It’s not a surprise that the majority of Americans are coffee drinkers. We’ll take it hot, iced, cold brewed, French pressed, and even frozen. The culture around coffee runs deep, with about 64% of American adults currently drinking coffee at least once a day. But whether you prefer to drink coffee or tea, we want to settle an age-old question:
Is coffee or tea better for you?
While a lot of people drink coffee in the morning for its caffeine content, both coffee and tea actually have a good amount of health benefits you might not know of. So we’re going to dive into how coffee and tea can impact your health through their caffeine levels, antioxidant content, and more.
Caffeine Levels in Tea and Coffee
One of the major differences between coffee and tea is that coffee has around 2 to 3 times more caffeine than tea. This is why most people associate coffee with a coveted energy boost and tend to drink coffee in the morning or as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
The average cup of coffee has between 80 and 100 milligrams of coffee, which is definitely enough to keep you alert and energized. Coffee’s caffeine content can be really beneficial for people who are working a lot or might not be getting as much sleep as they need to, though we don’t suggest depending on caffeine for all of your energy.
There is also some connection between caffeine and weight-loss. But caffeine isn’t always good. Not only can too much caffeine cause us to get jittery or light-headed, caffeine has also been known to exacerbated conditions like anxiety and sleep disorders.
Recently, researchers have been questioning the effect of caffeine on elements of our circadian rhythm. One study showed that drinking caffeine can shift your circadian rhythm, which can reinforce any sleep issues.
But most teas also contain caffeine. Some teas contain up to 50 milligrams per cup, so you have to keep an eye on your caffeine consumption when drinking tea as well. Uncaffeinated teas include most herbal teas like chamomile tea, rose tea, holy basil tea, and chrysanthemum tea.
If you’re looking for a quick boost of energy, coffee is definitely your best bet, but many people have reported that they have more stable energy levels and higher levels of productivity when they drink tea instead of coffee. (1)
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Staying hydrated is super important for your health and drinking any liquids can help keep your body hydrated, including tea and coffee. But tea and coffee aren’t equal hydrators. It might feel like coffee is mostly water, but the extra caffeine in coffee acts as a diuretic, which causes you to pee more often. The difference isn’t big enough to where you should kick you coffee habit immediately, but if you’re trying to stay hydrated, herbal teas throughout the day will usually be your best option.
Antioxidant Levels in Tea and Coffee
Antioxidants are compounds that help protect your body against the damaging effects of free radicals. These compounds may help prevent inflammation, certain chronic diseases, and early onset aging. There are a lot of different types of antioxidants, but tea and coffee are both rich in polyphenols, which are being studied for their cancer-fighting and health-promoting properties.
While coffee contains more antioxidants than most teas, there are potential health risks when drinking more than four to five cups of coffee per day. If you’re really looking to get the most antioxidants possible, we suggest drinking antioxidant-rich tea like green tea, rose tea, and white tea throughout the day.
Health Benefits of Tea and Coffee
There are multiple health benefits to both coffee and tea. Studies have found a positive correlation between drinking coffee and a lowered risk for Parkinson’s, colon cancer, liver disease, and type 2 diabetes. Tea has been found to boost your immune system, decrease inflammation, reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, and improve gut health. (2)
When it comes down to it both tea and coffee have some incredible health benefits and you should be fine adding either one to your diet. At the end of the day, every body reacts to both coffee and tea differently. If tea helps you feel better or healthier, than tea might be the best option for you. If you’ve never experienced any negative side effects from coffee, than it’s best to choose tea.
How to Choose the Best Tea or Coffee for You
It is easy to generalize coffee and tea, but there are thousands of varieties of both that all have different characteristics. Some teas are healthier than others and some coffees are healthier than others, so which teas and coffees are the best for you? Let’s find out.
Which type of coffee is the best for you?
