Summary: Which has greater health benefits instant coffee vs. brewed? The health benefits of coffee vary depending on how you prepare it.
Does instant have the same health benefits as brewed coffee?
Coffee is not only popular. It’s also a healthy drink.
Coffee contains nearly a thousand bioactive compounds, including polyphenols, flavonoids, caffeine, and chlorogenic acid. Most of these compounds are formed during the roasting process. The amounts of these compounds vary depending on how the beans are roasted and how the coffee is prepared.
Antioxidants In Instant Coffee
Coffee is full of antioxidants and plant nutrients. Coffee’s health benefits are thought to come mostly from its antioxidants. Antioxidants fight the damage caused by free radicals. Instant coffees have less of them because of the additional drying.
In fact, coffee has been shown to reduce biomarkers of oxidative stress.
In 2010, the authors of a clinical trial published their results in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. The researchers found that healthy people who drank instant coffee for five days had significant reductions in some biomarkers of oxidative stress.
Chlorogenic Acids provide most of the health benefits of coffee. Chlorogenic acids are potent antioxidants that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because processing removes some nutrients and alters others, instant coffee contains less CGAs than fresh brewed.
Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Ph.D. Dr. Blumberg knows a thing or two about coffee, after all, he is director of Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory. As first reported in the Tufts Nutrition Letter, Dr. Blumberg said:
“While it is clear that instant coffee contains fewer chlorogenic acids than regular brewed coffee, there has been little or no study that directly addresses the question of health benefits of these differences. “
Some manufacturers add chlorogenic acids back into instant coffee, to improve the taste and aroma.
According to a 2013 paper in published in the journal Food Chemistry, although the levels varied widely across the samples, researchers found that instant coffees differed little from fresh coffee in levels of chlorogenic acid.
Phenols and Flavonoids In Instant Coffee
Polyphenols are antioxidants that thought to benefit blood sugar and blood pressure.
The antioxidant content of instant coffee varies depending on how it is manufactured. Processes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some processing methods concentrate antioxidant compounds, especially phenols, and flavonoids.
According to a 2013 paper in the journal Food Chemistry, the authors reported that some instant coffees had a “higher content of these substances [phenols and flavonoids] when compared to other types of coffee.”
Instant Coffee’s Blood Sugar Benefits
Instant coffee helps reduce blood sugar levels, according to a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. Researchers set up a clinical trial with overweight men who had mild-to-moderate elevations in blood sugar. The study participants were instructed to drink five cups of instant coffee a day for four months. The researchers monitored the blood levels of the subjects.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that, compared to those who didn’t drink coffee, the instant coffee drinkers had modest improvements in blood sugar levels. The effect was the same for both regular and decaf.
Instant Coffee Is Higher In Toxic Compounds
Instant coffee is high in a chemical called acrylamide, a compound that has been shown to cause cancer in animals. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), acrylamide can also cause nerve damage. Acrylamide is found naturally in certain foods and is produced by high-temperature heating. Scientists still don’t know the full extent of its health harms. Acrylamide is measured in parts-per-billion (ppb).
Compared with ground coffee, certain brands of instant have very high amounts of acrylamide. According to the FDA, Nescafe Classic Instant Coffee has 471 ppb. In contrast, Classic Roast brewed coffee has only 13 ppb of acrylamide.
Caffeine Content Lower In Instant Coffee
Compared to brewed, instant coffee is lower in caffeine. Instant coffee contains an average of 93 mg of caffeine in an 8-ounce serving. An 8-ounce serving of regular brewed coffee contains between 133 mg to 200 mg of caffeine.
Coffee Has Many Other Health Benefits
This article discussed the health benefits of instant coffee vs. brewed. Coffee has been shown to have many more health benefits, including lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A linked companion article discusses the health benefits of coffee in greater detail.
Take Home Message
Coffee contains a complex array of bioactive compounds. The chemical processes used to create instant coffee alter or remove some of its nutrients. Common sense dictates that this processing should lower the nutrient value of coffee. Research has not confirmed this. In fact, instant coffees may be richer in some nutrients. Regarding the health benefits of instant coffee vs. brewed, more research is needed. In the meantime, there seems to be no disadvantage to drinking instant.
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Charlotte E. Mills, Maria Jose Oruna-Concha, Donald S. Mottram, Glenn R. Gibson, Jeremy P.E. Spencer. The effect of processing on chlorogenic acid content of commercially available coffee. Food Chemistry 141 (2013) 3335–3340.
Keizo Ohnaka, Mizuko Ikeda, Takako Maki, et al., “Effects of 16-Week Consumption of Caffeinated and Decaffeinated Instant Coffee on Glucose Metabolism in a Randomized Controlled Trial,” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 2012, Article ID 207426, doi:10.1155/2012/207426
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