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Can You Eat Coffee Beans? Benefits, Side Effects & More

Coffee Beans are safe to eat. But it’s important to know the potential benefits and side effects before they become your favorite snack.

You might be wondering why eating coffee beans is even a thing. After all, aren’t coffee beans meant to brew…you know…coffee?

People have actually been eating coffee beans for hundreds of years – probably longer. In fact, historical research suggests that long before coffee was developed as a beverage, the beans were mixed with animal fat and then eaten to increase energy levels.

Today, many folks swear by eating coffee beans for everything from an energy boost to improved cognitive function. Coffee beans offer the same nutrients as a cup of coffee but do so in a much more concentrated form.

So, let’s dive in and brew up a more satisfying answer to the primary question: Can you eat coffee beans?

A Brief History

Many historians believe that coffee beans were eaten in Ethiopia around 575 A.D. Africa (specifically, Ethiopia) is generally regarded as the birthplace of coffee. Today, consumers often seek out various types of African coffee.

Despite what historians suggest, there are several legends around how coffee was first discovered. Perhaps the most popular legend is that of Kaldi, a 9th century Ethiopian goat herder.

As the legend goes, Kaldi noticed that after eating berries from a specific tree, his goats were so full of energy that they couldn’t fall asleep at night. Kaldi then tried the berries himself and discovered that he too was full of energy.

Apparently, Kaldi shared his discovery – and some of these magical berries – with the abbot of his local monastery. The abbot made a drink with the berries and found that it kept him energized through his evening prayer. Once the abbot shared this with his fellow monks, word began to spread.

Eventually, coffee reached the Arabian peninsula. From there, it began to spread across the globe. The rest, as they say, is history.

Potential Benefits of Eating Coffee Beans

Countless studies have been done on consuming coffee as a beverage. But there isn’t much research on consuming coffee in bean form.

It stands to reason, however, that eating coffee beans has many of the same benefits as drinking coffee.

Here are some of the potential benefits of eating coffee beans:

Coffee beans are an excellent source of antioxidants

Yes, coffee beans pack a powerful punch of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your body cells from free radicals. And free radicals are generally up to no good – they may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. 

Antioxidants are primarily found in plant foods (like coffee!).

Coffee’s most abundant antioxidant is Chlorogenic Acid (CGA). Several studies – like this one and this one – show that CGA combats inflammation and may offer protection against diabetes. Other studies show that CGA may have properties that fight cancer.

Bean type and roasting methods will have an affect on the amount of chlorogenic acid present in coffee beans. Studies – like this one – show that roasting can actually lead to a significant decrease in CGA. Still, coffee beans are widely believed to be a potent dietary source.

In addition to CGA, coffee beans contain Vitamin E and Vitamin C – both antioxidants. (Most adults don’t get the recommended dose of Vitamin E or C.). Coffee beans also contain a host of other antioxidants, including:

  • Cafesol
  • Trigonelline
  • Melanoidins
  • Quinine
  • Caffeine (yes, caffeine is an antioxidant!)

Coffee really is a tremendous source of antioxidants. In fact, coffee beans have 11 times the antioxidant power of green tea.

Coffee beans may improve your memory

Surely, you already know that coffee contains caffeine. But you probably didn’t know that caffeine is actually an antioxidant. It’s also much more than that.

Caffeine gets a bad rap, but it has a variety of health benefits, one of which is improved memory.

In one study by Johns Hopkins University, students were asked to consume 200 milligrams of caffeine after a period of intense studying. The researchers concluded that the caffeine helped the students remember what they studied for up to 24 hours.

Coffee beans may increase stamina

According to research, coffee beans can help you get more out of exercise. The caffeine in coffee beans has been linked to increased endurance, improved metabolism, and an increased rate of fat loss. 

Additionally, studies have shown that people who consume both caffeine and carbs after exercising have up to 66% more glycogen in their muscles than those who consume only carbs. Glycogen is fuel for activity.

Research has also found that long-distance runners who consume coffee prior to running have better anti-inflammatory responses.

Coffee beans may decrease the risk of erectile dysfunction

According to  a study by the University of Texas Medical Center, consuming just 85 milligrams of caffeine (which is around15 coffee beans) every day may be enough to combat ED.

Coffee beans may help with chronic inflammation

Yes, munching on a few coffee beans each day may help with less joint paint and inflammation. Getting old sucks. But researchers from Stanford University found that caffeine blocks a specific gene responsible for chronic inflammation. The gene has been associated with mortality in individuals 85 and older.

In other words, the caffeine in coffee beans can make getting old suck a little less.

Other potential benefits of eating coffee beans

In addition to the good stuff already mentioned, studies have linked coffee to a variety of other potential health benefits. Observational studies ( like this one, this one, and this one) have shown that coffee beans may reduce the risk of the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some cancers
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis, and liver cirrhosis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Parkinson’s disease

Please note that these results came from observational studies and not strictly controlled trials. Make sure you consult your doctor if you are experiencing health issues.

Potential Side Effects of Eating Coffee Beans

Coffee beans may cause sleep disruption

This is no secret. Because coffee beans contain caffeine and caffeine is a stimulant, they can have a disruptive effect on your sleep.

Studies have shown that caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep as well as reduce the amount of deep sleep you get. One study found that caffeine can affect the timing of your body clock.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, caffeine has a half-life of up to 5 hours. (Half-life is how long it takes for the quantity of a substance to be reduced to half the original amount).

If you’re going to chow down on coffee beans, it’s advised that you do so in the morning or early afternoon. Consume caffeine too close to bed time and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself counting sheep until the cows come home.

Coffee beans may have a laxative effect

Many folks claim that drinking coffee makes them poop. Well, the same goes for eating coffee beans.

