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Coffee cherries: A secret healthfood?

We recently posted an article about whether or not coffee flour could present a solution to the problem that is the coffee cherry pulp wastage.

However, what health benefits could this product provide? Does the coffee cherry actually have any nutritional value or could it prove advantageous to other aspects of our wellbeing?

A healthy bite to eat

With three times more protein per gram than fresh kale and more natural fibre than wheat, a coffee cherry is arguably a veritable treasure trove of nutrients.

What's more, despite its high fibre content, it is in fact completely gluten-free, meaning that consuming it – or any product made with it as a substitute for wheat-products – would be entirely suitable for individuals who would otherwise be unable to eat foods containing wheat in order to get their fibre fix.

Indirectly, therefore, it could be used to help make recipes accessible to coeliacs and other people with certain food intolerances and allergies, as an alternative ingredient, thereby helping to bolster diets and facilitate more variety.

Coffee flour – the aforementioned product currently being launched as a new business idea to offset coffee cherry waste, by being made from the pulp – contains three times more iron than fresh spinach, meaning it boasts more of the nutrient than any other grain or cereal in the whole US Department of Agriculture database.

An ounce of the flour also contains twice as much potassium as a banana, further highlighting the impressive nutritional value of this so-called waste product.

Tea and T-zones

In addition to the above health benefits, coffee cherries are absolutely packed with antioxidants, which can be enjoyed in the form of a hot beverage – that is, coffee cherry tea, which is also produced from the pulped mucilage.

Also known as cascara, the drink is often made by combining the dried cherry in hot water with spices like ginger and cinnamon – all of which boast their own health benefits – to make an antioxidant-packed, fragrant treat. It is arguably a great compromise for those who cannot make their mind up between drinking coffee or tea! However, it is worth mentioning that it may contain caffeine and so this should be taken into account.

Elsewhere, popular women's magazine Elle ran an editorial that looked at the health benefits of the coffee cherry from a dermatological perspective. 

According to the magazine, the National Institutes of Health ranked the antioxidant capabilities of coffee cherries as ten times greater that those of other popular and widely-used polyphenols, such as pomegranate and tea.

David McDaniel, director of the Institute of Anti-Ageing Research in Virginia Beach, was reported to have concluded: "[A coffee cherry's] unique mixture of strong antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, and quinic acid gives it the highest total value for any fruit, vegetable or tea I've seen or tested." 

The expert revealed that tests showed coffee cherry extract could improve dermatological reddening by 29 per cent across a six-week period.

It's already there!

Aside from health benefits, what's really fantastic about coffee cherry waste is that it effectively costs nothing to produce or plant, as it is a by-product of something that is being farmed anyway. And yet, its processing and harnessing will require manpower, thereby producing more jobs and opportunities for those in poorer, coffee-producing regions.

As for the consumer, one of the great things about the aforementioned coffee flour made from cherry pulping is that, just like any other kind of flour, it isn't as likely to spoil as, say, fruit and vegetables. Not only is this great news for people wanting to store it at home as an anti-oxidant, fibre-rich boost for their baking cupboard, it is also a positive for farmers and millers, as products that are less perishable are, by definition, less likely to suffer the consequences of erratic weather patterns, human factors and volatile prices.

So, are we about to see coffee cherries becoming a more integral part of the coffee trade, alongside green coffee beans?