Decaf coffee: Good or bad?

Have you considered making the switch to decaf coffee because it’s labelled ‘healthier’? Dietitian Melissa Meier weighs in on whether it’s actually any better for you, or worse.

If you’re a coffee lover like me, you’d probably find it easy to down cup after cup.

And although coffee snobs might turn their nose up at you, you might’ve considered making the switch to decaf for a few of those daily coffee doses. But is decaf coffee really any better for you, or actually worse? Here’s what you need to know.

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Coffee 101

Although most people think coffee is bad for you, research has shown that drinking coffee can benefit your health. Offering micronutrients like niacin, magnesium and potassium as well as stacks of disease-fighting antioxidants, studies have linked regular coffee consumption with reduced risk of type two diabetes and even certain cancers.

But although most of us hope for it, your intake of coffee should not be unlimited. As a stimulant drug, the daily caffeine cap for a healthy adult is 400mg, and no more than 200mg in a single dose (for pregnant and breastfeeding women, this quota is less). To put that into perspective, a standard latte (250mL) contains around 110 milligrams of caffeine. Some foods like dark chocolate, protein powders and energy drinks contain caffeine, too.

Is decaf coffee healthy?

Going overboard on caffeine is a rather unpleasant experience, and could even turn into a serious medical situation. In extreme cases, you could feel shaky and confused, and have an erratic heartbeat. Excessive urination, anxiousness, trouble sleeping, headaches and dehydration are other signs you’ve overdone it.

And that’s where decaf coffee comes in. The beauty of (good) decaf coffee is that you get to revel in coffee’s delicious taste, without any influence of caffeine or the side effects of drinking too much. So, if you’re a several-cups-of-coffee-a-day kinda gal, decaf coffee could be a good option for you to cut back on caffeine a little.

In case you’re wondering, decaf coffee is produced by using organic solvents, water or carbon dioxide to remove the caffeine before the coffee bean is roasted. And although that doesn’t sound very appealing – rest assured it is perfectly safe to consume.

Other coffee considerations

Yes, coffee (decaf or otherwise) can be good for you, but the coffee itself isn’t the only thing in question when deciphering whether or not your cuppa is good for you.

When it comes to choosing a healthy brew, it’s important to consider your choice of milk and any extras, either in the cup or on the side. As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend a base of reduced-fat cow’s milk or soy milk for a protein punch to keep you feeling full and satisfied.

With calorie control in mind, stick to a small or regular sized coffee over super-sized options and skip the flavoured syrups and sachets of sugar. And don’t be tempted by the sweet treats in the café counter cabinet, either – they’re usually light on nutritional value, but packed with unnecessary calories.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.