Coffee vs. Tea: Which drink is better for you?


Whether you find you have had a rough night of sleep, are low on energy, or simply enjoy the taste, coffee and tea are beverages of choice for many college students. While these caffeinated beverages do help to provide a boost of energy, there is much debate on which option is healthier, if either is healthy at all. Current research reveals that there are in fact health benefits to consuming both of these beverages in moderate amounts. Most of these benefits are derived from polyphenols, substances that are found in plant-based foods and help to protect from some chronic diseases. Read on to learn about the benefits of coffee and tea and the proposed amounts that should be consumed to achieve positive health effects.

The Benefits of Coffee & Tea

Coffee. Coffee has been shown to improve memory and reduce cognitive deficits of aging by boosting the levels of dopamine in the brain. (Shukitt-Hale, Miller, Chu, Lyle & Joseph, 2013) Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. This means that it helps to transmit messages throughout the brain. In addition to this, coffee has also been shown to regulate blood sugar levels therefore reducing the risk of type two diabetes. Particular compounds found in coffee have also been associated with an overall improvement in liver health. (Bidel & Tuomilehto, 2013)

Tea. Avid tea drinkers boast about the high antioxidant capacity of their beverage of choice. The antioxidants found in tea have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. This is suggested due to the ability of tea to relax blood vessels and lower bad cholesterol levels (Williamson, 2017). Research also suggests that these antioxidants may help to reduce the risk of cancer and to strengthen the density of bones.

So What is the Right Amount?

With various research revealing positive benefits from drinking coffee and tea, should we be consuming gallon jugs of these powerful drinks each day? Probably not. High levels of caffeine can have profound effects on the heart that may manifest as anxiety, rapid heartbeat and heartburn. It seems that one to three cups of coffee per day is considered to be the ideal amount to gain the protective factors mentioned above (Alpert, 2012) and to limit potentially dangerous effects to the heart. Seeing as there are many varieties of tea, recommended intakes are dependent on the caffeine amount contained in that particular type of tea. For example, it is generally recommended to consume no more than four cups of black tea per day. When consuming these beverages, it is always important to listen to your body. Not everyone has positive experiences when consuming caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea. If you do experience any negative reactions to these beverages it is best to limit your consumption or to switch to an alternative such as decaffeinated coffee or tea.

Alpert, P. (2012). The Health Lowdown on Caffeine. Home Health Care Management & Practice, 24(3), 156-158.

Bidel, S., & Tuomilehto, J. (2013). The Emerging Health Benefits of Coffee with an Emphasis on Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. European Endocrinology, 9(2), 99-106.

Shukitt-Hale, B., Miller, M., Chu, G., Lyle, Y., & Joseph, J. (2013). Coffee, but not caffeine, has positive effects on cognition and psychomotor behavior in aging. AGE, 35(6), 2183-2192.

Williamson, G. (2017). The role of polyphenols in modern nutrition. Nutrition Bulletin, 42(3), 226-235.