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Evidence Based

Instant Coffee: Good or Bad?

Instant coffee is very popular in many areas of the world.

It may even account for more than 50% of total coffee consumption in some countries.

Instant coffee is also faster, cheaper and easier to make than regular coffee.

As is well-known by now, drinking regular coffee is linked to many health benefits (1, 2, 3, 4).

But do these benefits apply to instant coffee as well? This article explains everything you need to know about instant coffee and its health effects.

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2

What is Instant Coffee?

Instant coffee is a type of coffee made from dried coffee extract.

The extract is made by brewing ground coffee beans, similar to when regular coffee is brewed, but more concentrated.

After brewing, the water is removed from the extract to make dry fragments or powder, both of which dissolve when added to water.

There are two main ways to make instant coffee:

  • Spray-drying: Coffee extract is sprayed into hot air, which quickly dries the droplets and turns them into fine powder or small pieces.
  • Freeze-drying: The coffee extract is frozen and cut into small fragments, which are then dried at a low temperature under vacuum conditions.
Both of these methods preserve the quality, aroma and flavor of the coffee.

The most common way of preparing instant coffee is to add one teaspoon of powder/granules to a cup of hot water.

The strength of the coffee can easily be adjusted by adding more or less to your cup.

Bottom Line: Instant coffee is made from brewed coffee that has had the water removed. To make instant coffee, simply add one teaspoon of powder to a cup of warm water.

3

Instant Coffee Contains Antioxidants and Nutrients

Coffee is the single biggest source of antioxidants in the modern diet (5, 6, 7, 8).

This high antioxidant content is believed to be responsible for many of the health benefits linked to drinking coffee (9).

Like regular coffee, instant coffee contains many powerful antioxidants (10, 11).

According to one study, instant coffee may contain even more of certain antioxidants than other types, due to the way it is processed (12).

Furthermore, one standard cup of instant coffee contains only 4 calories, and provides small amounts of potassium, magnesium and niacin (vitamin B3) (13).

Bottom Line: Instant coffee is full of powerful antioxidants. It may even contain more of some antioxidants than other types of coffee.
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4

Instant Coffee Contains Slightly Less Caffeine

Caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, and coffee is its biggest dietary source (14).

However, instant coffee generally contains slightly less caffeine than regular coffee.

One cup of instant coffee may contain anywhere from 30–90 mg of caffeine, while one cup of regular coffee contains anywhere from 70–140 mg (11, 15, 16, 17).

Since people differ in their sensitivity to caffeine, instant coffee may be a better choice for those who need to cut back on caffeine (18).

Instant coffee is also available as decaf, which contains even less caffeine.

Too much caffeine may cause anxiety, disrupted sleep, restlessness, upset stomach, tremor and a fast heartbeat ( 19).

Bottom Line: A cup of instant coffee generally contains anywhere from 30–90 mg of caffeine, while regular coffee contains around 70–140 mg per cup.

5

Instant Coffee Contains More Acrylamide

Acrylamide is a potentially harmful chemical that forms when coffee beans are roasted (20).

This chemical is also commonly found in a wide range of foods, smoke, household items and personal care products (21).

Interestingly, instant coffee may contain up to twice as much acrylamide as fresh, roasted coffee (20, 22).

Overexposure to acrylamide may damage the nervous system and increase the risk of cancer (23, 24, 25).

However, the amount of acrylamide you're exposed to through diet and coffee is much lower than the doses that have been shown to be harmful (26, 27).

Therefore, drinking instant coffee should not cause concern regarding acrylamide exposure.

Bottom Line: Instant coffee contains up to twice as much acrylamide as regular coffee, but the amount is still lower than what is considered to be harmful.
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6

Like Regular Coffee, Instant Coffee May Have Several Health Benefits

Drinking coffee has been linked to many health benefits.

Given that instant coffee contains the same antioxidants and nutrients as regular coffee, it should have most of the same health effects.

Drinking instant coffee may:

  • Enhance brain function: The caffeine can improve brain function (28).
  • Boost metabolism: The caffeine may increase metabolism and help you burn more fat (29, 30, 31).
  • Reduce disease risk: Coffee may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (32, 33, 34).
  • Decrease diabetes risk: Coffee may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (35, 36, 37).
  • Improve liver health: Coffee and caffeine may reduce the risk of liver diseases like cirrhosis and liver cancer (38, 39, 40).
  • Improve mental health: Coffee may help lower the risk of depression and suicide (41, 42).
  • Promote longevity: Drinking coffee may help you live longer (43, 44, 45).
However, it's important to keep in mind that many of these studies were observational in nature.

These types of studies cannot prove that coffee causes the reduction in disease risk, only that people who habitually drink coffee are less likely to get them.

If you're wondering how much coffee to drink, consuming 3–5 cups of instant coffee each day may be optimal. This amount is usually linked with the highest risk reduction in studies (19, 46).

Bottom Line: Instant coffee offers most of the same health benefits as regular coffee, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and liver diseases.
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7

Should You Drink Instant Coffee?

Instant coffee is quick, easy and doesn't require a coffee maker. It also has a very long shelf life and is cheaper than regular coffee.

Therefore, it may be very handy when you're traveling or on-the-go.

Instant coffee contains slightly less caffeine and more acrylamide than regular coffee, but it contains most of the same antioxidants.

Overall, instant coffee is a healthy, low-calorie beverage that is linked to the same health benefits as other types of coffee.

An evidence-based article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.
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