We know our favorite coffee or tea can come with a ton of health benefits. Now, there’s a new (ish) tasty brew gaining popularity that’s sort of a mix between the two, and provides quite a few perks of its own. Known as cascara, it provides an energy boost while also protecting our brains as we age and helping us lose weight.
What is cascara?
Cascara is sometimes called coffee cherry tea because it’s made from the husks of the fruit surrounding coffee beans and brewed similarly to tea. It has a lighter, more floral flavor than traditional coffee. According to NPR, a fifth-generation coffee grower from El Salvador named Aida Batlle is responsible for coming up with the innovative spin on a regular cup of joe. While sampling coffee at an event in the early 2000s, she noticed a hibiscus aroma in the room where husks from recently milled coffee had been discarded.
“I picked through it, cleaned it, and then put it into hot water to see what it was like,” she said. “Then I called my customers at the time and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you have to try this.” Batlle decided to name it cascara after the Spanish word for the peel or skin of a fruit. This part of coffee is usually discarded or composted, but now it’s become its own delicious drink! You may have even spotted it on the menu at your local Starbucks.
Health Benefits of Cascara
First, don’t confuse this drink with teas and supplements called cascara sagrada. Those are made from tree bark in the rhamnus purshiana family and have a laxative effect that is not recognized as safe or effective for over-the-counter use. Definitely not something you want to brew up for a morning pick-me-up.
Cascara made from coffee husks, however, is packed with antioxidants that studies have found to be helpful for shedding a few pounds. In particular, it has ample amounts of chlorogenic acid. In one study, researchers claimed participants who consumed coffee enriched in the acid had a significant decrease in overall weight and belly fat. Another saw promising results for preventing weight and fat gain in the first place. This might be because it promotes the breakdown of fat cells, as described in yet another study.
If slimming down isn’t enough to convince you, cascara has also been shown to increase levels of something called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes the growth and protection of cells in our brain. Patients with Alzheimer’s often have lower levels of BDNF, so finding easy ways to get more of it could help reduce the risk of developing the disease.
All of that also comes with a delightful floral flavor and boost of caffeine that’s not quite as high as regular coffee, so you don’t have to worry about getting any jitters. You can even find cascara at local grocery stores (Buy at Walmart, $19.95) or online (Buy on Amazon, $9.99). Brew it like loose-leaf tea with an infuser (Buy on Amazon, $5.19) and enjoy it warm or iced for a refreshing, healthy sip.
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