Tea or coffee, coffee or tea? A hot cup of coffee can perk you up in the morning. A soothing cup of tea can help you relax after a stressful day.
It’s one of the biggest battles out there: coffee vs tea. Both sides dig their heels in and insist that their choice beverage is better for overall health.
The decision of which beverage to choose at breakfast or your afternoon pick-me-up is as old as the American Revolution when drinking coffee instead of tea served as a sign of patriotism. These days, of course, the choice is merely a matter of personal preference – and the potential health benefits of each.
With all of that data, it can be hard to make a decision. So what’s the truth? Is coffee healthier than tea? We’ve done the research so you don’t have to. Read on to find out which of these delightful beverages wins the war.
What is Coffee and Tea Made of?
Turns out, the different types of tea (black, green, and oolong) actually all come from the same plant, but differ in nutrient and caffeine content depending on when the leaves are harvested and how they are processed. To keep it simple, black tea is fermented, green tea is non-fermented, and oolong tea is semi-fermented. Matcha is a powdered and concentrated form of green tea.
Coffee beans come from the seeds of the fruit of coffee trees. Coffee trees grow in tropical regions and originated in Africa.
Both beverages are lauded for their stimulating and medicinal effects. Now that we know some of their differences, let’s answer the question: Which is healthier, tea or coffee?
Pros and Cons of Drinking Tea
Tea is a delightful beverage that comes in two main varieties: true teas and herbal teas. True teas are made using the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant. Herbal teas are made using the leaves, flowers, and roots of thousands of plants, herbs, and spices. Tea can taste earthy and malty or floral and airy depending on the variety. One of the most commonly espoused tea benefits when compared with coffee is that it offers extensive flavor options.
During the Shang dynasty, the Yunnan region of China began using tea as a health tonic. The history of this beverage is just as rich as its taste.
It all began when Emperor Shen Nung was boiling a pot of water. A leaf from a plant fell into the water, making it fragrant and delicious. Things progressed, and this beverage made its way around the world.
You’ve heard that drinking some varieties like black and green teas is good for you, but here are some other advantages to consuming this beverage you may not have known.
1. Eliminates free radicals
Free radicals are compounds that can cause cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Free radicals are also behind premature aging. They can cause the development of fine lines and wrinkles as well as dull, dry skin.
The main causes of free radicals include exposure to harmful chemicals, alcohol consumption, smoking, unhealthy diets, and environmental pollution. Tea antioxidants help to eliminate free radicals, thus supporting overall human health. Drinking tea can help you feel and look younger thanks to potent antioxidants.
Tea is packed with antioxidants that just aren’t found in coffee. Tea contains polyphenols, tannins, and catechins that have been linked to a host of health benefits. It contains antioxidants that have powerful protective properties and help to boost health. This has been linked to lower cancer and diabetes risk among other benefits.
2. Heart health
Regular tea drinkers have a lower risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Tea helps to lower high blood pressure by reducing inflammation in blood vessels. The anti-inflammatory properties of tea also help to reduce the risk of clogged arteries and heart attack.
3. Brain health
Tea has been closely linked to brain health and the prevention of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Tea drinkers who regularly consume a few cups of tea per day tend to have lower levels of mental decline. Researchers found that black tea has a significant impact on reducing cognitive impairment.
3. Digestive health
Tea streamlines digestive processes, helping to alleviate upset stomach, nausea, and digestive diseases. One study found that tea helps to promote healthy gut bacteria while eliminating bad bacteria that can cause salmonella and stomach ulcers.
Tea also has anti-diarrheal properties that can help encourage good bowel movements and treat diarrhea. Some herbal teas such as ginger tea help to prevent feelings of nausea. This tea has been used for centuries to treat morning sickness and motion sickness with fast results.
4. Weight loss
One of the most commonly recognized health benefits of tea is its ability to accelerate weight loss. Green tea supplements are famous in the weight loss industry.
