1 February 2012
What’s In A Cup? Comparing Coffee Types
Posted by Wellness under: Nutrition .
The verdict on coffee has swung all over the place recently. Some research shows a cup a day can help lower heart disease risk, while others say it’s swimming in carcinogens. One reason the results are so varied is that there are now so many types of coffee–different origins, different roasts, different ways of brewing. And studies are showing that their nutritional values vary as vastly as the regions they come from. One thing’s for sure: some brews are healthier than others. Here’s a quick list of what’s what.
French press vs. filter
Filter coffee machines may be more effective at reducing fat content in coffee than a traditional cafetière. The difference is in the mechanism: with a traditional plunger, all the fat makes it to your cup, while the paper filter catches a lot of it. Studies have shown that drinking unfiltered coffee regularly increases homocysteine, a chemical that increases heart attack risk. However, filter coffee has much higher levels of caffeine, so it may not be a good idea if you have palpitations or other heart conditions.
Unusually for something instant, this actually matches or even outperforms brewed coffee in terms of health. Instant coffee comes from brewed coffee beans that have been freeze-dried to remove the water. This process also removes the fatty chemicals found in most beans, so it’s virtually fat-free. The caffeine content is also much lower. The only thing you have to watch out for is the sodium, which tends to go up when preservatives are added. Check the labels to make sure you’re getting an unprocessed mix.
Espresso is made by shooting pressurized hot water through the coffee beans. Like the filter process, it weeds out the fatty substances, leaving you with a fairly light but caffeine-rich mix. The nutritional value depends a lot on what you do with it–whether you get a single shot or mix it with water, milk, whipped cream, chocolate, or a variety of sweet syrups. Two to three cups of plain coffee probably won’t hurt, but most people have more than that.
Boiled and percolated
These types are less common, and for good reason: they’re among the least healthy coffee types out there. In both processes, most of the fat content makes it from the beans to the water because there is little to no filtering involved. It’s high in caffeine, though, so if you need an energy boost, this is a good way to get it, as long as you only have it on occasion.
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