There are many reasons that people switch to decaf coffee: pregnancy, heart problems, high blood pressure and as a general “healthier” choice to reduce caffeine.
The debate about coffee and its health effects is huge. So is the debate about decaf coffee.
So how is decaf coffee made?
There is the indirect method and the direct method: In indirect decaffeination, coffee beans come in contact with a chemical, usually methylene chloride (used as a paint stripper and degreaser) or ethyl acetate. Nowadays, ethyl acetate is more commonly used for this purpose, as it is a naturally occurring compound found in many fruits (therefore its often called the “natural process”).
The direct method is often call the “Swiss Water Process” (www.swisswater.com) and is a chemical free process. This is the preferred method for the health conscious people.
Note: If you come across decaffeinated drinks described as “water processed” or “European processed” that still does not guarantee you that it has been decaffeinated using the Swiss water process.
So why is decaf considered unhealthy (apart from the chemicals used to decaffeinate it)?
- Decaf coffee is not completely free of caffeine.
- Recent scientific studies have linked decaffeinated coffee with an increased level of cholesterol in our blood. The reason is: decaffeinated coffee is often made from the Robusta beans. Robusta beans are known to have higher fat content, which can stimulate the production of fatty acids in the body. This may increase the level of cholesterol and raise the risk of heart disease.
- Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee contain chlorogenic acid, high level of which can raise the level of homocysteine, which in turn can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Another important fact about coffee is that it is acidic, as it can stimulate the over secretion of gastric acid. Compared to regular coffee, decaffeinated coffee has been found to be more harmful in conditions like, acid reflux disease and gastric ulcers. Drinking too much decaffeinated coffee has been associated with heartburn.
- The effects of decaf coffee on pregnant women are not known with certainty.
- In addition to these side effects, excessive (more than 3 cups a day) intake of caffeinated as well as decaffeinated coffee is linked with demineralization of bones, which can eventually result in osteoporosis. The risk for this condition can be more with decaf coffee, as high metabolic acidity has been found to contribute to demineralization of bones.
- Lastly, decaffeinated coffee may also be associated with conditions like, glaucoma and rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, if the process of decaffeination uses the solvent methylene chloride, then the beans can retain a very small amount of this chemical, which even in small amounts is dangerous to the body.
My recommendation is to stick to 1 regular coffee a day (high quality coffee) and drink herbal/green tea for the rest of the day. When having Decaf opt for the Swiss Method.
Have a Nutritious N’ Delicious week