Coffee shows more antioxidant activity than green tea and cocoa, two antioxidant superstars. Scientists have identified approximately 1,000 antioxidants in unprocessed coffee beans, and hundreds more develop during the roasting process. Numerous studies have cited coffee as a major — and in some cases, the primary — dietary source of antioxidants for its subjects.

Antioxidants keep free radicals in check. Antioxidants are molecules in cells that prevent free radicals from taking electrons and causing damage. Antioxidants are able to give an electron to a free radical without becoming destabilized themselves, which stops the free radical chain reaction.

Dr. Lauri Wright, a registered dietitian and an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of South Florida states:

“Antioxidants are natural substances whose job is to clean up free radicals. Just like fiber cleans up waste products in the intestines, antioxidants clean up the free radical waste in the cells,” said Wright. Well-known antioxidants include beta-carotene and other carotenoids, lutein, resveratrol, vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene and other phytonutrients”.

Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, but an insufficient amount. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants (too many free radicals and too few antioxidants), according to the Pharmacognosy Review.


Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging. An antioxidant is a molecule stable enough to donate an electron to a rampaging free radical and neutralize it, reducing its capacity to damage. Antioxidants delay or inhibit cellular damage mainly through their free radical scavenging property.

What are Free Radicals >>


Daniel Chasman, an associate professor of medicine at HMS and associate geneticist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who worked with Cornelis on the study, said caffeine consumption habits are highly heritable and that the genes they found appear to explain about 7 percent of the heritability. That’s a significant amount, he said, considering how strong an influence culture also plays on coffee consumption.

Though the links between coffee and better health have become considerably clearer, what exactly confers the benefit remains murky. Caffeine alone does not explain the effects. For starters, some of the benefits are seen even with decaf, which has prompted researchers to turn their attention to the many other active compounds — including antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid — in your morning cup.

“Coffee is a complex beverage. It’s very difficult to pinpoint which component of coffee is responsible for the benefit,” Hu said. “There are numerous bioactive compounds.”

How Coffee Loves Us >>

Antioxidants: Consumer Facts

86% of consumers are aware
of the health benefits of antioxidants.
(Sloan Trends and Solutions)

“Contains antioxidants” #3
leading product label claim.

28% of consumers specifically seek out products that are naturally rich
in antioxidants.

Polyphenols and flavonoids remain the strongest phytochemical mass market ingredients used and
understood by consumers.



Antioxidants are one of the body's chief defenses against cellular damage and the many health problems that can result from it. By bonding with and neutralizing free radicals (highly reactive by-products that result when oxygen interacts with certain types of molecules), they help to stave off molecular chain reactions that can weaken cells, kill them, or affect their DNA.

We can control the levels of free radicals we are exposed to by avoiding smoking, harmful chemicals, and other environmental hazards like UV radiation and pollution. But we cannot completely escape either free radicals or their effects.

Yet keeping the free radicals in check by maintaining an antioxidant-rich diet can help reduce the risk of age-related degenerative conditions, boost heart health, the immune system, and stave off diseases like cancer. Antioxidants can also improve cognitive acuity, promote healthy skin, and help us look and feel younger.