According to a new study, a steaming cup of java even beat fruits and vegetables as the primary source of antioxidants. The study by University of Scranton states that coffee is the number-one source of antioxidants in American diet, and both caffeinated and decaf versions appear to provide similar antioxidant levels.
"Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. Nothing else comes close," said study's lead researcher Dr. Joe Vinson, adding that high antioxidant levels in foods and beverages do not necessarily translate into levels found in the body.
Antioxidants in general have been linked to a number of potential health benefits, including protection against heart disease and cancer, but Vinson said that their benefits ultimately depend on how they are absorbed and utilized in the body.
The researchers analyzed the antioxidant content of more than 100 different food items, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, oils and common beverages. The data was compared to an existing U.S. Department of Agriculture database on the contribution of each type of food item to the average estimated U.S. per capita consumption.
The results surprised researchers. Coffee came out on top, on the combined basis of both antioxidants per serving size and frequency of consumption. It outranked popular antioxidant sources like, tea, milk, chocolate and cranberries.
Of all the foods and beverages studied, dates actually have the most antioxidants of all based solely on serving size, but since dates are not consumed at anywhere near the level of coffee, the drink comes as the top source of antioxidants, said Vinson.
Besides keeping you alert and awake, coffee has been linked to an increasing number of potential health benefits, including protection against liver and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease, according to some recently published studies.
The researchers, however, advise that one should consume coffee in moderation, because it can make you jittery and cause stomach pains.
"One to two cups a day appear to be beneficial. If you do not like coffee, consider drinking black tea, which is the second most consumed antioxidant source in the U.S. diet," Vinson said.
"Unfortunately, consumers are still not eating enough fruits and vegetables, which are better for you from an overall nutritional point of view due to their higher content of vitamins, minerals and fiber," he added.