Can a cup of ‘super coffee’ really boost your immunity? A dietician debunks whether they


Coffee lover? You may be tempted by some of the new ‘healthier’ products that promise all manner of benefits — from a healthy gut to an immunity boost. MANDY FRANCIS asked dietitian Nigel Denby, of harleystathome.com, to assess some of the new offerings; we then rated them for their benefits and taste.

SAME AS 12 PUNNETS OF BLUEBERRIES

Exhale Organic House Roast, 450g, £18, exhalecoffee.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 2; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 0.2g; fibre, 0g; sugar, 0g; salt, 0g

CLAIM: ‘Ridiculously healthy coffee — roasted to lock in as many of coffee’s healthy compounds as possible. One cup has the same antioxidants as 12 punnets of blueberries; two cups supply 20 per cent of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of niacin.’

EXPERT VERDICT: This is made from organic beans that have been tested for their antioxidant levels and roasted at a low temperature to preserve the polyphenols — powerful antioxidants thought to protect the body from damage and diseases; they’re also abundant in teas, fruit and vegetables.

Organic coffee tends to have more polyphenols, and roasting the beans at low temperatures helps preserve them.

There’s no doubt that coffee is an excellent source of polyphenols, but the manufacturer’s claim about one cup providing the same antioxidants as 12 punnets of blueberries is based on tests performed on just one small sample of their product.

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is vital for healthy skin, hair and nerves but you’re unlikely to be deficient in it if you have a good diet. It’s found in meat, nuts and fortified cereals.

But watch your serving size: one small cafetiere (275ml) contains 200mg caffeine, 50 per cent of the daily limit advised by the European Food Safety Authority — too much is linked to insomnia and increased heart rate. 9/10

TASTE: Quality, aromatic coffee — delicious. 10/10

Exhale Organic House Roast says its coffee has as many antioxidants as 12 punnets of blueberries

Exhale Organic House Roast says its coffee has as many antioxidants as 12 punnets of blueberries

BOOSTS FOCUS FOR TASKS

Jaga Awake, 10 x 60ml, £25, jagadrinks.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 10.3; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 0g; fibre, 0g; sugar, 0g; salt, 0g

CLAIM: ‘Cold brew single espresso with MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil and l-theanine (an amino acid). A boost of fuel for your mind and your body.’

EXPERT VERDICT: Cold brew coffee is made by steeping ground beans in cold water for up to 24 hours. The result is a smooth, less bitter drink which can pack a slightly higher caffeine punch — you’ll get around 80mg in a 60ml shot.

Caffeine can fight fatigue and increase energy (partly by blocking the effects of chemicals in the brain linked to sleep) but is best avoided during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, or if you have anxiety, epilepsy or glaucoma (caffeine can increase pressure in the eye).

L-theanine, meanwhile, is an amino acid found in tea and some mushrooms; studies suggest taking it with caffeine — as here — can improve focus on demanding tasks. But more research is needed to support these claims.

A regular cup of coffee and a flapjack would probably provide a more effective pick-me-up.

The MCT oil is extracted from coconut oil, but the tiny amount here is unlikely to offer any health benefits. In fact, it’s a type of saturated fat — too much of which can raise heart disease risk. 4/10

TASTE: Watery, slightly bitter. 2/10

Coffee is an excellent source of polyphenols — powerful antioxidants thought to protect the body from damage and diseases

Coffee is an excellent source of polyphenols — powerful antioxidants thought to protect the body from damage and diseases

FOR MUSCLES AND BONES

Ancient + Brave Coffee + Collagen, 250g, £19.20, planetorganic.com

Per 100g: Calories, 355; saturated fat, 4.91g; protein, 33.3g; fibre, 38.6g; sugar, 1.5g; salt, 0.33g

CLAIM: ‘Coffee with generous amounts (2,000mg per 10g serving) of nourishing, highly absorbable hydrolysed collagen — a protein that contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle and bones. Rich in fibre to help support digestive function.’

EXPERT VERDICT: As we age, we lose collagen and it becomes harder for our bodies to make more — which is one of the reasons for wrinkles and weaker joints.

Many people take collagen supplements to combat this, but trials to date have been small and inconclusive — much more research is needed to prove the benefits of ingesting it.

Even if it can be absorbed through the gut, we don’t know if the body can actually use it to replace lost collagen. This coffee also contains ashwagandha — a plant extract thought to help the body cope with stress, though there’s little evidence for this. It also contains baobab, extracted from a tropical fruit that’s rich in vitamin C and minerals.

But vitamin C is heat sensitive so may be lost in hot coffee. You’re better off getting it from fruit or veg. There’s some fibre, coming from chicory root — you’ll get 8.5 per cent of your RDA in a cup. All in all, this is just standard coffee mixed with fashionable ingredients, but there’s no proper evidence to back up many of the claims. 6/10

TASTE: Mild, quality coffee. 6/10

One brand claims its coffee has highly absorbable hydrolysed collagen — a protein that contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle and bones

One brand claims its coffee has highly absorbable hydrolysed collagen — a protein that contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle and bones

HORMONE AND DIGESTION SUPPORT

Dirtea Coffee Mushroom Super Blend, 150g, £40, ocado.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 5; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 0g; fibre, 0g; sugar, 0g; salt, 0g

CLAIM: ‘Arabica coffee blended with three functional mushrooms (chaga, lion’s mane and tremella) for focus and energy. Ashwagandha and maca for additional adrenal, digestion and hormonal support.’

