Coffee is the single greatest source of antioxidants in the American diet. Ounce-for-ounce, other foods, such as blueberries, pecans and even cinnamon, pack more antioxidants than coffee, but they aren’t nearly as popular.
On average, coffee drinkers down 3.4 cups a day, gleaning 40 percent of their daily antioxidants from the brew. (In comparison, fruits and vegetables account for just 23 percent.) The number is high partly because people drink so much coffee, but it’s also because the beverage is brimming with polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in many vegetables and berries.
Polyphenols confer some serious health benefits. In particular, they destroy free radicals, which are rogue molecules that create inflammation. Unchecked inflammation underlies many chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The more antioxidants in the diet, the less inflammation in the body, says John Hibbs, ND, a senior clinician at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash. “A cell that can control intracellular inflammatory processes is going to survive better under the duress of daily living.” (For people who prefer “unleaded” java, the good news is that decaf coffee has just as many antioxidants as the “leaded” version.)