Dark or Light Roast: What’s the Healthiest Coffee?

For years, doctors warned that coffee was bad for your heart.

They didn’t have much evidence to support this advice other than the fact that caffeine slightly raises your blood pressure.

But recent studies show that effect is only temporary. And it’s harmless in just about everybody.

In recent years, a slew of research has found coffee actually is very good for your heart and other aspects of your health.

There’s strong science showing it helps prevent type 2 diabetes, keeps your mind and hearing sharp, protects against some types of cancer, and fights liver disease. And that’s in addition to improving heart function.

The wide-ranging health benefits come from the high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in coffee. These substances act as a health shield for cells throughout your body.

Coffee: Which Kind has the Most Perks?

But is one kind of coffee better than others? A new study provides an answer…at least when it comes to dark vs. light roasts. It’s the first research to test different roasting methods on a cellular level.

Scientists from several universities in Korea teamed up to examine the effects of roasting on coffee’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

They tested light, medium, city (sometimes called “continental” or “light French roast”), and French (dark) roast. For comparison, regular Folgers and most other major store brands are medium-roast coffees.

A coffee solution of each type of roast was introduced to mice cells. Then scientists observed its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the cells.

The results?

Light roast coffee had the most benefit, beating out medium roast by a few percentage points. City roast was about 10% less beneficial. And French roast dropped a substantial 25%.

Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy is associate dean of the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. He is editor of the journal that published the study.

“Coffee drinkers are passionate about different roasts—light, medium, and dark,” he said. “This study suggests that some of the potentially beneficial compounds could be affected by the roasting process. This article would certainly change my coffee roast preference.”

Dark Roasting Wrecks One Big Coffee Benefit

The researchers said longer roasting robs coffee of one very important chemical. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid. It’s a phytochemical that promotes antioxidant activity, reduces inflammation, and controls blood sugar levels.5

About 12% of the dry weight of unroasted coffee is chlorogenic acid. But roasting destroys this healthful compound. The darker the coffee bean, the less chlorogenic acid it has.

If you like dark coffee, this study doesn’t necessarily mean you should switch to a light roast. Making your coffee stronger or using high-extraction methods such as an espresso maker will increase the antioxidants in your cup.

But whether light or dark, you should choose organic coffee whenever you can…and skip artificial creamers and sweeteners.

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