Which One’s Better for Your Health?

Which One’s Better for Your Health?

Coffee and tea are popular beverages consumed worldwide. Both are rich in health-promoting compounds that may protect against many health conditions, including certain cancers and diabetes, and promote longevity. Each beverage has unique benefits, too.

Although drinking too much caffeine through coffee or tea may have side effects, research shows that long-term, moderate consumption of these drinks can benefit health in several ways.

Coffee and tea both provide protective plant compounds that may improve and protect health in several ways. Intake of these beverages has been linked to benefits like reduced risk of common diseases and protection against early death.

Supply Powerful Antioxidants

Tea and coffee are excellent sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals in the body, which are chemicals that naturally form in response to exercise, smoke, pollution, ultraviolet (UV) rays, and other exposures. Free radicals can build up and lead to a state of oxidative stress, which damages cells and may lead to disease. By neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants may help prevent disease.

Coffee contains over 1,000 bioactive compounds, many of which have health-protective properties. For example, coffee is packed with polyphenol antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to have antioxidant, anticancer, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and antihypertensive properties.

Studies show that coffee is the main source of polyphenols and phenolic acids in most people’s diets. Tea is also a strong source of antioxidants. One of the most well-known antioxidants in tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a type of catechin (chemical compound) especially concentrated in green tea. EGCG has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Green tea also contains flavonols like quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, coumarylquinic acid, and theogallin, all of which have cellular-protective properties.

Black tea is also rich in health-promoting compounds, including polyphenol antioxidants like thearubigins and theaflavins, which give black tea its dark brown color and slightly bitter flavor.

Protect Against Chronic Diseases

Because coffee and tea contain health-protective compounds, drinking them regularly may reduce your risk of developing several conditions. For example:

  • Coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, gout, and liver diseases like fatty liver disease and liver cancer.
  • Consuming tea has also been shown to protect against certain health conditions like coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
  • Both coffee and tea seem to protect against certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.
  • Coffee and tea consumption before and after a diabetes diagnosis has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of death.

Drinking coffee and tea could also protect against dementia. A study that included data on 365,682 people found those who drank coffee and tea separately or in combination had a lower risk of dementia and stroke compared to people who didn’t drink coffee or tea. Compared with people who didn’t drink tea and coffee, drinking 2-3 cups of coffee or 2-3 cups of tea per day was associated with a 28% and 32% lower risk of dementia and stroke, respectively.

May Boost Longevity

Incorporating coffee or tea into your diet may help increase your chances of living a longer, healthier life. Studies have shown that people who regularly consume coffee and tea have a lower risk of dying from any cause compared to people who don’t drink coffee or tea.

A recent study that included 118,872 participants with metabolic syndrome found that combined intake of tea and coffee offered a protective effect against all-cause mortality. The study showed that, compared to people who didn’t consume tea and coffee, people who consumed 2 cups of tea plus 2 cups of coffee per day had a 21% lower risk of cancer-related death. People who drank 3 cups of tea plus at least 4 cups of coffee daily had a 24% lower risk.

The study also found that people who drank 4 cups of tea and 1 cup of coffee daily had a 22% lower risk of dying from heart disease.

Another study that included 4,923 people with type 2 diabetes found that a higher intake of green tea and coffee was associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes.

In addition to its shared benefits with tea, coffee has unique effects on health. For example, research has shown it’s particularly beneficial for liver health and may protect against several liver conditions, including fatty liver disease and liver cancer.

A review of 11 studies found that coffee drinkers had a 23% lower risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and a 32% reduced risk of liver fibrosis compared to people who didn’t drink coffee.

Coffee’s high concentration of antioxidants, like chlorogenic acid, may reduce inflammation, protect against fibrosis or scarring of the liver, and decrease fat accumulation in the liver. This can support overall liver health and protect against liver disease.

Coffee is higher in the natural stimulant caffeine than tea, providing 91.8 milligrams (mg) per cup. One cup of black tea provides 47 mg per cup, while the same amount of brewed green tea contains only 29.4 mg.

Because of its higher caffeine content, coffee may be a better choice for boosting athletic performance and energy levels. Coffee intake has been shown to improve athletic performance, including reaction time, power, and aerobic capacity, largely due to its caffeine content.

Like coffee, tea has unique health benefits, including boosting mental health. For example, green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has been shown to have anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties. L-theanine interacts with the central nervous system by modulating certain pathways and brain receptors to reduce stress and anxiety.

Green tea’s high concentration of L-theanine may make it effective for reducing anxiety symptoms and stress hormones and protecting against depression. One review of eight studies found that frequent green tea consumption was associated with a 34% reduced risk of depressive symptoms.

Black tea intake has also been linked with reduced depression risk. One study of 491 adults found that, compared to the participants who drank less than one cup of black tea per day, participants who consumed more than one cup of black tea per day had a lower risk of depression.

Regular tea consumption has also been shown to protect against heart disease by lowering heart disease risk factors like high low-density protein (LDL) cholesterol.

High amounts of caffeine can negatively affect your health. Because coffee is significantly higher in caffeine than tea, people sensitive to caffeine’s stimulant effects should limit their intake of coffee and highly caffeinated coffee products like espresso.

Experts currently recommend that adults keep their daily caffeine intake to less than 400 mg—about 4 cups of coffee or 8 cups of black tea. Pregnant people should keep their daily caffeine intake to less than 200 mg.

Consuming too much caffeine can lead to side effects like anxiety, heart palpitations, headaches, high blood pressure, and pregnancy complications, so it’s important to keep your caffeine intake under the recommended limit. People who are sensitive to caffeine should assess their individual caffeine tolerance to prevent caffeine-related side effects.

Also, avoid consuming very hot coffee and tea drinks. Regularly consuming tea and coffee drinks over 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celcius) is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. 

Finally, consuming too much black tea could inhibit the absorption of iron from foods, which could be an issue for people with low iron stores, like people with iron-deficient anemia.

Research has linked coffee and tea to significant health benefits, so including both beverages in your diet is usually preferable. Switching up your daily routine by enjoying coffee, green tea, black tea, or herbal tea is an easy way to introduce a variety of health-promoting compounds to your diet.

However, coffee and tea have completely different flavors, and some people don’t like the taste of coffee and prefer drinking tea, and vice versa. Whether you choose coffee, tea, or both beverages, stay within the daily recommended caffeine limit.

Be cautious of added sugars, which can negate the health benefits of your coffee or tea. Choose unsweetened coffee drinks and avoid high-sugar coffee additives like sweetened creamers.

Coffee and tea are popular beverages linked to several impressive health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants, and drinking them regularly may protect against several chronic diseases and help you live a longer, healthier life.

Coffee may offer specific benefits for liver health and athletic performance, while tea may be the better choice for improving anxiety, protecting against depression risk, and boosting heart health. Including coffee and tea as part of a balanced diet may help you reap the most benefits.

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