Teas and coffee are drinks that are widely consumed around the world. Tea, specifically camellia sinensis (White, Green, Oolong and Black), is the 2nd most consumed drink in the world followed by coffee (Water is #1). Both tea and coffee are mostly water. However, the compounds they contain differ considerably. These compounds can be beneficial and non beneficial to our health depending on how much you drink and the quality of the product. So, how healthy are they? Which one is better for me? Let’s see how they match up head to head.
Coffee and tea have a lot to offer when it comes to your heart. They both can help reduce your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and even help prevent atherosclerosis, a hardening of your arteries. This also reduces your risk of having heart attacks and strokes. However, tea has the added benefit of reducing your blood pressure, something coffee can raise depending on how much you drink. Tea acts as an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor). This enzyme prevents the formation of angiotensin, a protein that signals blood vessels to constrict, raising blood pressure. Fruits like Strawberries and Acai also contain compounds that are ACE inhibitors.
Diabetes is a condition that affects millions of people in the U.S. Coffee and tea are both effective at reducing your risk of developing type-2 diabetes. One of the ways they reduce your risk is by helping you lose weight.
Obesity is a condition that is linked to diabetes. If you are obese or overweight, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and other conditions linked to diabetes or obesity. Long term, the antioxidants in coffee may help you reduce both visceral and abdominal fat. Visceral fat is the fat around your organs. Too much of this fat is dangerous for your health because it can choke your organs and prevent them from functioning properly. Tea reduces fat by helping your body access the fat in fat cells more efficiently. A powerful antioxidant in tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) can help your body burn fat faster as you exercise. White and green teas are the best sources of EGCG.
When it comes to affecting your mood, tea is the clear winner, and, tea does this in more ways than one.
Tea, specifically black tea, contains a compound called L-theanine. This amino acid has been linked to feelings of peace and a heightened sense of awareness. Scientists have verified this by measuring brain waves. They noticed that people who drank tea had more alpha brain waves than those who did not. Alpha brain waves are brain waves that are associated with peace and tranquility. Our brains give off these same waves as we enter the early stages of sleep. Black tea is the best source of L-theanine. Green, Oolong and White teas also contain it but in smaller amounts.
Teas contain serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that is primarily made in your intestinal tract. It is produced in response to sunlight. Oolong tea, which is the best source of serotonin, can help boost your levels of happiness. This effect is especially useful during the winter or if you suffer from conditions like serotonin deficiency.
Adaptogens are foods that have the ability to make our bodies resistant to stress. They do this by altering the communication between our adrenal glands and pituitary gland. These glands are primarily responsible for producing stress hormones like cortisol when we’re under stress (this also includes exercise), which can have a negative effect on the body when it is overproduced. Tea contains compounds that may help lower the amount of cortisol your adrenal glands pump out. This helps calm your nerves by helping you stay level headed in times of stress and can possibly lower your recovery time when you exercise. In addition it may also reduce depression. People with depression tend to have high levels of cortisol as well.
When comparing the levels of caffeine, coffee contains more of it per cup than tea. However, tea is no pushover either. A typical cup of coffee can contain around 80mg of caffeine. A cup of green or black tea can contain 15-70mg or more of caffeine. How much caffeine it contains depends on whether the tea is loose leaf or teabag, the amount of leaves steeped, and how long they are steeped.
Tea also contains theophylline, which a close cousin of caffeine and has a similar effect on the body.
Caffeine can increase your heart rate, blood pressure and give a temporary energy boost. However, too much caffeine can also cause jitters, anxiety, panic attacks, stress and a host of other stress related conditions. It’s important to realize that caffeine is a drug, and, as a drug, it can be addictive. Caffeine can negatively affect everything from your heart to your nerves, to your digestive tract. Every individual is unique so some may only need a small dose of caffeine to experience it’s effect on the body, while some may need more than a cup of coffee or tea.
On the other hand, caffeine can also benefit the body. Studies that were done examining the benefits of green tea noticed that caffeine seemed to enhance its’ cancer fighting effects. The same was found for black coffee as well.