There are two main types of coffee beans: arabica and robusta. Arabica is considered the more popular of the two for its smooth and light taste. Robusta is stronger and more bitter and usually cultivated in lower altitudes in places like Vietnam, Africa, and Indonesia. If you’re worried about your caffeine intake, arabica is your best choice. Robusta have around double the amount of caffeine coming in at 2.7% per bean, while arabica has closer to 1.5%.
Before being roasted, robusta also have about 2x the amount of antioxidants as their arabica counterparts. But, after roasting the difference wasn’t significant so you shouldn’t worry too much about this one. That being said, lighter roasts do have more antioxidant activity than darker roasts, so if you’re looking for the coffee with the most antioxidants, the lighter the roast the better. A light roast is also great because there are some antioxidants that are produced during roasting. (3)
Organic coffee has also been seen to have higher levels of certain antioxidants like gallic acid. Some researchers believe this is because with the absence of pesticides, the coffee plants have to produce more antioxidants in order to fight off any pests. The content of gallic acid in organic coffee was about 30% higher than it is in conventional coffee. (4)
Finally, make sure you enjoy your coffee as fresh as possible. Coffee starts to lose flavor and antioxidants as soon as it is roasted. One study found that after 12 months in storage, conventional coffee had lost 83.4-93% of their antioxidants, depending on the antioxidant type. Additionally, the beans will also oxidize more quickly when it is ground up so your best bet is to buy freshly roasted coffee in small quantities, store it in an air-tight container, and then grind it up at home if you want the most antioxidants possible. (5)
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Which type of tea is best for you?
There are hundreds of different varieties of teas, each with their own unique benefits. True teas like green tea, white tea, oolong tea, black tea, and pu-erh tea are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant and have similar benefits.
These teas all contain caffeine and should be enjoyed in moderation. But, they also contain high levels of antioxidants, which are great for your health. But even the different types of these teas can vary in their levels of antioxidants. For example, matcha tea, a type of green tea, has 10x the amount of antioxidants as other green teas.
Herbal teas are made from herbs, flowers, and plants and are usually caffeine free. Some of the herbal teas with the highest levels of antioxidants include dandelion tea, chamomile tea, rose tea, peppermint tea, and chrysanthemum tea.
Healthiest way to prepare coffee
Everybody likes their coffee differently, but there are a few different ways you can make enjoying your coffee a little bit healthier. It’s more than likely that you already know adding less sugar is better for you, but adding cream isn’t always bad. In fact, low-fat and artificial cream options might have less calories, but they’re not necessarily better. This is because the are usually incredibly processed and contain unnecessary ingredients. You’re better off enjoying full-fat creamer from grass-fed cows in moderation or a plant-based creamer.
Brewing your coffee with a paper filter is also important when looking to make the healthiest cup of coffee. Coffee contains cafestol, a diterpene which is known to raise cholesterol levels. Paper filters can keep out cafestol, but leave in caffeine and antioxidants. Choosing organic, high-quality coffee is also important, as conventional coffee beans are usually sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.
Finally, you can consider adding some healthy additions to your coffee like cinnamon or cocoa powder. The famous “bulletproof coffee” recipe is also known for its mind-boosting benefits.
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Healthiest way to prepare tea
Similar to coffee, reducing the amount of sugar and low-fat or artificial creamers in your tea is important. Regarding antioxidants, some researchers says that brewing your tea in hot (but not too hot) water will increase the amount of antioxidants. Researchers found that when compared to cooler infusions, which ranged from 20 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, brewing your tea in hot water can increase the amount of antioxidants in your drink up to 9.5 times! If you want to learn more about what temperature of water to use to brew your tea, check this out! (6)
You can also make your tea healthier by adding things like goji berries, lemon juice, ginger, and turmeric. This “wellth drink” recipe takes advantage of some healthy additions to tea for a super healthy infusion.
Overall, both tea and coffee have some incredible benefits. Coffee does have some potentially negative side effects if you drink more than 4 to 5 cups a day, so if you’re looking for an antioxidant-filled drink you can enjoy throughout the day then tea is probably your best bet. If not, listen to your body and drink whatever you love the most—because we’ll be here sipping on whole flower teas every day.