

For all the reasons described above, decaf coffee can be a wonderful option for individuals who have sensitivity to caffeine. However, it is possible that there are contaminants or toxins in your coffee that are causing your body’s reaction to coffee. I would urge those who believe their coffee sensitivity comes from caffeine to consider that perhaps there are other substances in coffee are causing your problem. To investigate this yourself, start with a clean, organic, high-quality coffee like Purity decaf coffee. Drink it for a while taking note of your body’s response to see if you feel better. Then, try gradually cutting in small amounts of regular Purity coffee, building up your portion of caffeinated coffee over time. You may find that your issue with coffee remains resolved and you can continue to enjoy your favorite regular coffee.

References:

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  • Masi, C., Dinnella, C., Pirastu, N., Prescott, J., & Monteleone, E. (2016). Caffeine metabolism rate influences coffee perception, preferences and intake. Food Quality and Preference, 53, 97-104.
  • McLellan, T. M., Caldwell, J. A., & Lieberman, H. R. (2016). A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 71, 294-312.
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  • Hu Frank, B., Sun, Q., Brennan Aoife, M., Wedick Nicole, M., Mantzoros Christos, S., & van Dam Rob, M. (2011). Effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on biological risk factors for type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal, Vol 10, Iss 1, p 93 (2011)(1), 93.
  • Federico, S., Fabio, G., & Giovanni Li, V. (2017). Molecular Bases Underlying the Hepatoprotective Effects of Coffee. Nutrients, Vol 9, Iss 1, p 85 (2017)(1), 85.
  • Haskell-Ramsay, C. F., Jackson, P. A., Forster, J. S., Dodd, F. L., Bowerbank, S. L., & Kennedy, D. O. (2018). The Acute Effects of Caffeinated Black Coffee on Cognition and Mood in Healthy Young and Older Adults. Nutrients, 10(10).

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