Which is the Better Brew?
Updated: Apr 30, 2022
With about 80% of Americans consuming caffeine daily, it is important we know more about the potential risks and benefits. Coffee and tea are two popular caffeinated beverages that we'll focus on in this blog.
For clarity purposes, when discussing teas, we will be referring to the caffeinated ones that derive from the Camellia Sinensis plant (i.e., black, green, white, oolong) and not the herbal ones. And when talking about coffee, we will be referring to the regular, caffeinated kind.
Tea is greatly known for a number of health benefits. Some of these include its connection in helping to ward off:
Numerous types of cancer
Tea also assists with mental acuity that allows for the relaxation required for focus.
Although we might not necessary be thinking about the benefits of coffee when grabbing our morning cup of Joe, they do exist. Besides boosting energy levels, coffee has been linked to:
Preventing degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
Reducing cardiovascular risks
Lowering incidence of depression
Protecting against liver conditions
Specific drinks have varying levels of caffeine, which is great news for the person deciding on what to brew. Here are the milligrams of caffeine per cup:
Coffee = 95 mg
Black tea = 48 mg
Green tea = 29 mg
Oolong = 38 mg
Caffeine overload is mainly known for shakiness so a significant amount can increase nervousness and restlessness, especially for those with anxiety. Other side effects of caffeine may include digestive issues and dizziness. Caffeine is also a diuretic, so dehydration and drug interactions can occur. Therefore, exceeding 400 mg of caffeine per day is not recommended.
For tea specifically, consuming over the moderate amount (above 3-4 cups) could reduce iron absorption, which is especially important for vegetarians/vegans, and could generate nausea from the tannins found in tea.
As for coffee, since the caffeine levels are twice as high or more than that of tea, those effects are bound to be more prevalent. But when it comes to the coffee itself, there are no harmful effects found for those who drink up to the recommended caffeinated amount, which is about 4 cups per day. If LDL cholesterol is a concern, it could be beneficial to paper-filter coffee over using the French press to filter out the oily compound in coffee called cafestol, which could stimulate this lab level.
Also, something worth noting is that when studies refer to a "cup of coffee" that resembles an 8 oz cup with 100 mg of caffeine, and little to no milk or sugar. It does not mean the coffee shop drinks that can be over 300 mg of caffeine in 16 oz cups with added calories, syrups, and creamers, which could implicate the positive health outcomes from these studies. Not to say that these kinds of drinks should be avoided altogether, but it is something to consider on an individual basis regarding health history, overall diet intake, and current health habits and risks.
How to Enjoy
There are many ways to enjoy these drinks; you can make it iced or hot no matter the weather. They can be enjoyed as part of a productive day and for leisure reasons like relaxing with a magazine. Coffee and tea can also be part of your holistic self-care if you want it for the health benefits or as a dessert -- yay for blended iced coffees and milk tea boba! Also, it's a vegan product, so it's readily available for most. The more you experiment with the coffee bean and tea leaf, the more your taste develops for different roasts and flavors, and the more creative you can get. The possibilities truly are endless.
If you know of your caffeine tolerance and any possible personal interactions, there are beneficial reasons to enjoy a mug of coffee or tea. But, in the end, one isn't necessarily better than the other; it is up to your unique needs and preferences.
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Written by: Angie Suarez, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern