Drinking tea and coffee is as routine as brushing your teeth for many people. Firstly, rest assured that both can be included in your diet as they do provide health benefits. They do vary in their nutritional content, so it is worth being aware of the positives and negatives of each beverage so you know which will be the better choice for you.

We compared some of the most common choices for tea and coffee below

Coffee vs tea graph

So, why do people drink tea or coffee? Mainly for the taste but also because it can provide a nice wake-me-up kick when you really need it! Traditionally drunk, tea and coffee can be a great low kilojoule drink, provided there’s not too much milk, sugar or flavourings in it.

The addition of milk is not a bad thing though, in fact it can be a great way to increase the amount of protein and calcium you’re having, particularly if you’re having a latte for example (which is basically a glass of milk with a shot of coffee). An important thing to remember is that the tannins found in tea and coffee will bind to some of the calcium so you won’t absorb as much as you would if you were drinking a plain glass of milk.

Caffeine is an important consideration when drinking tea or coffee. Caffeine, as the active ingredient in tea and coffee has been linked to a range of health benefits such as lowering your risk for stroke, asthma and dementia. It can also be a good boost to get you through the work day or help your focus for a big presentation, however being a stimulant, excessive amounts may be harmful. Typically Aussie adults should aim to consume less than 500mg of caffeine per day, however this should be reduced in some circumstances. Caffeine during pregnancy, for example, is set at a maximum of 200mg per day, so if you usually have a few coffees a day, you may need to think about swapping for tea or choosing de-caffeinated options.

Tea and coffee contain a myriad of bioactive compounds along with caffeine. One of the main by-products of roasting coffee beans are melanoidin compounds. This is really interesting as several biological processes such as antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive have all been attributed to coffee melanoidins. The dose and strength of your coffee brew required to illicit such effects is still being determined however while we wait, it is comforting to know that there is potential in every single cup!

When looking at teas, an active component that plays an important role is polyphenols which act as strong antioxidants which help to prevent cell damage. The polyphenols in tea are of particular interest as research indicates that they may play a role in metabolic and cardiovascular health and have anti-ageing, anti-diabetic and cancer fighting properties. Not all teas are the same though; Green tea is particularly rich in antioxidants and said to be most effective in benefiting our health. Although studies indicate that regular tea drinkers can see improvements to their general health, typically around weight management, mental and cardiovascular health, it has to be said that no studies to date have proven that tea can cure or prevent cance.

Looking at the comparison table, we can see that coffee has more than double the amount of caffeine typically found in tea so despite having no overall ill-effects in small quantities, having large amounts or a sneaky coffee in the evening might make it more difficult to wind down or fall asleep. Tea therefore is a better option to have particularly in the evening. Studies support this showing that tea has less of a disruptive effect on sleep quality than coffee and may even aid in improving your quality of sleep due to the other compounds in tea such as flavonoids, which may decrease the body’s stress response.

So nutritionally speaking, there’s not much separating the humble brew of tea or coffee. Given that both can provide benefits to our health and enjoyment, my advice is to drink whichever you’re comfortable with and prefer. Catching up for tea or coffee is a great way to socially connect and being from Melbourne it forms an integral part of our café culture. If you’re a regular drinker, keep in mind that both tea and coffee have the potential to stain your teeth, so if you’re proud of your pearly whites, make sure you maintain good dental hygiene and consider moderating how much of either beverage you drink daily.