woman drinking from a coffee mug

Tea vs. Coffee – Which is Better?

November 13, 2018

Coffee wasn’t always considered a healthy beverage, however research over the past decade or so is now showing that coffee is proving to be healthy within moderation.

Tea, on the other hand, has always received the lion’s share of accolades.  So that leads to the question – is tea better for you than coffee?

That answer can depend on a few factors.  For example, if you drink your tea black, but you have to load your coffee with cream and sugar, then tea would probably be the healthier option for you.  But before we delve into this a bit more, please remember that coffee and tea are two distinct beverages.  Even coffee and tea varieties are distinct from one another. 

Here is what you need to know:

Caffeine Content:

On average, an 8-oz cup of coffee contains 100 mg or more of caffeine.  The caffeine content depends on the type of coffee bean used, the brewing method, and the volume of the mug, of course. 

On the other hand, one cup of tea contains less caffeine.  How much less depends on the type of tea.  For example, an 8-oz cup of tea can have anywhere from 15 to 70 mg of caffeine.  Black and oolong teas tend to have the highest caffeine content, with green teas having the least.  All teas are made from the same tea plant (Camellia Sinensis), but they are just processed differently.  However, rooibos and herbal “teas” do not come from the tea plant, but instead are made from other plants.  They are generally caffeine free. 

Up to 400 mg of caffeine is considered safe for most healthy people, as long as they don’t have issues with chronic stress negatively impacting their adrenal glands or problems with anxiety and nervousness. 

Antioxidant Content:

Antioxidants are natural chemicals found in fruits and vegetables, and some beverages.  Antioxidants are important in preventing damaging free radicals from causing cell damage, which can lead to cancer, hardened arteries which can result in heart attack and stroke, and other diseases of your body. 

All varieties of tea, including the rooibos and herbal ones, contain antioxidants.  Black and green tea typically have the most antioxidants, and they may have as many as ten times more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables!    

Different varieties of teas also have different kinds and amounts of antioxidants. 

For the most health benefits, it is wisest to drink black and green tea, however Oolong and white teas are also healthy options. 

Like tea, coffee also contains a high number of antioxidants.  Coffee is reported to be the leading source of antioxidants in American diets, ahead of the consumption of fruits and vegetables!  In addition to antioxidants, coffee also contains small amounts of the following vitamins and minerals – magnesium, manganese, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium.    

Energy Start or Calm Alertness: 

When you think of early mornings, coffee seems to be the go-to beverage.  This is because the higher levels of caffeine found in coffee can give some the energy start they need first thing in the morning. 

Tea, on the other hand, is often associated with calm alertness.  Many like to curl up with a cup of tea to relax.  This is because tea contains L-theanine, which is an amino acid that calms your mind, induces relaxation, and reduces stress, increases concentration and focus, all without causing drowsiness.  Green tea contains the most l-theanine, but it is also found in black and oolong teas. 

L-theanine, when combined with the caffeine in tea, enhances your mental alertness and calmness, without making you feel jittery.  This is unlike coffee, which only contains the caffeine, so if you drink too much, you can increase anxious and jittery feelings.  The same concentrations of l-theanine are found in both caffeinated and decaffeinated teas. 

So Which Is Better?

In answer to the question of whether tea is better for you than coffee, there is no clear-cut answer.  On one hand, tea contains less caffeine and promotes relaxation and mental alertness, whereas too much caffeine in coffee can make people anxious and nervous.  However, the caffeine jolt, that coffee provides, can be useful first thing in the morning—especially before exercise.  Coffee studies seem to illustrate that it may have more antioxidants, but green and black tea rank high as well.  You also need to consider whether you drink these beverages black, or whether you are adding sugar and calories to improve their flavors. 

To conclude, coffee and tea both fit into a healthy diet for many people.  Both types of beverages provide their own unique traits, so whatever you choose, is likely to provide you with many health benefits that you would not otherwise get. Just make sure to consume in moderation.  


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