You've almost certainly heard it's a rich source, but exactly how much antioxidants does coffee have?
Rather than a vague answer, here's the exact amount.
The ORAC test is the gold standard for measuring the total amount of antioxidant content in an item. It measures in vitro (test tube) using methodologies which are believed to mimic human biology. In vivo (human body) testing would not be possible to accurately and conclusively measure. Not only does each person's unique body metabolize and use nutrients to varying degrees from one another, but it would be impossible to measure antioxidant activity within many, if not most, parts of the human body such as vital organs, nerves, and other tissues which would be damaged if invasive instruments and probes were used on a microscopic level in real-time to view damaging free radicals and the effects antioxidants have on them.
Who conducted the test?
CIRAD is a French research institution. The English translation for the letters in its name stand for French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (Centre de cooperation internationale en recherche agronomique pour le developpement). It operates under the joint authority of France's Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
As is often the case with food testing, they did not disclose the brand used. They labeled it "Coffee, Arabica medium roasting, filter brewed" which would be an average representation of the arabica bean when ground and used in an average strength coffee.
All ORAC tests are based on a standard weight equaling 100 grams of the tested item. When converted to fluid ounces that would equal 3.38 ounces of coffee being measured in this test.
Decaf vs. regular?
Is decaf a rich source too? Although this test represents the normal caffeinated version, the good news is that the difference (decrease) of antioxidants in decaf vs. regular coffee tests out to be a very negligible amount. So don't feel the need to consume the caffeine if you don't want it or can't have it because of health reasons, since both are almost equally potent sources.
Is coffee's ORAC value of 2,780 considered high?
Here are some common beverages and foods for you to compare it to...
Beverages - white wine is 392; apple juice is 414; tomato juice is 486; orange juice is 726; red grape juice is 1,788; prune juice is 2,036; red merlot wine is 2,607; pomegranate juice is 2,681; red wine is 3,607; black raspberry juice is 10,460
Fruits - cantaloupe are 319; gala apples with skin are 2,828; strawberries are 4,302; blueberries are 4,669; raspberries are 5,065; black raspberries are 19,220
Vegetables - red ripe tomatoes are 387; carrots are 697; romaine lettuce is 1,017; baked potatoes (white) are 1,138; spinach is 1,513; green kale is 1,770; boiled broccoli is 2,160; boiled red cabbage is 3,145; boiled artichokes are 9,416
Spices - garlic powder is 6,665; chili powder is 23,636; black pepper is 34,053; ginger is 39,041; cocoa powder is 55,653; basil is 61,063; nutmeg is 69,640; turmeric is 127,068; cinnamon is 131,420
Superfoods - fresh goji berries are 3,290; spirulina is 5,970; maca powder is 6,100; chia seeds are 9,800; maqui berry powder is 27,600; camu camu is 52,000; acai powder is 102,700; baobab powder is 140,000
Not only is your average cup of Joe an extremely potent source, but it's also in a form that's convenient and perfect for on the road. Eating a kale salad during your morning commute? That won't work. But sipping a warm mug of coffee in your car? Definitely! Though it's worth noting that you need a diverse intake of antioxidant content from many different sources, because there are thousands of different types of antioxidants and many work quite differently from one another. Sorry, that means you still need to eat your greens!
Coffee is a good source of antioxidants even when matched head to head against many fruits and vegetables. Comparing its ORAC to spices would be unfair, since very few foods come anywhere close. To get the best of both worlds, try adding some high antioxidant flavorings to your coffee. Sprinkle on a little cinnamon, a dash of ginger, or a splash of vanilla extract. All of them are rich sources which will give it a boost.
Healthiest way to drink coffee?
Skip the sugar. In lieu of high calorie creamer, try a splash of cold almond milk (which has more calcium than dairy milk) or flax milk (which is a rich source of omega 3's). Most importantly, stick with traditional American-style drip coffee. Horrible taste isn't the only reason you should hate instant coffee. More important is the fact that the instant versions often test for having high levels of acrylamide present in them. On the other hand, properly filtered coffee has very little to none, since the acrylamide is actually in the grind of the bean and not the liquid which makes its way through the paper filter.
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't: Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, et al. Nutrition Journal NIH Jan 2010