Black tea is also an effective weight loss agent thanks to high concentrations of EGCG (or epigallocatechin gallate). EGCG is an antioxidant that has powerful protective properties. This tea catechin helps to increase body temperature and induce faster fat burning. EGCG also encourages the body to reduce fat stores and can improve exercise performance. Black tea increases the release of norepinephrine, improving the body’s ability to perform during high intensity aerobic exercises.
5. Increases energy
Black tea can help boost energy levels to kick start your day or power you through a dreary afternoon. Tea contains less caffeine than a standard cup of coffee, but it has other compounds that maximize its energy boosting effects. Tea contains an amino acid known as L-theanine. This amino acid inhibits the fast release of caffeine, resulting in a more even and steady energy boost.
6. Boosts immune system
There’s a good reason most people reach for a cup of hot tea when they start to feel sick. Tea contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals that support immune processes.
Black tea can help increase the reproduction of white blood cells, which fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Soothing anti-inflammatory compounds also help to alleviate the pain of a sore throat.
Some types of tea including herbal teas such as eucalyptus work as decongestants to loosen mucus in the airways and improve breathing.
7. Reduces bad breath
Who knew that chronic halitosis could be combated with this hot drink? One of the most common bacteria found in the mouth is Streptococcus mutans, but drinking this beverage prohibits this bacteria’s growth. When you have fewer bacteria in your mouth, you won’t have that chronic smell.
While there are many benefits to sipping tea, there are also some drawbacks to consider. The downsides are as follows:
1. Teeth staining
One of the biggest issues with those who regularly consume this elixir is they will notice teeth staining. This is a major problem when people have pits and fissures in their teeth from poor oral hygiene. Additionally, it’s the tannic acid in this beverage that seems to damage enamel.
2. Causes gastric ulcers
If you drink too much of this hot beverage, then you could develop ulcers. This is especially true in those who already have issues with an overproduction of acid in their stomach.
3. Can cause anemia
It’s recommended that you consume this drink at least one hour after a meal due to the high levels of tannic acid. These acids tend to cause iron deficiency and anemia, reducing the body’s ability to absorb iron.
4. Increases anxiety
Like a cup of Joe, drinking too much of this beverage can also increase your anxiety. It should be noted that the caffeine content in this hot drink is much less than java.
Some of the compounds found in this beverage can make many people nauseous, especially if you drink it regularly.
Though it’s not the most common side effect, dizziness has been reported by folks who have a sensitivity to caffeine. It’s believed this only occurs when people consume more than 6-12 cups in a day.
Pros and Cons of Drinking Coffee
Like tea, coffee contains antioxidants that have been linked to the prevention of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Coffee is made from the beans of the coffee plant and comes in several different strengths. In general, coffee tastes malty and bold with a full-bodied flavor.
The funny thing is that there is some controversy about how it was discovered. It’s believed that an Ethiopian man stumbled on it when his goats were eating the red, fragrant berries of this bush.
He noticed that the goats were energetic after consuming the berries, and he tried it for himself. He, too, felt the burst of energy that came from the fruit. Then the story states that a monk wanted to give it to fellow monks to see if they had a similar reaction.
The monks were awake all night long. Things progressed as word spread of this plant’s abilities, and eventually, it became one of the most popular morning drinks for these reasons.
Today, coffee is one of the most traded commodities on the market, second only to crude oil. Here are advantages to drinking this beverage:
1. Burns fat
Everyone is fighting the battle of the bulge, it seems, but could drinking some Java be the answer to burning fat? It turns out that there is a component in this brew that helps to abolish fat cells, which leads to improved health.
2. Circulation improvement
One of the least known facts about drinking coffee is the improved circulation that it provides. The benefits begin to work before it’s consumed, as just holding a piping hot cup in your hands improves blood circulation. The warmth from the cup spreads through the body from contact.
3. Weight loss aid
Did you know that many people drink a cup of Joe when they want to lose weight? Not only does it make you feel fuller for more extended periods, but the high levels of magnesium and potassium in it can increase the metabolism. It can also help regulate your glucose levels, which is a good thing if you’re struggling with diabetes.
