Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee fruit, often known as the coffee cherry.
These bean-like seeds are usually dried, roasted, and brewed to make coffee.
Because drinking coffee has been linked to numerous health benefits — such as a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and liver disease — you may wonder if eating coffee beans has the same effect.
Munching on coffee beans — especially those covered in chocolate — is an increasingly popular way to get a caffeine fix.
This article reviews the potential benefits and risks of eating coffee beans.
Coffee beans have been eaten for hundreds of years or more.
It is thought that before coffee was developed as a beverage, its beans were often mixed with animal fat and consumed to boost energy levels.
Coffee beans provide the same nutrients as a cup of joe — but in a much more concentrated form.
Because regular coffee is filtered and diluted with water, you only get a portion of the caffeine and other substances found in the whole bean.
What’s more, eating coffee beans — rather than drinking the beverage — may lead to more rapid absorption of caffeine through the lining of your mouth.
Both the beneficial and negative effects of coffee are amplified when the beans are consumed whole.
As such, it is best to eat coffee beans in moderation.
That said, green coffee beans — which are raw — aren’t very pleasant to eat. They have a bitter, woody flavor and can be hard to chew. Roasted coffee beans are slightly softer.
Chocolate-covered, roasted coffee beans are often sold as a snack and are easy to find in your local store.
While many studies have examined the benefits of coffee as a beverage, few have explored the effects of eating coffee beans.
Yet, consuming the beans likely provides some of the same benefits as sipping the drink. Here are some potential benefits of snacking on coffee beans.
An Excellent Source of Antioxidants
Coffee beans are packed with powerful antioxidants, the most abundant being chlorogenic acid, a family of health-promoting polyphenols.
Studies show that chlorogenic acid may reduce your risk of diabetes and combat inflammation. Some trials suggest it may have cancer-fighting properties as well.
The amount of chlorogenic acid in coffee beans varies depending on the type of bean and roasting methods.
In fact, roasting can result in a 50–95% loss of chlorogenic acid — though coffee beans are still believed to be one of the best dietary sources.
An Easily Absorbed Caffeine Source
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in a variety of food and drinks, including coffee and tea.
On average, eight coffee beans provide an equivalent amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee.
Your body absorbs caffeine from whole coffee beans at a quicker rate than that from liquid coffee.
Caffeine impacts your brain and central nervous system, resulting in many benefits. For example, this substance can boost energy, alertness, mood, memory, and performance.
One study found that drinking 2 cups of coffee with 200 mg of caffeine — the equivalent of around 17 coffee beans — was as effective as a 30-minute nap at reducing driving mistakes.
In another study, a 60-mg shot of caffeine — about 1 espresso or 5 coffee beans — resulted in improved contentment, mood, and attention.
Caffeine works by inhibiting the hormone adenosine, which causes drowsiness and tiredness.
This chemical may also improve exercise performance and weight loss by boosting metabolism.
Other Potential Benefits
Observational studies have linked coffee to multiple health benefits, including a reduced risk of the following:
- death from all causes
- heart disease and stroke
- certain cancers
- liver illnesses, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis, and liver cirrhosis
- type 2 diabetes
- brain disorders, such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease
Animal and human studies further suggest that green coffee bean extract may reduce blood pressure in people with already high levels.
However, keep in mind that these benefits are based on observational studies — not rigorous controlled trials. Therefore, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.