The great coffee debate concerns whether the bitter beverage protects or harms the body — and whether those health-boosting or health-hurting elements are related to coffee itself, caffeine or the creamers added the cup. Although the speculation might frequently stop there, the coffee debate should include one additional element. While the main purpose of a coffee filter is to keep coffee grounds out of your morning fuel, paper filters also offer a very important health benefit.
During the brewing process, coffee filters trap oily substances in coffee called diterpenes. The two main types of diterpenes found in coffee are cafestol and kahweol, according to Harvard Health Publications. These oily substances escape into your morning cup through coffee grounds floating in the coffee or oily droplets accumulating on the surface. And when consumed, these oily compounds block a cholesterol-regulating receptor in the intestines. Because of this obstruction, the intestines can no longer properly regulate the amounts of cholesterol absorbed and excreted — resulting in elevated blood cholesterol levels. Since coffee filters trap cafestol and kahweol, they significantly decrease the risk of coffee-related cholesterol increases.
Coffee and Cholesterol
A 2007 Science Daily article suggests that drinking five cups of unfiltered coffee every day for four weeks could increase cholesterol levels by 6 to 8 percent. Of course, five cups per day is a pretty hefty intake — but it’s still something to consider if you’re making your morning cup of coffee without a filter. Cafestol is particularly potent to low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. When too much LDL cholesterol accumulates in the blood, it forms a hard plaque along the inner walls of blood vessels. The plaque makes it more difficult for blood to flow through the vessels, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
According to Harvard Health Publications, paper filters are more effective at eliminating diterpenes than permanent or cloth filters. Paper filters are also easier to clean up — you dispose of them after one use. Cloth and permanent filters must be cleaned after every use. Paper filters are not as environmentally friendly as the other types of filters, but since they’re made of natural fibers, they are biodegradable. To make paper filters more “green,” compost them along with your coffee grounds. For composting, natural brown filters are better than bleached white filters.
Other Uses for Filters
While cloth and permanent filters only serve one purpose, paper filters are much more versatile. “Real Simple” suggests using clean paper coffee filters to clean windows and mirrors for a lint-free finish, and as spacers between fine china to prevent scratches. You can also poke a hole through a coffee filter and slide it onto a popsicle stick or ice-cream cone to prevent messy drips. In the kitchen, use coffee filters to strain wine when a cork has broken into the bottle.