Coffee vs Tea: Which is Better For You?
The answer depends on many things such as taste, cost, preparation time and health benefits/challenges from caffeine or tannins.
Polyphenol antioxidants (flavonoids) in tea have been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and neurological disease.
One way that tea protects the heart is by fighting inflammation. Less inflammation has been shown to help avoid blood vessels from hardening, a precursor to heart attack or stroke. Regular tea drinkers also have higher bone density levels and slower rates of bone loss. In general, tea has been associated with overall anti-aging.
Tea can potentially impact your iron status, due to its tannins which interfere with the absorption of plant-based iron from foods like greens and beans. If you are a vegetarian, the best way to offset the impact of tannins is to consume iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C, like citrus, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kiwi, and strawberries. Vitamin C boosts iron absorption by as much as 67 percent.
If you aren’t a vegetarian, eating red meat, pork, chicken and seafood should give you the iron sources you need, though adding vitamin C sources has many health benefits for you.
Joy Dubust, PhD, RD, LD, a guest speaker of the Bell Institute of Health & Nutrition, recommends consuming no more than 2-3 cups of unsweetened tea per day and less than 230mg caffeine per day for pregnant women.
Which is better – Black Tea or Green Tea?
Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea (black is fermented, while green is unfermented). The specific types of flavonoid antioxidants they contain differ, with green tea providing more of one known as EGCG, while black tea has more theaflavins. Both have protective benefits.
Green tea also has more L-Theanine than black tea. This mood enhancing amino acid is responsible for the “alert calm” feeling that tea induces, where you get the stimulating effects of caffeine without the jitters.
According to a 2018 scientific review in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, regular coffee intake is tied to a reduced risk of heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s. However, most of the data available is based on observation studies rather than on the more reliable randomized control trials.
Caffeine content is the main downside of coffee, which in some people can trigger insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heart palpitations, and in women, increased fracture risk. Coffee consumption during pregnancy may lead to low birth weight and increase the chances of preterm labor. If you have high blood pressure you should limit your intake.
Be sure you aren’t using caffeine to mask fatigue from too little sleep or other unbalanced lifestyle habits. Don’t overdo it quantity-wise. While you may obtain benefits from using caffeine pre-exercise, it is best to have your last cup at least four to six hours before bed for optimal sleep.
And if drinking either tea or coffee leaves you feeling sapped of energy, wean down your intake. Instead, drink water-the ultimate health boosting beverage.
And the verdict is… “If I had to choose one, I would pick tea, specifically green, due to its lower caffeine content, antioxidants, including protective EGCG, and calming L-theanine. However, if you really love one over another, stick with what you’re partial to, since both regular and decaf coffee and tea offer numerous benefits.” – Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
Adapted from the Bell Institute of Health & Nutrition webinar: Unlocking the Cardiovascular Benefits of Unsweetened Tea, January,27,2021.
Adapted from Health.com, June 2020.
Author: Michelle Hanson
Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will look forward to meeting you!