Coffee is known as one of the most heavily traded commodities in the world, and that’s not just because of its delightful taste. It’s because of caffeine, one of the most widely consumed drugs and stimulants globally. Millions of cups of coffee are brewed and devoured every single day.
But what about eating coffee beans? Have you ever wondered why people do it? Or what benefit do they get from eating coffee beans? Nearly everyone has heard of people eating them. Some may even have tried it. But why do some people like to eat coffee beans? What are the health benefits? Are there health benefits? Is eating coffee beans even safe?
Keep reading for the answer to all of these questions and more!
What Is a Coffee Bean?
The massive amounts of coffee that the modern world consumes every day all start with one plant. This plant is a tree that is native to North Africa. In the wild, this tree can grow quite large and produces white flowers. These flowers go on to produce fruit. The fruit produced by the coffee plant is more like a cherry and isn’t an actual bean at all.
Over time these coffee cherries ripen. The “bean” used to prepare the beverage is the part of the fruit removed from the outside shell. Then the beans are dried in the sun before being roasted. Finally, those roasted beans are sold where most people grind them and use them to prepare the popular drink.
With all of the processing involved to prepare the coffee fruit, it is quite a wonder that anyone ever thought of grinding them up and using them to make a drink. If you think of the coffee fruit as inedible, you might ask, “Who would ever do all that?”
Except people have been eating the fruit of the coffee plant long before it was ever used to make a hot beverage.
Why Do People Eat Coffee Beans?
For most of human history, people have eaten coffee beans for one straightforward reason. Coffee beans have caffeine, even when the beans are raw. Caffeine is a pretty powerful stimulant, and humans learned pretty early on that it could be used to give them an advantage. It is also fairly addictive, so it’s no wonder that early man continued to eat the fruit once he discovered it.
People learned that the caffeine in the beans could be helpful; now, they had to figure out a way to use them. Since the outer shell on the raw fruit can be quite bitter and hard, a drink was prepared from them instead.
Today people eat coffee beans for a wide variety of different reasons. Often, it is still to gain some sort of advantage. The effects of the caffeine are amplified when the whole bean is consumed. Many people have found the beans to be helpful with weight loss. Others eat them because they feel there are health benefits. Finally, there are always going to be people who eat them simply because they enjoy the taste of coffee.
What Does a Coffee Bean Taste Like?
Raw coffee fruit tastes quite bitter and also tastes somewhat grassy. This taste is due to the outer shell of the fruit. Once you remove this shell, you get a fruit said to taste similar to a berry or even a flower. Roasted beans tend to have a slightly bitter, earthy taste. Depending on the strain of the plant that produced the coffee bean, it can also have a subtly fruity or sweet flavor.
Is Eating Coffee Beans Good for You?
Whether or not you should eat coffee beans has been long debated, and for quite a while, it was believed that eating coffee, roasted or otherwise, could be dangerous. In modern times, scientists are finding there are indeed positive benefits to eating coffee beans.
Caffeine itself can provide a huge benefit as a natural stimulant that inhibits the hormones that cause drowsiness. Coffee beans, however, contain far more than just caffeine. They are believed to be packed with antioxidants that have shown evidence of natural health benefits that help the human body avoid disease while increasing the life span.
Is Eating Coffee Beans Dangerous?
It was commonly believed that eating coffee beans, whether they were roasted or raw, could be poisonous for many years.
Eating too many coffee beans can cause stomach problems, including heartburn and diarrhea. Some people are also extremely susceptible to the effects of caffeine. For these caffeine-sensitive individuals, even small amounts of caffeine can cause extreme anxiety and a racing heart.
Today coffee beans are no longer believed to be poisonous by most doctors or scientists. However, just like with every other substance you might put into your body, too much may cause problems.
How Do You Eat Coffee Beans?
It is not generally a good idea to eat green or unroasted beans. Even if the fruit’s outer parts are removed, they can still be hard to chew and taste grassy. They also have a lot of acids, which can lead to digestive issues.
When you hear of people eating coffee beans, they are usually eating roasted beans. The roasting process results in a variety of nutty, caramel flavors in the beans. What roasted beans taste like depends on how the beans were roasted. The darker roasts are typically more enjoyable. There is a wide range of ways to roast coffee beans, and each brings out a different taste.
As eating coffee beans has gained popularity, beans are being processed and packaged specifically for eating. Often these beans are coated or seasoned to make them more appealing. Nearly everyone has seen a bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans at their grocery store.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Them?
The benefits of drinking coffee have been widely studied. Eating the beans provides all these same benefits
While doctors are still researching exactly how the antioxidants in coffee interact with the human body, it is commonly believed that those antioxidants may provide many health benefits.
