Fact: Coffee snobs love to hate on dark roast coffee. “It just tastes really terrible to me. It almost tastes like something is burned,” a critic once described to The Wall Street Journal, echoing the opinion of countless coffee drinkers across the nation. “When it is dark, you taste charcoal, the same charcoal that’s on a piece of toast,” noted another. But those who thumb their noses at dark roast coffee may change their tune if they were fully aware of its outsize health benefits.
A cup of dark roast comes packed with plenty of vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, which helps your cells flourish and your body better process amino acids. It’s also chock full of vitamin B5, which, according to WebMD, “helps your body convert food into useful energy for the day.” (Related: The One Vitamin Doctors Are Urging Everyone to Take Right Now.)
Other benefits include better liver and brain health and a lower risk of some cancers. It’s also, according to experts we spoke to—and one eye-opening study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research—the superior coffee to drink if you’re looking to lose weight.
At the end of the four-week study, the dark roast-drinking participants lost more bodyweight overall than the light-roast drinkers. Though the study was published in 2011, it’s still relevant today, say experts. “This study is still relevant regarding the relation between dark roast coffee and weight loss,” says Reda Elmardi, PT, a trainer and nutritionist. “The dark roast coffee has a special substance called N-methylpyridinium ions, which is responsible for the decline in weight. And this substance is formed only when the coffee is roasted.”
The difference between light roasts and dark roasts has everything to do with the way the roasters heat the coffee beans during the roasting process. Light roasted coffees, as the name indicates, aren’t exposed to as much heat and aren’t roasted as long. As a result, they retain more moisture, are denser, and retain more caffeine. (If you really need to wake up, always choose light.) Dark roasts, meanwhile, are exposed to greater periods of stronger heat, so they emerge from the process with a darker complexion, less density, less caffeine, that undeniably smoky (or “burnt”) taste, and—if you’re a true coffee snob—less flavor. That being said, they’ve got a higher concentration of N-methylpyridinium ions and a lower concentration of chlorogenic acids than lighter roasts, and those factors, say scientists, allow dark roast coffee to help you lose weight.
Of course, lighter roasted coffee is no slouch in the health department. Given the higher amount of antioxidants in lighter roasts—chiefly the aforementioned chlorogenic acid—the lighter variety of coffee is better at lowering inflammation, according to the National Coffee Association.
“We know that antioxidants protect against many health problems, and we also know that inflammation is the basis of many chronic diseases, whether it is diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s,” Sampath Parthasarathy, Ph.D., interim associate dean at the University of Central Florida School of Medicine, explained to Delish. But if you’re looking to lose weight, it could be helpful to order the dark roast. And whatever you type of coffee you choose to drink, make sure you’re avoiding The Most Dangerous Way to Drink Your Coffee, According to Science.