Your morning cup of coffee may provide more than just a caffeine jolt — it could be your most valuable source of disease-fighting antioxidants.

A new study shows coffee is the No. 1 source of antioxidants in the American diet.

"Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. Nothing else comes close," says researcher Joe Vinson, PhD, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton, in a news release.

Antioxidants are found naturally in many foods and beverages and are thought to provide health benefits in preventing diseases such as heart disease and cancer by fighting cellular damage caused by free radicals in the body. Free radicals are damaging substances that are produced through normal bodily processes.

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Coffee Provides More Antioxidants Than Fruit?

Fruits and vegetables are hailed as the richest sources of antioxidants, but this study shows that coffee is the main source from which most Americans get their antioxidants.

Vinson says high antioxidant levels in foods and beverages don't always translate into high antioxidant levels in the body. He says the potential health benefits of antioxidants depend largely on how they are absorbed and used by the body, and that's a process that is still poorly understood by researchers.

Researchers calculated the top sources of antioxidants based on the average U.S. per capita consumption of 100 food and beverages containing the compounds.

The results showed that based on both antioxidant content per serving size and frequency of consumption, coffee came out on top, topping other popular sources of antioxidants, such as tea, chocolate, and fruit.

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Where Americans Get Their Antioxidants

After coffee, the study showed the other top 10 sources of antioxidants in the American diet were:

—Black tea


—Dried beans


—Red wine

—Beer (lager style)




Researchers say both caffeinated and decaf versions of coffee appear to provide similar amounts of antioxidants. But they say these results shouldn't be interpreted as an excuse to increase your daily java dose for your health's sake.

For example, Vinson says antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables offer much more in terms of total nutrition due to their higher content of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. He says dates, cranberries, and red grapes contain the highest concentration of antioxidants per serving size of all fruits, but Americans don't consume nearly as much of these fruits as they do coffee.

The study, which was primarily funded by the American Cocoa Research Institute, was presented this week at the American Chemical Society Meeting in Washington.

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By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: American Chemical Society Meeting & Exposition, Washington, D.C., Aug. 27-Sept. 1, 2005. News release, American Chemical Society.