Is tea better for you than coffee?
Tea or coffee, the great debate. Some people cannot function in the morning without their cup of joe, whereas others love a piping hot cup of tea. Personally, I enjoy both, starting my day off with black coffee and then having a cup or two of tea later on. So far today, I have had one cup of coffee and two cups of green tea.
But which one is healthier, and is it better to drink one instead of the other? Let’s find out.
What is tea?
I always thought that teas like black tea and green tea were made from the leaves of different plants. I was surprised to learn that all teas (not herbal ones) are made from the same plant, and the way in which the leaves are processed determines the type of tea that you get.
Tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are plucked, rolled and allowed to oxidize. The degree of oxidation leads to different types of tea, and they are divided into 5 main categories: white, green, oolong, black and Pu-erh. You can read more about these different types of tea here.
The amount of caffeine in a cup of tea depends on the type of tea that is brewed, the temperature of the water used and how long it is brewed for. Caffeine content can range from 10 mg to 60 mg per cup.
What is coffee?
Coffee is made from cherries of the coffee tree. The cherries are processed via a dry or wet method. This leads to the production of coffee beans which are then further processed to enhance their flavour. The coffee drink is made from either full or ground coffee beans.
Coffee has more caffeine than tea, and a cup tends to contain 90 mg or more.
What are the benefits of drinking tea and coffee?
I initially began writing this article with two separate sections, one for the benefits of tea and another for the benefits of coffee. However as I continued to do more research, it was evident that both tea and coffee have a lot of similar benefits:
They may lower your risk of certain types of cancer
Free radicals are formed in the body as a by-product of metabolic processes. However they are also introduced into the body via environmental factors. Excessive free radicals can cause damage to cells, resulting in diseases like cancer. Antioxidants help to reduce the damage caused by free radicals.
Both tea and coffee are excellent sources of antioxidants and appears to have some cancer fighting properties. There have been a large number of studies that have investigated how effective they are at fighting cancer.
This study found that men who drank green tea reduced their risk of developing prostrate cancer by 48%. This study found that Chinese women who drank green tea reduced their risk of colorectal cancer by 57%. This study found that tea consumption reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer. And this study found that black tea prevents lung damage caused by cigarette smoke.
They are good for your brain
Caffeine is found in both tea and coffee and has been shown to improve mood, reaction time and memory.
However, tea also contains a compound called theanine, an amino acid which could help relieve anxiety and boost attention.
They may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are two of the most common neurodegenerative diseases and mainly affect people as they get older. They both affect the brain, leading to symptoms such as memory loss & confusion in Alzheimer’s, and tremors in Parkinson’s.
Caffeine consumption is thought to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
They could help you lose weight
It is believed that the polyphenols in tea can boost your metabolism. They may also activate enzymes that help your body use stored fat as a source of energy.
This study found that catechins (compounds found in tea) when combined with caffeine increased fat burning ability. This was not noticed when caffeine was consumed on its own.
Another study found that green tea consumption lead to significant decreases in body weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference.
Caffeine has been shown to increase the burning of fat in lean people by 29%.
They improve heart health
The regular consumption of tea has been associated with reduced cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.
This study found that people who drank more than 6 cups of black tea had significantly lower risks of heart disease. Another study showed that oolong tea had similar effects. Green tea has also been shown to help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
They may help prevent diabetes
Tea contains polyphenol antioxidants which could help reduce insulin levels and blood sugar. A number of studies such as this and this have found links between regular tea consumption and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, both coffee and tea consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Tea improves tooth and bone health
Antioxidants found in tea could promote tooth and bone health. For example this study found that people who drank tea regularly over a 10 year period had 2% higher bone mineral density.
Another study of Chinese women found that those who regularly drank oolong tea had higher bone densities than those who did not.
Coffee could protect your liver
Your liver is a very important organ and is responsible for a lots of different functions. Disease of the liver can lead to cirrhosis, whereby the liver has been replaced by scar tissue.
Coffee consumption has been shown to protect against cirrhosis by as much as 80%.
So which one is better?
It appears that caffeine, which is found in both tea and coffee is responsible for many of the health benefits that they bring.
Tea contains unique compounds known as polyphenols, whereas studies have shown that many people get more antioxidants from coffee than fruits and vegetables combined.
So from a personal standpoint, it is impossible to say which is the better option. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. You can always drink both, like I do.
Since coffee has much more caffeine than tea does, I try to drink it earlier on in the day, so that I do not have problems falling asleep at night.