What is better for you: coffee or tea?

By Morgan Giannattasio, MS, RDN, LD

Many believe that tea has more health benefits than coffee due to caffeine content, but that is not the case. Coffee by itself is healthy. It only has about 5 calories per 8 oz and no carbohydrates or fat. However, adding cream and sugar can quickly make it far less healthy from a calorie stand point.

Recently, research studies have proved that regular coffee consumption can improve cognition, decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and the risk of certain chronic conditions. The high antioxidants in coffee give it it’s health benefits.

To make coffee even healthier and more beneficial to your health, skip the sugar and use a low-fat milk or milk substitute. If drinking black coffee without sugar is too much for you, try switching to cold brew coffee which is commonly consumed black due to its rich smooth taste.

In comparison, tea has been promoted for its health benefits for centuries. It is also very low calorie (0-2 calories per 8 oz) and has a high antioxidant content, which is protective against certain cancers and chronic diseases. Because tea is often consumed without cream and sugar, it is a healthy beverage choice next to water. It is important to remember that there are hundreds of different types of teas on the market, therefore it is important to find a high quality tea and to ask your doctor before drinking any herbal medicinal teas due to possible negative health effects.

As far as average caffeine content goes, coffee contains the most caffeine with an average of 95-165mg per 8 oz. Keep in mind that cold brewed coffees and certain ethnic coffees often contain more caffeine. Meanwhile, an average cup of black tea contains about 25-48mg of caffeine. However there are teas that contain more caffeine and some that contain no caffeine. The Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine per day, so if you are someone who needs to limit their caffeine intake, pay attention to portion sizes, methods of brewing, and high caffeine teas.

Drinking caffeinate beverages is best during the morning after waking up so the caffeine does not disturb your sleep length or quality. The only exception is non-caffeinated coffee or teas, such as chamomile tea, which is known as a sleep aid.

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