Tea and coffee are both excellent sources of antioxidants. The primary antioxidants in tea are a class of antioxidants called catechins and the primary antioxidant in coffee is chlorogenic acid. Both these are very good at trapping free radicals, which are compounds that can damage our cells. Most of the antioxidants in a cup of coffee are, in fact, chlorogenic acid. A cup of black coffee contains 70-350 mg of chlorogenic acid. It’s this antioxidant that gives coffee its astringent and bitter taste.
Tea can also contain up to 300 mg of catechins per cup. Of all the catechins, there is one that may perhaps be the most potent and most powerful antioxidant found in any food. This antioxidant is called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). EGCG is most abundant in green tea. A cup of green tea can contain up to 100mg of EGCG. Tea that is steeped without a teabag (loose leaf) will have more catechins than tea that is steeped in a teabag. Likewise, tea beverages, like bottled green teas, generally contain fewer antioxidants than loose leaf or teabag.
Black and Oolong teas also contain a group of antioxidants called tannins, which are responsible for giving these teas their dark reddish color and their astringent taste. These antioxidants are also quite powerful but they may also irritate the lining of your digestive tract and may increase your risk of esophageal, oral and stomach cancers. Milk, however, neutralizes these tannins. Strawberries and citrus fruits like oranges may also help reduce your risk of esophageal cancer.
Although both tea and coffee contain quite powerful antioxidants, the antioxidants found in tea are more effective at fighting off free radicals than chlorogenic acid. More importantly, catechins are better at fighting off a wider range of cancers than chlorogenic acid according to studies.
Tea and coffee are both effective cancer fighters and cancer preventers. Tea, on the other hand, can protect against a wider range of cancers than coffee. According to studies done so far, tea, specifically green tea, can help protect against these cancers:
– Mammary gland
– Small intestine
2 cups (16 ounces) of black tea per day can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer by up to 46%. And 1 cup (8 ounces) of tea reduces it by up to 24%. 5-6 cups of coffee per day (40-48 ounces) can reduce your risk of aggressive prostate cancer. However, most prostate cancers are low-grade cancers.
Both tea and coffee have the potential to stop the formation of new blood vessels to cancer cells, a process called angiogenesis. Cancer cells need nutrients in order to grow. They hijack this natural process that your body uses when cells need to grow or to heal wounds, in order to shunt blood and nutrients towards them. One of the best ways to stop cancer cells in their tracks is to prevent angiogenesis from happening. Tea and coffee both contain compounds that stop cancer cells from hijacking this process but let you continue to use it normally in other parts of your body. In other words, the compounds in tea and coffee keep angiogenesis in check and not turn it off completely. Click here to learn more about angiogenesis and how your diet can help impact this vital process. (Youtube version)
According to studies done so far, this is one cancer that both tea and coffee can significantly reduce your risk for. About 4 cups (32 ounces) per day of green tea can reduce your risk of this cancer, while 6 cups of coffee per day will do the same thing. It’s important to note that caffeinated tea and caffeinated black coffee were used in studies. It’s not certain whether milk and or sugar make coffee or tea less effective when it comes to fighting cancer. We also don’t know whether tea and coffee work together to reduce your risk of breast cancer or perhaps work against each other.
Tea and coffee have other beneficial uses besides fighting off diseases. Tea can help reduce bad breath by killing off the bacteria in your mouth responsible for it and help reduce cavities by destroying the bacteria that cause plaque. Green tea may also help with the rashes associated with psoriasis and lupus when you apply leaves to the rash. Green tea can also help with dandruff too if you rinse your hair with it.
Coffee can help strengthen the blood brain barrier, which helps keep harmful chemicals from entering your brain. It can also help with short-term memory issues and possibly slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
In the end…
When it comes down to your health, tea wins over coffee. Coffee, however, is no pushover offering a wide range of health benefits. So, if you’re concerned about your health make sure to grab a cup or two of tea every day. Your body and mind will thank you.