Is decaf coffee good for your health?

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With more than 98 Million cups of coffee supped and enjoyed across the UK each day, it’s hardly surprising to know that we Brits are a passionate nation of liquid energy drinkers.

For some though, the caffeine within the murky depths of our favourite drink can have undesired effects such as headaches, restlessness, insomnia, an irregular heartbeat and even anxiety.

As a result, 20% of the nation has turned down the caffeine volume choosing to drink decaf to receive the health benefits of coffee without the side effects.

What is decaf coffee?

As with many great discoveries, the secret to decaffeination was discovered by accident.

In 1903, a ship carrying a cargo of coffee was deluged with seawater. This salty soaking had the unexpected effect of removing the caffeine in the beans whilst retaining the coffee flavour.

From this revelation, the founder of the coffee company Kaffee HAG, Ludwig Roselius, worked out that by steaming the beans with various acids before using a solvent to remove the caffeine you could create decaffeinated coffee on an industrial scale.

Today, we’ve moved on a little in our understanding of the process and we now use Swiss water, Sugarcane and carbon dioxide to remove the caffeine from the beans creating the decaffeinated coffee that we know and love today.

How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?

It must however be said that none of these processes remove caffeine completely. The UK follows the European Union’s laws that only 0.1% of caffeine should be found in decaffeinated green (unroasted) beans, and only 0.3% in coffee products such as instant coffee.

What are the health benefits of decaf coffee?

Coffee is known for having several believed health benefits and in fact, in each bean, we’re told there are antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Plus coffee is also associated with potentially protecting drinkers against type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease. With only the caffeine removed, decaffeinated coffee is no different.

In 2017, researchers found that polyphenols, antioxidants in decaf coffee, can trigger the beta cells in the pancreas to secrete insulin and control blood sugar, therefore, suggesting that it may help those with diabetes.

Researchers have also studied the serum levels of 27,793 adults who drank coffee discovering that in both regular and decaf coffee drinkers there was a reduction in the abnormal levels of certain liver enzymes which shows the possible protective benefits.

According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK, that’s more than 160,000 deaths each year. One study published in 2022 found that people that drank two to three cups of coffee, including decaf, had a lower risk of heart disease and premature death than non-coffee-drinkers.

What’s more, caffeine can have a whole range of side effects including anxiety, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, feeling restless, shaking, and frequent urination and isn’t recommended for people with severe anxiety, heart disease, arrhythmias, seizures, or who are pregnant may be unable to drink caffeine.

But, if you love a brew, it’s now easier than ever to avoid many of these side effects simply by introducing decaf to your daily cup.

Does decaf coffee taste different to regular coffee?

There are no reasons for decaf coffee not to taste as good as regular coffee. The flavour of the coffee depends on the depth of the roasting, with dark roasts offering smooth and mild coffee, while light roasts offer the strength of flavour. Neither of these has anything to do with the caffeine content of your brew!

Caffeine is flavourless so if you want to get more taste for your cash, then you might need to look for a new coffee brand and let’s face it there are now lots out there. Check out the Independent’s best decaf guide for some great brands and smooth tastes.

Interested in other finding out more about healthy foods? Take a look at our blog covering the health benefits of Thai food.