EXPERT VERDICT: The mushrooms provide a variety of interesting compounds, including polysaccharides (types of carbohydrate) and beta-glucans (soluble fibre) that are believed to have immune-boosting and antioxidant properties, as well as helping to reduce stress symptoms and improve mental focus.

Anecdotal evidence for the health claims is strong, but there’s little sound scientific evidence.

A cup will give you just 50mg caffeine — slightly less than a small instant coffee, so you will have to rely on the placebo effect — i.e. your belief in the mushrooms — for the ‘boost’ in your memory, focus and brain power for now. It’s also very expensive. 5/10

TASTE: Mellow, with woody, porcini mushroom notes. 6/10

FOR GUT HEALTH AND ENERGY

Biotiful Kefir Latte, 250ml, £1.75, sainburys.co.uk

Per 100ml: Calories, 61; saturated fat, 1.9g; protein, 3.3g; fibre, 0g; sugar, 4.2g; salt, 0.09g

CLAIM: ‘This gut-friendly kefir (fermented milk) and cold brew coffee mixture supports immunity and provides a natural energy uplift. Source of protein, vitamins B2 and B12 and calcium for the normal function of digestive enzymes.’

EXPERT VERDICT: Kefir is one of the best sources of probiotics — live bacteria that help keep your gut microbiome (the community of microbes) healthy, which in turn is linked to heart health, better digestion and mental wellbeing. The way it’s fermented means it has many more strains of these bacteria than yoghurt.

Kefir is also an excellent source of calcium, with 30 per cent of the RDA in one serving and around 20 per cent each of vitamins B2 and B12 — important for energy.

You’ll also get 8.3g muscle-building protein from the milk in one bottle (equivalent of a large egg) — but the small amount of coffee is unlikely to provide a caffeine hit or polyphenol benefit. 8/10

TASTE: Tart and tangy with aromatic coffee notes. 8/10

Biotiful Kefir Latte claims to be a source  of protein, vitamins B2 and B12 and calcium for the normal function of digestive enzymes

Biotiful Kefir Latte claims to be a source  of protein, vitamins B2 and B12 and calcium for the normal function of digestive enzymes

HELPS YOU REMAIN ALERT BUT CALM

Cheerful Buddha CBD Decaf, 100g, £9.99, cheerfulbuddha.co.uk

Per 100g: Calories, 1; saturated fat, 0.002g; protein, 0.12g; fibre, 0g; sugar, 0g; salt, 0.09g

CLAIM: ‘Supports well-being and alertness without the jitters. CBD through coffee is metabolised more slowly, producing a powerful, long-lasting effect. Feel alert, calm and focused.’

EXPERT VERDICT: If you love coffee but caffeine makes you jittery and anxious, a decaffeinated product like this could be the answer. The caffeine has been removed using the gentle Swiss water process which doesn’t use heat or chemicals — so the healthy polyphenols in the coffee are preserved.

There is credible anecdotal evidence that CBD oil (an extract of the cannabis plant without the mind-altering properties) can aid relaxation and promote good sleep. But more robust trials are needed to back up the claims.

One mug of this contains 10mg of CBD and the Food Standards Agency — concerned about potential adverse effects on the liver and thyroid with long-term use — says this is the maximum you should consume in a day.

CBD oil is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women or under-18s — and anyone on medication should seek medical advice before trying it. 5/10

TASTE: Smooth, dry, spicy finish. 7/10

PACKED WITH VITAMINS

Rokit Immunity Boost, 10 pods, £4, tesco.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 2; saturated fat, 0.1g; protein, 0.1g; fibre, 0g; sugar, 0g; salt, 0g

CLAIM: ‘Nespresso compatible pods containing arabica coffee enriched with vitamins B6, B12 and D — and zinc to support a healthy immune system.’

EXPERT VERDICT: A cup of this will provide 50 per cent of your RDA vitamin B6 and B12; 25 per cent of your zinc and 18 per cent of your vitamin D — all nutrients that play an important role in immunity.

But you could easily get these from foods such as meat, dairy, nuts, fortified bread and cereals.

The NHS recommends everyone take a daily vitamin D supplement in autumn and winter but don’t rely on this drink for it — there’s only 18 per cent of the 10mcg a day you need in one cup.

You’re better off drinking regular coffee, eating well and taking a vitamin D supplement daily at this time of year. 3/10

TASTE: Medium strength, slightly acidic. 6/10

Experts say people can just as easily get good sources of vitamins from foods such as meat, dairy and nuts as they can get it from coffee

Experts say people can just as easily get good sources of vitamins from foods such as meat, dairy and nuts as they can get it from coffee

IMMUNE BOOSTING WITHOUT THE JITTERS

MUD/WTR: Rise Cocoa, 180g, £34.99, uk.mudwtr.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 9; saturated fat, 0.5g; protein, 0.5g; fibre, n/a ; sugar, 0.5g; salt, 0.01g

CLAIM: ‘A coffee alternative made from cocoa, chai, mushrooms, turmeric and cinnamon. “Get focus, natural energy and immune support without the jitters”.’

EXPERT VERDICT: The mushrooms in this (including lion’s mane extract) are thought to ease stress and anxiety and boost cognitive function — but the evidence is scant.

This does have around half the caffeine of a cup of instant coffee but if that’s your priority, you’d be better off buying decaf coffee for a fraction of the price. 3/10

TASTE: Overpowering, sinus-clearing cinnamon and cloves. 4/10



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