Coffee or Tea: Which is Healthier for the Body

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Just remember to drink coffee and tea in moderation. Coffee and tea are two of the most common drinks in the world. They both contain caffeine, antioxidants and can help you feel energized, making it hard to choose between them.

Here’s everything you need to know about the differences and similarities between coffee and tea, and which is best for your health.

More caffeine in coffee

Both coffee and tea contain caffeine, a stimulant that keeps you awake and energized. It can also prevent illness. A large study in 2015 found that people who consume moderate amounts of caffeine have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who don’t.

They were also less likely to develop certain cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and cancers such as colon cancer, uterine cancer, and liver cancer.

“Generally speaking, coffee contains two to three times the amount of caffeine compared to a similar-sized black tea,” says Matthew Chow, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurology at the University of California Davis School of Medicine.

However, the exact ratio depends on several factors, including:

  • The type of tea
  • The amount of tea used to brew a cup
  • The temperature of the water
  • The time the tea is left to steep
  • Black tea, for example, contains 48 milligrams of caffeine, while green tea contains only 29.
  • Pure herbal teas, such as mint tea and chamomile tea, do not contain caffeine at all.

However, it’s important not to consume too much caffeine, which the FDA defines as more than four to five cups of coffee a day. This is because the caffeine in excess can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate

In extreme cases, it can cause epileptic seizures.

Tea gives you more energy and focus

Since coffee contains more caffeine than tea, it will cause you to have more “noise”. However, tea gives you a more sustained burst of energy than coffee.

This is because tea, unlike coffee, contains L-theanine, a chemical that metabolizes caffeine over a longer period of time. In fact, a small study from 2008 found that participants who consumed a combination of L-theanine and caffeine performed better on an attention test than those who consumed caffeine alone. The study concluded that the combination of the two improved cognitive ability and attention.

Both green and black tea contains L-theanine, but green tea has a little more of it, about 6.56 mg, compared to 5.13 mg of black tea.

Coffee contains more antioxidants

Both coffee and tea contain antioxidants, chemical compounds that can reduce the risk of certain diseases such as cancer or diabetes.

“Coffee usually contains more antioxidants than tea,” says Chow.

In fact, a 2013 study found that coffee contains more antioxidants than tea, hot chocolate, and red wine.

Common antioxidants in coffee include chlorogenic, ferulic, caffeic, and H-coumaric acids. Some experts even consider caffeine to be an antioxidant. Catechin, the main component of green tea, is also considered an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.

According to Gardner, consuming antioxidants in the form of coffee or tea can “potentially prevent oxidative degradation,” a chemical reaction that can cause cellular damage. “If you do this, you could potentially prevent or treat chronic degenerative diseases” such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, he says.

Just remember to drink coffee and tea in moderation to reap the antioxidant benefits, as drinking more than four to five cups a day can pose a health risk due to the amount of caffeine.

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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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