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Instant Coffee Health Benefits: There Are A Ton of Them
This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts, including licensed nutritionists, dietitians or medical professionals. The information in the article is based on scientific studies and research.
It is designed to be honest, unbiased and objective, and opinions from both sides of an argument are presented wherever there is disagreement.
The scientific references in this article (marked by 1, 2, 3, etc.) are clickable links to peer-reviewed research material on the subject being discussed.
We’re constantly bombarded with stories about the foods that are good (or bad) for our health.
The information comes from many sources. They include breathless news stories published online and shown on TV, and sensational clickbait headlines which may or not actually be true. More often than not, the latest “truth” seems to conflict with stories we’ve previously seen.
Several facts about coffee always stand out, though.
- Coffee may help you burn body fat and lose weight.
- Drinking coffee regularly may help prevent some diseases.
- People who drink coffee are lowering their risk of death.
Those are very broad statements. But generally speaking, they’re all true.
Here’s what all of those news reports and headlines have in common, though: they all talk about coffee, but they never mention instant coffee.
It would be easy to assume that you can only enjoy those fabulous health benefits if you drink lots of freshly-brewed coffee. But that assumption would be wrong.
Instant coffee is really nothing more than coffee that’s been prepared differently. And all coffee – including the jar of instant coffee that’s in your parents’ refrigerator – can be very good for your health.
Let’s find out more.
What Is Instant Coffee?
You know those coffee beans that you grind and brew at home? The beans they use to make ground coffee? The ones they use at your local coffee shop to make delicious coffee drinks?
The same beans are used to make instant coffee.
Of course, they’re not simply ground and brewed, with the end product put into containers. There’s a complicated process used to turn them into instant coffee, which can be reconstituted with the addition of hot water – and which obviously has a much longer shelf life than fresh coffee.
- The roasting is done at a lower temperature, in order to ensure higher water content in the beans. (Caffeine is removed before roasting, if the producer is making decaf instant coffee.)
- The roasted coffee beans are ground coarsely, to make sure the water used during brewing won’t get stuck in the grounds.
- Special extraction equipment is used to brew the ground coffee, because the product has to be a sludgy coffee extract.
- The extract is concentrated through cooling, evaporation or use of a centrifuge.
- Gases collected during the last two processes are re-infused into the concentrate, to reinforce its aroma.
- Finally, the concentrate is dehydrated, either with “spray-drying” (hot air turns it into fine powder or crystals) or freeze-drying (a repeated freezing process followed by drying in a vacuum chamber, which turns it into coffee granules or crystals).
Spray-drying is less expensive and faster; the freeze-drying process takes longer, costs more, and produces better-tasting coffee. Either way, though, the final product is still coffee, and it still acts like coffee once it’s inside your body even though it’s been heavily processed.
The Numerous Health Benefits of Instant Coffee
Some of coffee’s purported health effects have been more definitively proven than others. Even so, the list of coffee’s apparent benefits is long and impressive – and as we’ve stressed, instant coffee is coffee.
Antioxidants are crucial to human health. They protect cells against damage by the hazardous free radicals naturally created by the body; that damage can lead to development of diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer.
Studies repeatedly show that coffee is the most-important dietary source of antioxidants. There has also been research showing that the antioxidant content of instant coffee is almost the same as in brewed coffee.
There may be more of one antioxidant compound in brewed coffee, and more of a different compound in instant. But studies have found that instant coffee has more of the most important antioxidants, chlorogenic acid and polyphenols, than are found in brewed coffee. Bottom line: instant may be even better for you.
Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Scientists are still trying to fully understand the reasons, but it’s been shown over and over again that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The more coffee people drink, the lower their apparent risk. Studies have found that heavy coffee drinkers (3-4 cups per day) may reduce their possibility of diabetes by 50% or even more; one report estimated that each daily cup lowered the diabetes risk by 7%.
Any type of coffee, including instant, won’t supply the full recommended daily amount (RDI) of any vitamin or mineral. But the average coffee drinker has 2-3 cups per day, so it all adds up. Coffee contains vitamins B2, B3 and B5, potassium, calcium, magnesium and manganese.
Caffeine and Instant Coffee: Potential Health Benefits
One of the big differences between instant coffee and “real coffee” is that instant normally has lower caffeine content. On average, a cup of brewed coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, compared to about 60mg of caffeine in a cup of instant coffee. (They’re each substantially lower in caffeine than espresso, which contains about 64mg per ounce.)
Some of the health benefits attributed to coffee should actually be attributed to caffeine intake. That means instant coffee may not provide quite the same level of those benefits as “regular coffee.” Even though it has somewhat less caffeine, though, instant can contribute to a number of other positive health effects.
Fat Burning and Weight Loss
This is a controversial subject, but there have been claims for some time that drinking coffee can boost metabolism and stimulate fat burning. Those are two of the big keys to weight loss. A new study seems to bolster that claim. It says the caffeine in coffee may help burn so-called “brown fat” (brown adipose tissue), which is normally activated to help us stay warm when we get cold.
Brain Function and Neurodegenerative Diseases
Caffeine interacts with the central nervous system in a number of ways – other than just making you jittery if you’ve had too much. It promotes the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline; all of can them stimulate and improve brain function.
There’s another important effect of coffee’s impact on the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the best-known neurological disease that can cause dementia and death; controlled studies have shown that caffeine intake is associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and suffering from its associated cognitive decline. Research shows the same effect of coffee drinking on the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Better Mental Health
The caffeine-induced release of neurotransmitters doesn’t just help people think better; it also makes them feel better. Research has found that regular coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer with depression and less likely to consider suicide.
Lower Risk of Liver Disease
Studies have shown that coffee lovers run a lower risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, apparently due to the effects of caffeine. As long as people weren’t already suffering with the condition, higher amounts of coffee consumption corresponded to a lower risk of cirrhosis.
Lower Risk of Cancer and Longer Life
Much of the research on coffee’s possible protective effects against cancer is preliminary. However, it does appear that coffee helps provide defense against colorectal, endometrial and liver cancer, and may help fight other types of cancer as well.
On a related note, there have been studies showing that – for reasons that are still to be understood – coffee drinkers are likely to live longer.
Is Drinking Instant Coffee Bad for You?
Absolutely not. Lots of surveys have debunked the wives’ tale that coffee can cause cancer, and there’s no evidence indicating that instant coffee is worse for you than the brew that comes out of your coffee maker or the drinks you buy at Starbucks.
There is one fact that coffee snobs cite, and it concerns a possibly-hazardous chemical called acrylamide. It’s created when coffee beans are roasted, and it’s true that the amount of acrylamide in instant coffee is higher than it is in brewed coffee. However, the levels of the chemical in instant coffee are so low that it doesn’t cause any negative effects.
So enjoy your instant coffee. Believe it or not, there are some brands that taste almost as good as “real” coffee – and provide virtually the same health benefits.