You may depend on a mug of coffee to start your day or a cup of tea to unwind. Both beverages provide a kick of caffeine and can be a comforting daily routine. In the United States, coffee is the most popular hot drink. Meanwhile, one in five Americans drink tea each day, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. If you like these beverages, you may wonder whether they are healthy and whether one is better. The good news is that moderate consumption of both coffee and tea gives you a good source of antioxidants.
When oxygen comes in contact with your cells, they go through a normal chemical reaction called oxidation. This is a routine process, but during it the cells are changed; some die and are replaced by new ones. Unfortunately, a few cells are damaged during this reaction. These damaged cells are called free radicals, because they are missing an important molecule. The free radicals can damage other cells, which can lead to disease.
Like their name implies, antioxidants protect cells from oxidation. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from injuring healthy cells. Since antioxidants come from plants, they are plentiful in many fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, they are also in coffee and tea plants.
The kind of tea that has antioxidants comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves of this plant are used to produce both black and green tea. Do not confuse this with herbal teas; most of them do not contain this plant and instead are made from herbs, flowers, roots or spices. The antioxidants in black and green tea are called flavonoids. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who drink tea consume 20 times more flavonoids each day than people who don’t drink tea.
The flavonoids in tea help protect you from many conditions. Researchers have found they may lower cholesterol and help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, ovarian and other cancers, swelling, blood clotting and other diseases. Studies have indicated breast cancer and heart disease risk may be lowered specifically by green tea.
The antioxidants in coffee beans are different than those in tea. They are quinines and chlorogenic acid. These antioxidants may help protect against cancers such as those in the liver and colon and protect against type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
A word of caution about coffee: It seems every day there is a new study about the effect of coffee on heart disease. The American Heart Association says one to two cups of coffee a day does not seem to increase heart disease. However, if you have high blood pressure, you should consult with your doctor about whether coffee is a good idea.
Whether you prefer coffee or tea, drinking either in moderation will provide you with a good source of antioxidants to keep your cells healthy. You might consider drinking both so you can get each kind of antioxidant they offer.
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