Ask EN

October 2015 Issue

Cold Brewed Coffee Craze; Fenugreek and Health

Q. What is cold brewed coffee?

A. With the advent of “third wave” coffee, a movement that elevates high quality coffee beans and production to an artisan level similar to that appreciated for wine or cheese, there are many new ways to produce a cup of coffee, including cold brewing. Not to be confused with iced coffee, which is conventionally brewed and then poured over ice, cold brew coffee is brewed with cold water instead of hot water. Ground beans are combined with water, allowed to steep about 12 hours, and then filtered. Specific devices for cold brew coffee exist, but the process is doable in a French press or even a Mason jar. The resulting coffee has lower acidity and, according to adherents, is more flavorful.

The resulting brew is a concentrate and contains more caffeine than a standard cup of coffee. Usually water is added to the concentrate in a 3:1 ratio, which is then poured over ice. The concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and if cold coffee isn’t your cup of tea, hot water can be added in the same 3:1 ratio. There is no evidence that cold brew contains more antioxidants than traditionally brewed coffee.

—Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD


Q. Are there any health benefits for fenugreek?

A. Many of the ingredients we use to flavor our foods may impart healthful properties. Fenugreek, a plant used in Middle Eastern and Indian cookery, is one such ingredient. Fenugreek is found as a component of commercially available curry powder blends, as well as a flavoring agent in foods and beverages. Fenugreek seeds have historically been used to stimulate lactation and to treat diabetes, digestive problems, high cholesterol and other lipid abnormalities, high blood pressure, acid reflux, and constipation. The plant also has been used topically on the body to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. The science on fenugreek is more limited; a few small studies support its use in lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes. Eating fenugreek as a whole food is considered safe, but less is known about its safety as an isolated supplement. Young children and women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid fenugreek supplements. And because it can lower blood sugar and interfere with other medications, you should consult your physician before taking this supplement. Possible side effects from using the supplement include gas, bloating, diarrhea, and very low blood sugar.

—Sharon Salomon, MS, RD