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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fiber and coffee? The science behind the bean.

That morning cup of joe may do more than put a spring in your step in the morning. Research published in several science and nutrition journals is showing that coffee beans contain fiber that ends up in your morning brew.

This news was first picked up by Spanish researchers at the Spanish National Council in Madrid. The researchers brewed instant coffee, espresso, and filtered. Then, the fiber content was measured.

Instant coffee contained the most fiber (1.8 grams of soluble dietary fiber in a cup). Espresso had 1.5 grams of soluble dietary fiber in a cup, and filtered coffee had 1.1 grams. Freeze-dried coffee came out on top, probably because of the high-temperature preparation process that ensures large amounts of soluble fiber are extracted from the beans.

Fiber is the indigestible portion of plant foods that move food through the digestive system, absorbing water and keeping you regular. It comes in soluble (dissolves in water) and insoluble (doesn't dissolve in water) forms. Soluble fiber is present in grains (e.g. Cheerios, oatmeal), vegetables, and fruit. It helps rid the body of cholesterol and may decrease the occurance of heart disease. On the other hand, insoluble fiber is what gives stool it's "bulk". The benefits of a diet high in fiber (25-35 grams depending on your age) are endless: lower cholesterol, more stable blood glucose, satiety...the list goes on and on.

So back to those thirsty Starbucks patrons, the average coffee afficionado not only get a morning jolt, but can also lower their LDL ("Bad") cholesterol while drinking their morning java. Unfortunately, this does not apply to French press or boiled coffee, which actually increases cholesterol from the fat in the whole bean.

This does not mean you can drink coffee and dodge veggies, whole grains, and fruit to up your fiber intake, according to American Dietetic Association's spokesperson Katherine Tallmadge. "There are so many other sources of fiber [that are healthier]. Should you drink tons of coffee to get those benefits? No." High consumption of caffiene (>3 cups per day) can lead to bone density loss according to some studies. It's recommended to have 3 or fewer cups per day (or one venti and a tall) and add a few tablespoons of low-fat, fat free milk, or soy milk.