4. Accelerated hair growth
Men and women have fought the battle of baldness for centuries. Who knew java could be the answer to their problems? Most shampoos that promote hair growth include caffeine, which is why it’s not a bad idea to rinse your hair with this elixir.
5. Lowers risk of premature death
A recent study at Harvard found that drinking coffee may help lower the risk of early death. Researchers looked at three ongoing studies consisting of more than 200,000 participants. They found that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day helped to reduce the risk of heart disease, neurological disease, and suicide.
Coffee lovers can relish in the knowledge than each hot cup can help protect overall health and prevent death caused by disease.
6. Boosts physical performance
Since the red berries of this plant contain caffeine, it stands to reason that it has stimulating effects. Those who need a little enhancement before a performance can drink a cup of Joe for the energy boost they need.
While there are many advantages to drinking coffee, there are also some disadvantages to consider. The drawbacks are as follows:
1. Many poor processed brands
As with most things, there are good brands, and then there are those that use lackluster beans to produce a more inexpensive product. When manufacturing companies use beans that are sub-quality, it introduces more toxins into what you consume.
2. Causes restlessness
People who consume more than three cups per day may find it hard to sleep at night. Caffeine consumption causes restlessness, especially when you consume more than 400 milligrams in a day.
3. Heart palpitations
Some folks experience heart palpitations when they drink java. Those who are prone to anxiety or are sensitive to the effects of caffeine should avoid this beverage.
4. Drinking too much can be fatal
It sounds strange to hear that a cup of Joe can kill you, but it’s not just one cup, as it’s the overconsumption that can harm you. According to the New York Times, drinking 80-100 milligrams of caffeine can prove lethal.
5. Harmful to fetus
The high levels of caffeine in this drink can be harmful to a fetus, which is why it’s recommended that expectant mothers only drink one cup per day.
6. Commonly causes bedwetting
Children may be inclined to want a drink of their parent’s Joe, but it can cause kids between the ages of 5-8 to wet the bed. It’s a drink that’s better reserved for the older crowd.
7. It’s more acidic than tea
Coffee has more acidic compounds than tea alternatives. Excess acid can cause stomach discomfort and digestive problems in certain individuals. Keep coffee consumption to a minimum to prevent these negative side effects.
A Note on Sweeteners
Both coffee and tea can quickly turn from healthy beverages to calorie nightmares when sweeteners are added. The sugary tea and coffee concoctions you find at Starbucks are not good for your health. Adding too many artificial sweeteners can increase your risk of diabetes and a host of other health problems. Luckily, tea offers thousands of flavors so you can choose one you love without having to add sugary substances.
If you absolutely have to flavor your tea, stick to adding a slice of lemon or spices that give you the taste you desire. You can also add a splash of 100% fruit juice or a mint sprig to liven up the flavor. Try adding a stevia leaf to loose leaf brews for a natural sweetener that won’t wreck the health benefits!
On the other side of the battle, black coffee is the healthiest option. If you want to add flavoring, stick to using a plant-based milk such as almond milk or coconut milk. Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg add a nice touch to coffee without affecting its healthy nature.
Tea or Coffee: What’s the Verdict?
Neither tea or coffee reigns supreme in this battle. The health benefits of tea vs coffee vary and both have something to offer for human health. Both beverages offer health benefits and the best one for you will depend on taste and what you’re looking for. If you want to lose weight, black tea (or green tea!) is a better choice than coffee. If you need a high-energy kick, coffee’s higher caffeine content is the clear winner. Both tea and coffee are backed by extensive research showing their ability to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and potentially cancer.
Tea is a good alternative to coffee if you are trying to reduce your caffeine intake. High level of caffeine are linked to several health problems. Replacing one or two cups of coffee each day with tea can help lower overall caffeine consumption. It may help you feel less jittery and still offers an energy boost to get you through the day.
Whether you choose to drink tea or drink coffee, you can rest assured that you will reap health benefits. Stick to either black tea or coffee if you have a preference or mix it up and drink both of these hot drinks. Both coffee and black tea are also delicious when brewed cold. Find flavors that inspire you, pour yourself a cuppa, and drink to your health.