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We know all about caffeine in coffee and we love it for the kick it gives us in the morning or when cramming for exams. But scientists found that coffee beans contain 1500 active chemicals that affect our bodies in various ways. Coffee is a veritable pharmacy of beneficial chemicals.

We have been drinking coffee since the 15th century, for its delicious flavor and for that ever-needed stimulating kick of caffeine. Only lately scientists started investigating what else coffee has that is making it so popular all over the world. Bit by bit they have identified a range of active chemicals such as antioxidants that play very important role in our lives.

The ingredients are not always the same.  They are different in green coffee than in roasted coffee, in coffee grown in different climates, and in different varieties of coffee. The best source of information on the main coffee ingredients can be found in the famous Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Database

Coffee had a pretty bad reputation as a potential carcinogen until the June 2016 report when the WHO (World Health Organization) took coffee off the list of potential carcinogens. Instead, coffee was investigated for its potential role in preventing the cancer of the liver and uterus. And that was just the beginning.

The more scientists became interested in coffee, the more beneficial ingredients they identified in it and the more benefits they claimed. Let’s look at just a few most important bioactive ingredients of our favorite bean.


Caffeine, the main reason for our coffee addiction, is methylxanthine alkaloid, a powerful psychoactive compound. Caffeine blocks the effect of adenosine, which makes us drowsy, and stimulates parts of our autonomic nervous system.


A cup of coffee contains 116 mg of potassium -we need  4,700 mg daily, but it is better than nothing – potassium is crucial for regulating our balance of fluid, muscle contractions, nerve signals, blood pressure, water retention, for preventing osteoporosis, kidney stones and stroke.

Chlorogenic acid (CGA)

Chlorogenic acid is one of the main antioxidants in coffee linked to decreasing rates of diabetes and heart disease.


Tocopherol or vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant.


Niacin or vitamin B3 is believed to boost brain function,  help lower cholesterol, and help with arthritis symptoms.


Theophylline is a stimulant and mild muscle relaxant. It also helps with the symptoms of bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema.


The diterpenes such as kahweol and cafestol are found in the oil in coffee. They are found to raise bad cholesterol. Much of it stays in the paper filter, so if you have a cholesterol problem, a drip coffee is the best way to drink coffee for you.

Scientists are still finding out about the benefits of coffee and its ingredients. In the meantime, we can enjoy our favorite brew and not feel guilty when we grab that fifth or sixth cup while working on the term paper.

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