Instant coffee is convenient and easier to make than brewed coffee. It gives you that morning caffeine boost much faster than drip varieties.
Many regular coffee drinkers don’t consider it realcoffee, though, pointing to potential health concerns with instant types of coffee.
Is instant coffee really bad for you, though? The bottom line is, it depends.
Why is instant coffee not healthy? Some instant coffees may not be as healthy as brewed coffees due to higher levels of certain chemicals in those coffees.
There’s quite a bit of variety when it comes to instant coffee, though, and if you’re a fan of convenience, instant coffee can still be good for you.
Instant Coffee vs. Other Coffee Preparations
Instant coffee comes in several different forms. You can mix a spoonful of instant coffee granules into a mug of hot water, stir it in cold water as a cold brew, or use K-Cup pods or other single-serving pods to make a solo cup.
The instant coffee that’s stirred in is the most popular type of instant coffee, with even big names like Starbucks getting in on the single-serve game. It’s essentially micro-ground coffee beans.
To get from bean to store shelves, most big brands start the process similar to whole bean or ground coffees.
Coffee beans are first roasted to the brand’s desired roasting level. More often than not, that’s a medium roast. Those beans are then ground up. If you’re buying a bag of coffee grounds, this is where the process ends.
With instant coffee, it’s just beginning.
The coffee grounds are mixed with water, like a giant French press. Once the water is removed, what’s left behind is an extract that has to undergo one last process to become instant coffee: spray-drying or freeze-drying.
In the spray-drying method, the coffee extract is sprayed into hot air. This powder results in an instant cup of coffee when mixed with water.
Freeze-drying is just like it sounds. The extract is frozen, cut up into smaller pieces, then sent to a drying vacuum. The result is tiny granules of coffee that can be remixed with water for your morning cup.
In both methods, what you’re mixing into your cup is essentially a dehydrated coffee powder. The popular instant coffee brand Nescafé uses both methods, depending on the product. Instant coffee generally has a longer shelf life and retains the same antioxidants as brewed coffee.
Benefit: Antioxidants & Other Nutrients
Both regular coffee and decaf also have high levels of antioxidant activity linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and various other health conditions.
Those antioxidants behave like anti radicals. They fight disease-causing free radicals when their levels get too high and improve your body’s defenses against common inflammatory conditions.
A cup of coffee also boasts all kinds of nutrients in each serving, including potassium, magnesium, and riboflavin.
A dietitian will tell you that a balanced diet is always best, and coffee can be part of that healthy diet when consumed in moderation. This is especially true if you’re avoiding additives like artificial sweeteners in your coffee that can lead to weight gain and belly bloat.
Whether you’re sipping on instant coffee or a brew out of your coffee maker, those benefits remain.
Is instant coffee bad for your kidneys?There is no evidence that instant coffee is bad for your kidneys. Excessive caffeine in both instant and brewed coffee can have a stimulating effect on your organs, but moderate consumption actually has beneficial effects on your kidneys.
Potential Danger: Acrylamide
Coffee lovers who like the ease of instant coffee may still have concerns about the potential dangers of some types of instant coffee.
Does instant coffee contain harmful chemicals? Instant coffee contains higher levels of a potentially harmful chemical called acrylamide. Acrylamide is a potential carcinogen that forms when coffee beans are roasted at high temperatures.
To be fair, all roasted coffee contains acrylamide. The highest concentrations of the chemical, however, are found in instant coffee and coffee substitutes like chicory root.
Side effects of excessive amounts of acrylamide include nervous system disorders and muscle numbness and weakness. It has been linked to cancer in some animal studies.
It’s important to note that the amount of acrylamide found in instant coffee is similar to amounts found in other foods exposed to high heat. Breakfast cereals, potato chips, fried foods, even overcooked foods all contain acrylamide thanks to the Maillard reaction.
Plastics, wastewater, and secondhand smoke also contain higher levels of acrylamide.
So far, studies have found negative health effects in mice exposed to acrylamide at much higher rates than regular instant coffee drinkers. Any side effects reported in humans come from workplaces where overexposure is constant and consistent.
Which is healthier, brewed or instant coffee? Brewed coffee is healthier than some instant coffees due to lower levels of acrylamide and higher levels of caffeine.
Other coffees considered “instant” that aren’t produced in the same way as what’s considered traditional instant coffee may be just as good for you as what you brew.
If you’re worried about ingesting acrylamide and its effects, choose brands that care about the taste of your coffee and its effects on your body. Golden Ratio’s low-acid coffee tastes great, is gentler on digestion, and is free of additives that show up in other efficient coffee solutions.
Potential Danger: Plastics
Some coffee pods have been linked to unnecessary exposure to BPA when those pods are heated through in the brewing process. BPA is a chemical compound used to make certain plastics and line the inside of some food containers to improve their shelf life.
Some research suggests that exposure to BPA could be harmful over time. Heating the plastic only exacerbates those effects. Hormonal imbalances and reproductive challenges are two areas of concern with steady, regular exposure to products that contain BPA.
Pods that use BPA-free plastic may not be all that great, either. While K-Cups are made using a variety of plastic compounds that don’t include BPA, there isn’t enough research to suggest that using plastics to heat your daily coffee is safe in the long term.
Up until recently, the pods were using a plastic mix that included polystyrene, another potential carcinogen. The pods are notoriously bad for the environment, too, since they’re not recyclable.
Instant Coffee Caffeine Content
Comparing the caffeine content in instant coffee vs. brewed coffee depends on the type of instant coffee you’re sipping.
Traditional instant coffee, or the kind you stir into a mug of water, has less caffeine than coffee you’d brew in a coffee pot. The average caffeine content in instant coffee is about 47 mg of caffeine per serving.
A medium roast coffee contains about 70 mg of caffeine per serving on average. There’s undoubtedly variation if you choose dark roast or a shot of espresso.
That means you lose some of the positive benefits of caffeine with traditional instant coffee.
The exception here is Golden Ratio, which contains about 50% more caffeine than a normal cup of brewed coffee. You can make that cup lighter with a shorter steeping time if you want to cut back on the caffeine, just like with hot tea.
You can also make it stronger by increasing your steeping time.
Instant coffee offers many of the same benefits as brewed coffee.
The benefits of instant coffee mirror that of brewed coffee. Those benefits include, but aren’t limited to:
- Improved brain function
- Boosted mood
- Lowered risk of cancer
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
- More efficient digestion
- Lessened Parkinson’s disease risk
- Diminished liver disease risk
- A longer, healthier life
Regular coffee consumption is safe with most diets, even if you’re intermittent fasting. There are better ways to embrace instant coffee, though, if you’re seeking a healthier cup that’s just as easy to brew.
Step up your instant coffee game with Golden Ratio.
Instant coffee is here to stay. The type of instant coffee you choose shouldn’t just be convenient, though. It should taste good and make you feelgood.
Golden Ratio is a healthier, gentler cup of instant coffee. Brewed like a tea with the caffeine kick of a strong cup of coffee, it’s more than a coffee alternative. It’s a new, healthier way for you to get that morning energy boost.
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