Coffee or tea? When it comes to your health, the answer is unequivocally yes! Each drink offers an array of health benefits along with the stimulatory impact—for both brain and body—of a little caffeine. So weather you’re devoted to coffee or tea, you can drink up knowing you’re doing your body good.
The Chemistry of Health
Both coffee and tea contain antioxidants—chemical compounds which fight against free radicals, the unstable molecules that can attack the DNA of cells and which can lead to the development of cancer agents. Caffeine, likewise, has a positive effect on health in its ability to increase short-term memory (the part of your brain that stores a phone number you’ve just looked up until you’re able to dial it), normalize function and prevent degeneration of the brain, and even lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in later life. Beyond these shared benefits, however, each drink offers its own unique array of health advantages.
The Skinny on Tea
Green tea is especially and uniquely rich in a powerful cancer-fighting agent called catechins. A specific catechin, EGCG, was found by one study to suppress lung cancer cell growth and by another to inhibit breast cancer tumors. As if this weren’t enough, it’s also been shown to shrink fat cells, which makes it a clear winner for those struggling with obesity. When it comes to hydration, tea has a slight advantage over coffee due to its lower caffeine content. It’s also better than coffee for those who suffer from acid reflux. And finally, a Japanese study concluded that the odor of jasmine tea effectively decreased the heart rate of those who smelled it—meaning, if you’re looking for peace and calm in your everyday mood, you may want to consider tea over coffee.
On the minus side, the tannic acid present in black tea makes it more of a culprit than coffee when it comes to tooth discoloration. (A slightly ironic corollary to this is that green tea contains the chemical compound fluoride, which can significantly strengthen teeth.)
Exercise: Coffee Is King
While tea might be better for burning fat, coffee is the winner when you want more muscle. Coffee’s high caffeine content is famously effective at helping reduce the depletion of glycogen, a form of glucose that serves as energy storage and is the primary fuel for exercise. It does so by breaking down the body’s fat stores and releasing fatty acids into the bloodstream, which the body then uses for energy in lieu of glycogen. (Typically, only prolonged exercise will tap into fat stores to support the activity.) When stores of glycogen are depleted, exhaustion occurs; caffeine thus prolongs the exercise period by “sparing” glycogen for later use.
Whether you prefer coffee or tea, it seems clear they both do a body good.