Coffee—that magical black liquid that has the ability to turn any morning into a good one.
Countless studies have been conducted on the effects of coffee, and just about all of them have come to the same conclusion: coffee is good.
But seriously, whether you’re after the antioxidants to improve your health or the caffeine to stay awake, alert, and focused—there are plenty of reasons to love coffee.
But one thing that’s often overlooked is the fact that coffee contains tannins.
What are tannins?
Does coffee have tannins? Yes, it does. Okay, great—now what are tannins, again?
Tannins are a type of polyphenol, which are naturally-occurring “micronutrients” found in plants. (Here’s some more info on plant polyphenols: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/)
These guys are partially responsible for the “astringent” (here, that basically means acidic/bitter) taste component of your coffee, and they can also be found in tea, wine, some fruits and vegetables, and even chocolate.
So, if you’re looking for an excuse to drink more coffee (or eat more chocolate), you can add “it has tannins” to the list of reasons. Not only are tannins good for you, but they also contribute to the unique taste of coffee that we all love.
So, tannins are good for you?
Yes, tannins are generally considered to be healthy—but like anything else in the world, they should be consumed in moderation. As anyone who drinks coffee or red wine has probably seen, tannins can stain your teeth. And they can sometimes have a negative effect on your gut if you consume way too much of them, so it’s important to be aware of how much coffee (and tea and wine) you’re drinking on a daily basis.
Tannins can also interfere with the absorption of iron, so if you’re already iron-deficient, you may want to limit your tannin intake.
With all that out of the way—yes, tannins offer some health benefits—so there’s no need to worry if you enjoy your daily cup or three of coffee.
Health Benefits of Tannins in Coffee
Tannins are beneficial because they’re antioxidants, which basically means they can help protect your cells from damage. They’re also known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which is why they’re sometimes used as a natural treatment for some conditions like arthritis.
Antioxidants like the ones in your cup of coffee are important because they fight oxidative stress, and "scavenge" for free radicals and neutralize them. Free radicals are (very basically) unstable molecules that can damage cells. Free radicals are produced naturally in the body, but they can also be produced because of exposure to things like pollution and cigarette smoke.
Overproduction of free radicals has been linked to a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. So, by getting antioxidants from tannins (and other sources), you can help reduce your risk of these diseases.
In addition to the usual antioxidant benefits, a tannin called ellagitannin found in coffee may also help improve gut health. Preliminary research shows that tannins may increase the growth of good bacteria in the gut while reducing the growth of bad bacteria, which can help improve digestion and overall gut health.
At the end of the day, moderate consumption of coffee (or anything else that contains tannins) is perfectly fine and can be beneficial for your health.
Whether you're trying to get more tannins in your diet or you’re just looking for an excuse to drink more coffee, there are plenty of reasons why coffee is worth your time.
So go ahead and pour yourself another cup of coffee—or as I like to call it, “tannin fodder.” (I don't actually call it that and I don't recommend you start, either.)
In the end, tannins are just one more reason coffee is good for your health—but like anything else, with tannins, moderation is key. So drink up, enjoy that well-earned coffee, and rest assured knowing that you’re getting even more health benefits in that delicious cup of joe!