Coffee is celebrated for its health benefits, largely because of its daily contribution to antioxidant consumption. Antioxidants improve health by zapping the free radicals that are responsible for aging and degeneration in the human body. Joe Vinson, PhD, asserts that Americans get most of their daily dose of antioxidants from coffee, a total of 1,299 mg per day. That’s more than the 294 mg from tea or the 39 mg from apples. So what exactly is the source of all of those antioxidants? Is it from the phenolic compounds or chlorogenic acids found in coffee? How about the caffeine? Well, yes, theoretically those are all contributing factors to the presence of antioxidants in raw, green coffee beans. But when it comes to accessing those antioxidants, the magic is in the brewing!
Researchers Yazheng Liu and David Kitts at the University of British Columbia studied the antioxidant content of green unroasted coffee beans compared with roasted beans. They found that although 90% of chlorogenic acid is lost during the roasting process, antioxidant content is amped up due to a specific chemical reaction that occurs during the roasting process. This reaction is known as the “Maillard reaction.” The term refers to the work by French 20th century chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who looked at how heat affects the carbohydrates, sugars and proteins in food, such as when grilling steaks or toasting bread.
One of the most compelling things about coffee is its tantalizing, soothing, stimulating smell---its ability to stoke olfactory senses. That smell is related to the effects of roasting. So the next time you breathe in the aroma of a steaming cup of coffee, remember you are smelling the scent of good health. Cheers!