Few of us are aware that not only does coffee contain antioxidants but that it is one of the most significant sources of antioxidants in the Canadian diet. Found in a variety of plant-based foods, antioxidants are important elements that work inside the body to combat toxic free radicals which over time can lead to many chronic diseases, such as cancer.

According to recent studies, coffee has four times the antioxidant content of green tea. The amount of antioxidants in coffee also surpasses that of cocoa, other herbal teas and red wine, and even fruit and fresh vegetables. There are approximately 1,000 antioxidants in green coffee beans and brewing these beans adds an additional 300.

The antioxidants in coffee are in the form of polyphenols, a substance also found in a variety of plants. Polyphenols are seen by some to be even more significant than vitamins C and E in terms of disease preventative properties. Research has indicated that coffee provides about 1,300 mg of polyphenal antioxidants daily Studies also indicate that the level of antioxidants is similar in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

A major research study released in 2005 (research link) analyzed the amount of polyphenols in more than on hundred different foods and beverages, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, and oils. The amount of each of these foods the average American consumed daily was also taken into consideration by researchers, with data on per-capita consumption obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Coffee came out ahead, on the combined basis of both antioxidants per serving size and frequency of consumption.

Other food and beverages in the top ten dietary sources of polyphenols examined in the study included black tea (294 mg) and bananas (76 mg), dry beans (72 mg/day), corn (48 mg/day), red wine (44 mg/day), beer (42 mg/day), apples (39 mg/day), tomatoes (32 mg/day), and potatoes (28 mg/day).

How much coffee do I need to consume to benefit from antioxidant intake?

If you’re looking to increase your antioxidant intake, coffee is certainly a step in the right direction. Research has shown that coffee, either regular or decaffeinated, is rich in polyphenol antioxidants which have powerful disease-fighting properties. The question of how much coffee is necessary to get benefits is yet to be answered definitively but some experts suggest that even a couple of cups per day are beneficial. Researchers are also in the process of gaining understanding of how antioxidants derived from coffee are absorbed and utilized in the body. The best advice is moderation and I suggest that you consume a wide variety of foods and beverage sources that contain high levels of antioxidants.