Coffee beans contain acids that have been shown to increase levels of gastrin, a hormone which stimulates involuntary muscle contractions in the stomach. Studies have also shown that coffee affects the release of cholecystokinin, another hormone that plays a role in the digestive process.

The point is, coffee beans have natural laxative properties that can…um..,push things along – whether you like it or not.

For some folks, coffee can cause stomach pain or diarrhea. If this is the case for you, it might be best to consult your doctor and steer clear of caffeine.

Eating coffee beans may cause heartburn

Due to its acidity, coffee beans may cause heartburn for some folks. If you find that coffee causes you heartburn, you don’t need to be heartbroken. There are lot of options you can try, including low-acid coffees like Lifeboost.

Lifeboost Coffee Organic Coffee Beans Medium Roast – Low Acid Single Origin Non-GMO Organic Whole Bean Coffee – Third Party Tested For Mycotoxins & Pesticides – 12 Ounces
  • Delicious, Ethically Sourced Coffee: You’ve tried the rest, now buy the best; Lifeboost Non-Gmo organic whole bean low acid coffee is high in flavor; The beans are sun dried, and spring water washed; The result is pure, natural coffee derived straight from nature
  • Grown In The Mountains Of Central America: Lifeboost Single Origin Acid Free Coffee is shade grown at a high elevation in the mountains of Central America; The exclusive farms that we work with are all bird friendly and each coffee bean is hand selected to ensure purity

Other potential side effects of eating coffee beans

Again, moderation is key. Eating coffee beans is perfect safe, but eating too many can put you over the recommended caffeine intake. Other potential side effects of consuming too much caffeine include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Pregnancy complications

5 Delicious Ways to Eat Coffee Beans

Aside from eating them straight up, there are a variety of ways to incorporate coffee beans into your diet. If you don’t want to munch on whole beans right out of the bag, consider these five delicious ways to eat coffee beans:

  1. In a Smoothie: Grind up a few coffee beans and add them to your morning smoothie. They’re a nice complement to creamy, fruit-flavored smoothies (think Strawberry-Banana).
  2. Chocolate-covered: If you feel like busting out the double boiler and making these yourself, by all means go for it. But you can find delicious chocolate-covered coffee beans in almost any supermarket. And snacking on these babies is probably the most popular way to eat coffee beans.
  3. In your Trail Mix: Adding in a half dozen or so chocolate-covered coffee beans is a simple way to supercharge your snack mix.
  4. As a dessert topping: Grind up a few coffee beans and bedazzle your dessert. Sprinkle a pinch or two on top of ice cream, frozen yogurt, or your favorite pie. (Coconut cream, anyone?)
  5. As a dessert ingredient. Use finely ground coffee beans in the same way you might use sugar or cinnamon. Stir them into your cake mix or brownie batter. Anything chocolatey is a good place for coffee beans.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many coffee beans should I eat?

Like with anything, moderation is key. As is your specific tolerance for caffeine. While tolerance levels vary, generally it is recommended that individuals don’t exceed 200mg in a single dose of caffeine. Daily usage shouldn’t exceed 400mg. So, keep this in mind when consuming coffee beans. and remember that caffeine levels in coffee beans can vary based on size, type and varietal.

Do the math and you can figure that it’s perfectly safe to eat around 30-50 coffee beans per day as long as you’re not pregnant or sensitive to caffeine.

How much caffeine is in one coffee bean?

On average, there are about 6mg of caffeine in one coffee bean. Remember, though, that this can vary based on the size and the type of bean.

Which has more caffeine: Arabica or Robusta?

Arabica coffee generally has about 12mg of coffee per gram, while Robusta coffee has about 22mg per gram. In the battle of Arabica Vs Robusta, Robusta may win on caffeine content, but most people think Arabica wins on taste. Robusta tends to be much more bitter with much less flavor.

Can you eat raw coffee beans?

You most certainly can. But you probably won’t enjoy it. Raw (or green) coffee beans are very acidic. They are significantly harder than roasted coffee beans. Oh, and they taste a lot like wood.

If you’re going to eat coffee beans, you’ll be much better off sticking with the roasted variety.

Can you eat espresso beans?

You sure can. Espresso beans are just regular coffee beans that have been roasted hotter and longer, or that the roaster recommends to be brewed with an espresso machine.

Odds are, however, you won’t be eating espresso beans just as they are. Most folks eat espresso beans that are covered in chocolate. These chocolate-covered espresso beans from Trader Joe’s are spectacularly good.

a small bag of trader joe's chocolate covered espresso beans

Can eating coffee beans help you lose weight?

Some studies show that because coffee beans contain caffeine, they may increase endurance, improve metabolism, and promote weight loss.

Coffee beans also contain chlorogenic acid, which may have a positive influence on the absorption and utilization of glucose. This may result in reduced body mass. 

Can you eat coffee beans while pregnant?

If you are pregnant, it’s best to discuss your caffeine intake with your doctor.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports that it is safe to consume less than 200mg of caffeine while pregnant. On the other hand, studies have shown that caffeine can cross the placenta and may increase the probability of miscarriage, low birth weight and stillbirth.

While it’s probably best to stay away from eating coffee beans during pregnancy, consulting with your doctor will help you make the best decision for you.

Is eating coffee beans bad for our teeth?

Yes and no, apparently.

Most folks believe that coffee stains your teeth – and it can. But this can be reversed. What’s more destructive is the acidity levels in coffee. Acid erosion can cause permanent damage.

That said, recent studies have shown that eating roasted coffee beans may fight the bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Practice good oral hygiene and pay regular visits to your dentist, and your pearly whites should stay pearly and white.

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