Is Eating Coffee Beans a Healthy Habit or a Harmful Hazard?

We all know that coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. However, how many of us are aware of how people used to make use of the plant before they decided to brew it into a drink? Historical accounts tell us that by eating coffee beans (or the fruit), people in the past were able to experience the energizing effects of the plant.

ripe red coffee beans growing on a coffee plant
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The History of Eating Coffee

The early history of coffee is an amalgamation of verifiable facts and debatable legends. However, one thing is certain, this plant – which is now cultivated globally – originated in tropical Africa. In fact, coffee’s native range in the past coincides with areas of modern-day Ethiopia.

One historical account states that Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat-herder, noticed that his animals were more energetic after eating a specific set of red berries. So, he tried the fruit for himself.

Ethiopian history also highlights the fact that eating coffee beans was a common practice among hunters. When they were hunting and tracking animals over several days, these hunters would snack on coffee to give themselves more energy and also suppress their hunger.

So, does all of this automatically mean that it’s safe to eat coffee beans? As we all know, there are many things that people used to make use of in the past that have now been deemed unsafe as more studies have been carried out. These range from heroin cough syrup to using lead-based paint in homes.

Does the same logic apply to the practice of eating coffee beans?

roasted coffee beans
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So, Is Eating Coffee Beans Okay?

Short answer – yes.

Countless studies over the years have all come to the same conclusion; eating coffee beans is perfectly safe. Of course, like so many other things that can be eaten, moderation is necessary if you want to remain healthy.

A single cup of coffee is made using dozens of coffee beans. In fact, the renowned composer Beethoven would often make his cup of coffee with exactly 60 beans. While it is safe to drink multiple cups of coffee in a day, it isn’t recommended that you eat that same quantity of beans.

The Differences Between Drinking Coffee and Eating Coffee Beans

Taste and appearance aside, if you make juice from a fruit, it’s not going to have the same nutritional benefits that you would get if you just ate it. One difference is that most fruit juices don’t contain the fiber that the whole fruit would have.

Similarly, there are noticeable differences between drinking coffee and eating coffee beans. This ranges from nutritional differences to differences in taste.

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What Taste Can You Expect If You Eat Coffee Beans?

The taste of your cup of coffee varies depending on what kind of beans you choose. So, if you’re going to be eating coffee beans, the overall taste is going to vary depending on the type of bean. However, there are some noteworthy constants.

If you bite into a green coffee bean, then you are going to be met with an exceptionally acidic taste and a woody or earthy flavor. Overall, this is going to be unpleasant for most people.

Compared to this, if the coffee beans are roasted, then there will be a significant decrease in the acidic taste but the flavor will still be relatively intense. The level or intensity of the roast will also obviously affect the taste when eating roasted coffee beans.

The most common way that coffee beans are eaten nowadays is when they are chocolate-covered. The taste is still noticeably stronger than a brewed cup of coffee; however, the chocolate does make the overall flavor more pleasant by offsetting the bitterness.

Is There a Noticeable Nutritional Difference?

There are clear cut nutritional differences if you compare drinking a cup of coffee to eating beans.

Firstly, eating coffee beans allows the caffeine’s effects to impact your body faster. This is primarily because it is being absorbed through the lining of the mouth.

In addition to this, some studies have highlighted that coffee beans contain a significant amount of antioxidants like chlorogenic acid. These antioxidants can decrease inflammation and reduce a person’s risk of diabetes.

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Is There a Safe Limit When Eating Coffee Beans?

The amount of caffeine that a cup of coffee contains will vary from person to person and from cup to cup. However, the estimated average is somewhere between 80 mg and 100 mg.

Different beans also have varying caffeine contents but if you have a handful of a dozen coffee beans, then you’re most likely holding more caffeine than your average cup.

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have listed 400 mg of caffeine as the recommended safe amount for adults on a daily basis.

There is an estimated 12 mg of caffeine in just a single chocolate-covered coffee bean. If we use the aforementioned 400 mg as a guideline, then just 33 chocolate-covered beans will give us that amount of caffeine.

Eating Coffee Beans: What are the Benefits and Dangers?

Eating coffee beans and drinking coffee share many of the same benefits and dangers. However, since the effects of the beans are more concentrated when eaten, several of these shared benefits and dangers are more intense.

Benefits

  • A faster rate of absorption.
  • Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • A great source of antioxidants (especially raw beans).
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease and brain disorders.

Dangers

  • Upset stomach and heartburn from increased levels of stomach acid.
  • Nausea, bloating, and diarrhea.
  • Disrupted sleep schedules.
  • Aggravated or intensified anxiety symptoms.

The Final Verdict

Go ahead and eat those coffee beans!

However, as mentioned before, it is necessary that you practice moderation. Coffee (and caffeine) has a wide range of benefits but eating or drinking too much can cause heath issues.

In addition to this, chocolate-covered beans may taste great but remember the chocolate also contains a significant amount of sugar and fat. Also, while coffee contains little to no calories, chocolate isn’t that lucky.

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Jacqueline S.

Author at Caffeinefiend.co

Jacqueline is a trained teacher with almost two decades of teaching experience under her belt. However, her friends and family would tell you that her true passions are writing, DIY projects, eating good food, and of course, listening to “Weird Al” Yankovic.

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