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Coffee (beverage)

How is decaf coffee made? Health benefits and concerns, explained

Coffee got you jittery?

Caffeine is generally safe to drink up to 400 milligrams a day, according to the Food and Drug Administration (). That's equivalent to about four or five cups of coffee. For the average person, consuming more than that can trigger side effects including insomnia, anxiety, raised heart rate, upset stomach and jitteriness.

But other people may have less of a caffeine tolerance, or may be advised by a doctor to limit caffeine consumption 鈥 such as those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking certain medications, the FDA notes.

If you're looking to cut back on caffeine for whatever reason, here's what nutrition experts want you to know about decaf coffee.

How is decaf coffee made?

There are four main ways manufacturers remove the caffeine from coffee, according to the National Coffee Association. The European method is most common, which uses a compound called methylene chloride to bond to coffee beans and remove their caffeine contents.

This method has proven controversial as of late. In larger doses, methylene chloride is a liquid used for paint stripping that can cause a slew of health issues. Some health advocates have moved to petition the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the chemical. Lawmakers in California also recently reportedly to ban the use of the compound in coffee statewide.

The Clean Label Project, a non-profit that fights for food labeling transparency, found that including Kirkland Signature, Kroger and Maxwell House. Other major brands, including Starbucks, Dunkin', Tim Horton's and Folgers, did not.

Does this mean you shouldn't drink any coffee with traces of the compound?

"Dose matters," registered dietitian聽聽tells 91影视.

While methylene chloride has raised concerns about possible carcinogenic effects in rodents in larger doses, the amount that remains in your cup of coffee contains "considerably less," Galati notes. Most of the compound is removed during the decaffeination process, and the remaining amount 鈥 the less than 0.001 percent as OK 鈥 is small enough that it won't have any real impact.

If you're nevertheless concerned, Galati suggests opting for another form of decaffeinating coffee such as聽"solvent-free or Swiss Water processed varieties,"聽or switching to tea instead.

"Ultimately, it鈥檚 up to you what you鈥檙e comfortable with," she adds.

How much caffeine is too much?Here's what to know before having that next cup.

Is decaf coffee healthier?

Most dietitians will tell you that the word "healthiest" is subjective 鈥 those with different health goals or concerns may have very different definitions of what's best for them.

鈥溾嬧婽he healthiest food in any category will depend on you, your budget, your culture, your health goals and so much more,鈥 Galati previously told 91影视.

Both caffeinated and decaf coffee offer similar health benefits, including links to healthy liver enzyme levels and decreased odds of developing colorectal cancer, according to . Caffeinated coffee can provide "unique benefits like improved mood, alertness, and athletic performance," Galati says.

"But if it makes you jittery, anxious or interferes with your sleep, decaf is your best bet," she adds. "Decaf coffee offers a lot of the same benefits as regular, without the potential downsides of caffeine."

More:Can drinking both coffee and tea save your life? And more research you need to know about.

Decaf, Galati notes, also offers "health-supporting antioxidants and other phytochemicals that may protect against type 2 diabetes, mental decline and some cancers."

For those who experience physical or mental side effects from caffeine, Galati suggests turning to decaf coffee or herbal teas.

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