WASHINGTON – When the Ink Spots sang “I love the java jive and it loves me” in 1940, they could not have known how right they were.
Coffee not only helps clear the mind and perk up energy, but it also provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet, according to a study released Sunday.
Of course, too much coffee can make people jittery and even raise cholesterol levels, so food experts stress moderation.
The findings by Joe A. Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania, give a healthy boost to the warming beverage.
“The point is: People are getting the most antioxidants from beverages, as opposed to what you might think,” Vinson said in a telephone interview.
Antioxidants, which are thought to help battle cancer and provide other health benefits, are abundant in grains, tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables.
Vinson said he was researching tea, cocoa and other foods and decided to study coffee, too.
His team analyzed the antioxidant content of more than 100 different food items, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, oils and common beverages. Then it used U.S. Agriculture Department data on typical food-consumption patterns to calculate how much antioxidant each food contributes to a person’s diet.
The researchers concluded that the average adult consumes 1,299 milligrams of antioxidants daily from coffee. The closest competitor was tea at 294 milligrams. Rounding out the top five sources were bananas, 76 milligrams; dry beans, 72 milligrams; and corn, 48 milligrams. According to the Agriculture Department, the typical adult American drinks 1.64 cups of coffee daily.
That does not mean coffee is a substitute for fruit and vegetables.
“Unfortunately, consumers still are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, which are better for you from an overall nutritional point of view due to their higher content of vitamins, minerals and fiber,” Vinson said.
Dates, cranberries and red grapes are among the leading fruit sources of antioxidants, he said.
“We think that antioxidants can be good for you in a number of ways,” including affecting enzymes and genes, though more research is needed, Vinson said.
“If I say more coffee is better, then I would have to tell you to spread it out to keep the levels of antioxidants up,” Vinson said. “We always talk about moderation in anything.”
His findings were released in conjunction with the annual convention of the American Chemical Society in Washington.