Good Question: What’s the difference between light and dark coffee roasts?

When it comes to our health, which one is better?
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 8:59 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In tonight’s Good Question, we’re asking about the coffee you drink.

We got an email pitch recently, saying there are health differences between dark and light roast coffees.

It got us wondering, is that true? And what are the different health benefits?

Jamie Boll asked Kimberly Spatola, a registered dietitian from Novant Health.

First things first, what is the big difference between dark and light roasts?

Kimberly: The biggest difference is obviously going to be when you are roasting coffee beans. You take the raw coffee bean and the degree to which you are kind of roasting at is developing flavors into it. It’s kind of like if you were roasting any vegetables in the oven. The longer it sits in the oven, the darker the food is going to get. Same thing happens with coffee beans. The less time that’s in the roasting method, the lighter the bean versus the longer it’s kind of interacting with heat, the darker the bean. The biggest differences between the two are honestly going to be flavor. Light roast coffees tend to be kind of more herbal, fruit-forward flavors versus your dark roast coffees are going to have those bolder, more full-bodied flavors.

Jamie: A lot of us like to have that cup of coffee in the morning to get us going to wake us up. I guess that leads to the question, which one has more?

Kimberly: This is actually a little bit of a common misconception. It is often thought that one of the roasts has more caffeine than the other, but really, caffeine content is not affected by the amount of coffee beans roasted technically being for being a light roast coffee bean will have the same amount of caffeine as a dark roast coffee bean it. Really, what it really comes down to, is how many coffee beans are actually used to make your cup of coffee. For example, if one cup of coffee was made with, you know 50 beans, that’s going to have double the caffeine amount than a coffee made with just say 25 beans.

So - when it comes to our health, which one is better? Kimberly says there are some different health benefits to each.

Jamie: Does one have higher antioxidant properties?

Kimberly: So yes, this one is a little bit different. The lighter roasts just because it spends less time under heat, it is going to retain a little bit more of those antioxidants that are naturally found in the coffee bean versus the dark roast. However, at the end of the day, you know, just if you’re drinking maybe a couple cups of coffee in the morning - yes, you’re going to get some more antioxidants a little bit from the light roast, but at the end of the day, if you’re eating food throughout the day, that’s going to be a greater source of where your antioxidants and vitamins and minerals you’re going to get typically.

Jamie: What are the benefits of these antioxidants?

Kimberly: Really, antioxidants and our diet really help all of our cells just be preserved. A lot of things that we’re interacting with in the environment, or that reading can sometimes damage these cells in our body. So really, the antioxidants help protect ourselves from this damage.

Jamie: I think inflammation when I think antioxidants, right? That it fights inflammation in your body, is that true? And why is that important?

Kimberly: Yeah, so inflammation is basically your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong and your body is working to try to fix it. So, antioxidants are kind of the helpers in this. They help to prevent the inflammation, but it also helps your body to recover from the inflammation a little faster as well.

Jamie: I’ve read here that dark roast is higher in some B vitamins. Why are B vitamins important?

Kimberly: So, B vitamins are very helpful just to help yourselves convert energy. So, the food you eat is broken down. Your body needs those vitamins to kind of extract the energy from the food and to help your body turn that into usable fuel.

Jamie: Obviously, like I said mention at the beginning, you know a lot of us drink or a cup of coffee in the morning for that that morning jolt to get us going. The caffeine in it, is there a risk in too much caffeine?

Kimberly: Yes, there is a little bit of a risk. Caffeine one is a diuretic. So, if you’re just drinking coffee in the morning or for half the day and really not rehydrating, you will become dehydrated throughout the course of the day. Even though it’s liquid, you’re not really replenishing your fluids through water if it’s just kind of coffee you drink in the morning.

If you have a Good Question, send it to us. We’ll try to get you an answer.

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