Which is healthier for you: Coffee or tea?
I can’t tell you the number of times a well-meaning friend has turned to me as I sip my third cup of coffee and says something along the lines of, “All that coffee can’t be good for you.” They’re right, of course, but it still makes me feel really, really bad. Especially considering the number of friends who have started to gift me tea at Christmas. I get the hint, ladies—and, don’t worry, I love you for it.
I really, really hoped that when the government released a new set of dietary guidelines in January that included coffee for the first time, my friends would let up on me a little bit. After all, the movement in favor of coffee has been “brewing” (get it?) for years. For example, a study released this past November from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that drinking a moderate amount of coffee a day—three to five cups—may lead to a lower risk of premature death from some illnesses. Yes. I will live forever!
According to the study’s coauthor Ming Ding, those benefits likely boil down to the antioxidants in coffee. Interestingly enough, caffeine had no perceived effect, as subjects drank both caffeinated and decaffeinated blends. “We think that since coffee has a lot of those antioxidants, they somehow reduce systematic inflammation, and overall coffee consumption lowers mortality,” Ding said. Time to go pour myself a new cup of joe.
But that doesn’t mean we should just ignore the potential health benefits of tea. Green tea specifically has long been associated with everything from weight loss to prolonged lifespan. Hasan Mukhtar, a professor at the University of Wisconsin whose laboratory has studied tea since 1989, told Vogue it was healthier than coffee “without a doubt.”
Mukhtar continued, “With coffee, the data is not as strong, the studies have not been repeated from as many labs as tea, and the effects are not as robust.” He also claimed that tea helps prevent cancer, which is a huge bonus: “We have consistently found that topical applications for the skin and oral administration of tea leads to significant reduction in cancer incidences.” Polyphenolic compounds in tea have been shown to provide significant protection against radiation and sun damage, results that Mukhtar was eager to stress have been repeatedly shown in “many, many studies.”
Hmmm. Coffee or tea, can’t we all just get along?
As Vogue suggests, perhaps we can all learn something from Steven Hatch, M.D., author of Snowball in a Blizzard: A Physician’s Notes on Uncertainty in Medicine. Hatch writes:
Don’t worry, Dr. Hatch, I won’t. The next time I meet a friend for a coffee date, I’ll be sure to quote you. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even order a cup of tea, instead.