These health benefits can include:
- Improved energy
Caffeine is an effective stimulant, which makes it one of the most widely consumed substances in the world. It is believed that 1 cup of coffee can be just as effective at waking up your brain as a 30-minute nap.
- Improved mental focus and mood
Just as caffeine stimulates the areas of your brain that wake you up, it also stimulates the other chemicals that regulate your brain. This increase in chemicals leads to more neurons firing or more activity in the brain, which improves your mood and your ability to focus.
- Improves physical performance
Along with increased mental focus, caffeine increases adrenaline levels when it is in your body. It also breaks down fat cells, which provide fuel for your muscles. This is believed to have a physical effect on your muscle performance.
- Reducing certain cancers
It is believed that coffee protects against both liver and colorectal cancer. Scientists still aren’t quite sure why this is, but studies clearly show reductions in both cancers among coffee drinkers.
- Reducing the likelihood of heart attack or stroke
While you may have heard that caffeine can increase your blood pressure, the effect is much less than doctors previously believed. Also, studies are finding that regular coffee drinkers actually learn how to regulate these minor side effects. Even better, people who consume coffee may have a 20% lower risk of having a stroke! This effect is even more significant for women, as it has been shown that women who drink coffee have drastically less heart disease.
- Regulating blood sugar in type 2 diabetes
The studies on type 2 diabetes show a lot of variation, so there are definitely no clear-cut conclusions that can be made. Some studies show a reduction in type 2 diabetes as high as 60%. More commonly, it is believed that there is at least a 7% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among coffee drinkers.
- Improving the symptoms of liver disease
The statistics showing the reduction of liver disease in coffee drinkers are genuinely remarkable as coffee drinkers had an 80% lower risk of cirrhosis.
- Improving the symptoms of depression
Not only do coffee drinkers show fewer symptoms of depression, one study found that they were also far less likely to die by suicide.
- Protects against Alzheimer’s and dementia
While scientists are not quite sure why lifelong coffee drinkers are shown to have a reduced rate of each of these neurodegenerative diseases.
- Lowers risk of Parkinson’s
Coffee drinkers have as much as a 60% reduction in the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s. Doctors believe that the caffeine in coffee is likely to have a protective effect on the brain, as coffee drinkers who drink decaffeinated versions don’t get the same benefit.
- Helping with weight loss or weight management
Caffeine is believed to increase your metabolic rate and help you burn more fat when it is used with dieting. Unfortunately, the effects appear to diminish in long-term drinkers, but caffeine can be a big boost to your weight loss goals when used sparingly.
Are There Any Harmful Side Effects?
There are obviously some potentially harmful side effects for some individuals. That is why it is important to eat coffee beans in moderation. Furthermore, before trying a coffee bean snack, you should be aware that some individuals are quite sensitive to caffeine or the beans themselves. For these individuals, the side effects can be much more severe.
Some of the harmful side effects can include:
- Upset stomach
This is particularly true for anyone who has a sensitive stomach. In addition to problems caused by increased stomach acid, coffee can also cause bloating and nausea.
- Trouble sleeping
While caffeine can provide a significant boost when you are feeling sleepy and need to focus, the effects of that boost last for a considerable number of hours after your final cup of coffee, which can make it difficult to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.
Certain compounds in coffee are known to increase acid in the stomach that causes heartburn. Caffeine can also have this side effect, so when you put them both together, the result can be amplified.
- Anxiety symptoms
Too much caffeine has been linked to heart palpitations and feelings of stress, which can be harmful if they are regularly occurring.
Coffee is so well known for having a laxative effect that many people use it to keep their digestive systems moving. In people with certain conditions, it can really irritate the bowels.
Finally, anyone who suddenly stops eating or drinking coffee is likely to have withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine is, after all, an addictive drug. Compared to other addictive substances, the withdrawal symptoms tend to be mild. They also pass quickly. Most people report headaches, but symptoms can also include tiredness, poor concentration, anxiety, or even tremors.
How Much Is Caffeine Safe?
In moderation, eating coffee beans is perfectly safe. However, eating too many could do more than simply give you a stomach ache. Too much caffeine can be pretty dangerous. So how much is too much? How many coffee beans can you safely eat?
Depending on a person’s tolerance, up to 400 mg, a day (or 4 cups of coffee) is thought to be perfectly safe for adults. Most doctors say there is no safe amount for kids as they are more likely to be sensitive, and the effects on their bodies are not as well known.
To keep your caffeine consumption from going over 400 mg, this means you could eat a maximum of about 48 coffee beans per day. Of course, this depends on the beans you are eating and how they are roasted.
Coffee beans are one of the best natural sources of antioxidants in the Western world’s standard diet. In fact, it has so many antioxidants it might be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet. Just because your ancestors decided long ago to prepare a drink with the fruit of the coffee plant doesn’t mean that it isn’t perfectly okay to eat those same coffee beans.