If you’re reading this, there’s a better than even chance that you’ve had or will have coffee today. According to the latest stats, 62% of American adults drink some form of java daily. It’s a healthy habit, statistically linked to a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, dementia and depression.

But there’s a way to make it even healthier.

LIGHTER COFFEE MAKES YOU STRONGER

Coffee, according to the latest dietary survey, is actually the number one source of antioxidants in the US diet. Coffee’s primary antioxidant—making up as much as 10% of green coffee beans by weight—is chlorogenic acids (CGA). It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory compound. CGA makes cells more responsive to insulin, which helps explain how coffee fights diabetes. CGA also protects DNA from damage, which helps explain the link to reduced risk for certain cancers.

It’s good news, but there’s a way to make your coffee work harder for your health—buy beans that are roasted “light” rather than “medium” or “dark.” Roasting means exposing coffee beans to air and high temperatures. The more intense and long-lasting the roasting process, the more chlorogenic acid breaks down into other compounds that don’t have the same health benefits.

Korean researchers recently compared coffees of several different roasting levels, analyzing their levels of chlorogenic acid and how they affect human cells. They exposed extract of different darknesses of roasted coffee to human cell cultures to test their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Result: Not only did light-roast extracts have higher CGA levels, but they were also better able to protect human cells against oxidation (cell damage) and inflammation. Medium-roast coffee, not surprisingly, was not as anti-inflammatory as light roast but better than dark roast. The research was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.

So the next time you choose a brew, consider the lighter side of things. If you love the darker side of java, rest assured that you’ll still get some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits—just not as much as you could get with a lighter- or medium-roast brew. Looking for more ways to make your morning cup better for you? See Bottom Line’s article “Coffee: The Ultimate Health Drink.”