The potential adverse effects associated with excessive caffeine intake—which can include restlessness and a fast heart rate—has helped fuel the rise in popularity of decaf coffee. Thankfully, decaf coffee maintains many of the health benefits of its caffeinated counterpart, minus the jitters.
Keep reading to learn more about the key aspects of decaf coffee, as well as its benefits and potential downsides.
Drawbacks of Decaf Coffee
Often, the goal of decaf coffee is to provide an option that retains the rich flavor of coffee without the adverse effects of caffeine, but the taste can be altered due to the decaffeination process. Decaf coffee has a reputation for having a thin flavor profile, and a study from Molecules points to a group of compounds known as pyrazines as the reason. Pyrazines are aroma precursors, responsible for coffee’s telltale nutty, chocolatey, roasted characteristics.
“Solvent process uses a variety of chemicals that can strip caffeine from the coffee beans and in some cases, flavor,” explains Megan Hilbert, a registered dietitian and member of the Top Nutrition Coaching network.
Which Is Healthier: Decaf or Regular Coffee?
“Most health benefits you can find in regular coffee can be found in decaf options, and vice-versa,” explains Hilbert. “The most important factor when choosing between decaf and regular coffee is to understand your tolerance to caffeine.”
Decaf may be the preferred choice for individuals sensitive to caffeine’s effects on gastrointestinal issues or blood pressure. However, those seeking coffee’s long-term cognitive enhancement benefits might be better served by caffeinated varieties (though, as stated above, further research is needed).
Power advises limiting coffee consumption to no more than three cups a day, but also guides her clients to focus more on maintaining adequate hydration and food intake outside of their daily java. She also encourages her clients to be mindful of their coffee preparation, suggesting they avoid adding sugar when possible, rather than focusing solely on the number of cups consumed.
“The ideal intake of decaf coffee varies based on individual factors like age, health and caffeine sensitivity,” adds Coghill.
Powers also emphasizes the ceremonial value of coffee, regardless of its kind, noting, “it’s an opportunity to slow down, take a few deep breaths, be present and reconnect with oneself.”