Tea vs. coffee: Which one is better for you?

A funny coffee meme says "I only need coffee on days ending in 'y.'" Most of us can easily relate to that sentiment, especially in the mornings, after we've stumbled, arms outstretched likes zombies, into the kitchen in search of our morning cups of joe. For non-coffee drinkers, maybe the morning ritual includes earl grey instead. Either way, the reasons that tea and coffee rank first and second, respectively, as the world's most popular beverages (via TopTensList) are obvious.

The mental and physical boost we feel after drinking coffee or tea in the morning has something to do with emotion, for example in the feeling of comfort we receive from cradling in our palms a warm mug filled with the elixir that gives us life. But of course, the primary cause for the boost we receive thereafter is caffeine. 

Both coffee and some teas contain caffeine, but the amount varies widely depending on the serving size and preparation method. On average, a cup of coffee, at 95 mg, contains about double the caffeine as a cup of black tea, at 47 mg (via Healthline). But take those numbers with a large grain of salt. A 16 oz Starbuck's Blonde Roast coffee contains a hefty 360 mg caffeine. 

Although caffeine has at times gotten mixed reviews, most studies support its positive health benefits (via Eat This, Not That!). Moderate caffeine consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of numerous chronic diseases, and play a protective role in staving off dementia, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. 

Both coffee and tea are loaded with antioxidants

Along with the caffeine, both tea and coffee are loaded with antioxidants, mainly polyphenols, which studies indicate may work to prevent or fight against various types of cancer. Polyphenols have also been linked to improved heart health, including lower rates of heart disease and stroke.

Despite the health benefits of tea and coffee, there is a potential downside. The first is aesthetic. The tannins in both drinks stick to teeth, causing staining. This can be helped by drinking water soon after your dark beverage of choice.

Too much caffeine can also be a problem. Although consuming up to 400 mg per day is generally considered harmless, it's easy to go well over that limit. Ashley Amaral, cardiovascular ICU registered dietitian at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, told Women's Health, "Caffeine is a stimulant and affects multiple systems in the body. It can impact the nervous system, making a person jittery or hyperactive, increase heart rate and/or blood pressure, and cause some gastrointestinal discomfort."

The bottom line? Both tea and coffee offer significant health benefits if consumed in moderation and not loaded with lots of extra fat and sugar. (Hello, eggnog latte!)