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How Dangerous Are K-Cups?

A recent article warns that the plastic pods used in popular single-serve coffee makers might damage your metabolism or even cause cancer. Nutrition Diva weighs in on whether this is something to worry about.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
February 28, 2014

There's an article making the rounds warning that the plastic pods used in popular single-serve coffee makers "might damage your metabolism, reproductive health, and cause cancer." Given what we know about plastics, the author's concerns, although completely hypothetical, are also entirely logical. 

Part of the allure of these single-serve coffee makers is the incredible ease and convenience. No measuring coffee into a filter. No dumping used grounds into the compost. You simply pop the little cup into the machine and press a button. Afterward, the cup goes into the trash. No muss, no fuss. 

The problem is that these little cups are made out of plastic--BPA-free, but plastic all the same. As I discussed in my previous episode on plastics in food, although BPA is the chemical that's gotten all the press, I'm not at all confident that BPA-free plastics are totally without risk. 

We know that plastic compounds leach into foods. We know that acidic foods and high temperatures increase leaching--and making coffee involves both. It's impossible to know the risks involved in drinking Keurig coffee every day. It's a bit of a stretch to claim that K-cups are going to give you cancer. However, you can buy a reusable stainless steel filter cup for your machine and take this concern completely off the table.

Of course, you will sacrifice a little bit of the convenience. On the other hand, just think of all the tiny plastic cups you will be keeping out of our landfills! 

Photo courtesy of Rob Hainer/Shutterstock.com

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