What To Know About Coffee Fruit, the Anti-Inflammatory Plant Responsible for Your Morning Joe

Photo: Getty Images/ Fiordaliso
In the U.S., coffee is as ubiquitous as water. Everyone knows what it is and how it can help you power through the day. If you're really into coffee, you may even know its specific health-benefiting properties, such as being high in antioxidants and magnesium.

Here's what's less clear about coffee: Are those benefits coming from the coffee beans or the coffee fruit? "Both the coffee bean and the fruit come from the same plant, the coffee plant," explains registered dietitian and Plant-Based Eats owner Amy Gorin, MS, RDN. Coffee beans are actually found inside the coffee fruit. Gorin explains that the coffee fruit is a stone fruit that's usually discarded—it's those beans that are the real money-maker. But the fruit itself is edible and has many health benefits of its own.

Experts In This Article

"The fruit is small and usually starts off as green, ripening into a deep red or purple," Gorin explains. She says that the fruit isn't typically sold raw. It more often is included as an ingredient in functional beverages, supplements, or as a tea. Here, Gorin explains the benefits specific to the fruit, also explaining what it has in common—and what it doesn't have in common—with the beans. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

Watch the video below to learn about the benefits of coffee, according to a registered dietitian:

What are the benefits of coffee fruit? Scroll down to see.

5 benefits of coffee fruit

1. It can give you energy

Here's one benefit Gorin says both coffee fruit and coffee beans have in common: both have caffeine, which can provide the body with energy. The fruit itself has less caffeine than the beans, so if you're looking for only a moderate caffeine boost, coffee fruit is the better choice. Because of its lower caffeine content, it will also have less of a "crash" than what consuming coffee beans can cause.

2. It could help protect against cancer

Like coffee beans, Gorin says the fruit itself is high in antioxidants. "Antioxidants help to fight off cell damage and chronic disease. Eating a diet of antioxidant-rich foods is so beneficial for your health," she says. While more studies need to be done, the National Alzheimer's Organization says preclinical studies on consuming coffee fruit have shown it could help shrink tumors, due to its high antioxidant content. Again, this is just a preliminary finding, but it certainly is a promising one. While both coffee beans and the fruit contain antioxidants, some scientific research suggests that some of the antioxidants are lost during the roasting process, which means the coffee fruit could potentially be higher in antioxidants than the beans.

3. Consuming coffee fruit is good for brain health

Coffee fruit's high antioxidant content means that consuming it can be beneficial for your brain. This is because antioxidants help increase blood flow to the brain, which is vital in order for the brain to function properly. "Some preliminary research is indicating that coffee fruit extract may be helpful for protecting cognitive function, especially in older adults with mild mental decline," Gorin says.

4. It can help lower inflammation

Consuming coffee fruit extract has also been linked to lowering inflammation. When inflammation occurs in the body at high levels for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to a myriad of health problems including cancer, chronic diseases, and cognitive decline. (It should also be noted that coffee beans are also anti-inflammatory.)

5. It's good for your heart

Scientific evidence suggests that consuming coffee fruit is also beneficial for cardiovascular health, linking it to lowering cholesterol levels and combatting unhealthy weight gain. Obesity and high cholesterol are both directly related to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease—the number one cause of death in the U.S.—so this makes coffee fruit a major heart-health booster.

Here's the main thing to keep in mind when thinking about buying or consuming coffee fruit: Consuming it has largely the same benefits as coffee beans; the differences really come down to caffeine content and how it's consumed (a cup of coffee versus a supplement, functional drink, or tea). You likely will still get the benefits of antioxidants from drinking a cup of coffee. Which one to consume may largely come down to preference and how sensitive you are to caffeine.

Buying tips and side effects

Gorin says the main side effect to be aware of is the caffeine content. "Because it contains caffeine, be aware of how much caffeine you’re taking in throughout your day," she says. "If you’re caffeine sensitive, you’ll want to particularly be mindful of this." Like with a cup of coffee, if you are sensitive to caffeine, you probably don't want to consume anything with coffee fruit in it in the late afternoon or evening.

Also, like with any food or herb, there is always a chance of being sensitive or allergic, so if you've never had it before, start with a very small test dose. If you take any medications, it's always best to talk to your doctor before taking anything new, including coffee fruit.

In terms of what to keep in mind when buying coffee fruit or products with the extract in it, Gorin recommends doing your research before you add to your cart. "As with all supplements, you want to make sure you’re buying from a trustworthy source. If you’re purchasing the supplement version of coffee fruit, make sure that you’re buying a product that has been third-party tested so you know the product is both safe and contains the ingredients it says it does," she says.

As long as you're buying products from a reputable source, it can be a great habit to work into your wellness routine, particularly for brain and heart health. But it bears repeating that a regular cup of joe has many of the same benefits. It all comes down to pinpointing what works best for you.

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