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This week, Dr. Sebastian Müller (Ph.D.) compares the two popular hot beverages Coffee and Green Tea, and discusses their benefits and pitfalls.
A scientific term, that is now frequently discussed in popular literature, is the term of antioxidants. Many articles have mentioned that antioxidants can be found in berries, beverages and now even antioxidant food supplements exist. Before discussing antioxidants in conjunction with green tea or coffee, I would like to explain what they actually are. Molecular oxygen is a gas required for life to exist as we know it on our planet. It is a highly reactive molecule, which contains great amounts of energy and it can be used by living organisms to generate energy. Although evolution has provided complex mechanisms to channel this energy and thus has provided the necessary biochemistry, dangerous reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated in the process as a by-product that can damage cells. This can lead to metabolic defects, cancer and even death. ROS are also one of the contributing factors to ageing. Nature has thus evolved biochemical pathways to absorb these ROS and developed an array of antioxidants. Your body produces a lot of antioxidants itself. Of course, most plant products contain anti-oxidants. If you now ingest these, they might help your cells prevent oxidative damage.
Both beverages, coffee and green tea, contain antioxidants, mainly polyphenols. These are very powerful antioxidants and in fact, coffee has more of those than green tea. Coffee also has flavonoids, cinnamic acids, coumarins, lignans and benzoic acids. It has high level of chlorogenic acids and caffeic acid, which are very strong antioxidants. In addition,coffee has quinine which increase the body’s response to insulin and thus helps diabetics. Green tea on the other hand is very rich in catechins, which are powerful antioxidants belonging to the flavonoid family. Studies have indicated that these prevent heart disease and strokes if ingested regularly over a pro-longed period of time. In particular epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a powerful antioxidant. Besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it can actually kill some cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been claimed to be effective in lowering LDL cholesterol (=bad cholesterol) levels, as well as inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots.
It has to be added that some antioxidants are either under-studied or not all their effects are known. In terms of beneficial antioxidants, I would recommend both beverages, coffee and green tea.
Depending on the way the beverages are brewed, they can contain varying amounts of caffeine. However, generally coffee has more caffeine per volume than green tea (on average about three times as much). Caffeine is a stimulant and many of us use it to keep awake especially in stress situations. However, high caffeine intake can cause nervousness and insomnia. Thus, drinking too much coffee can cause sleep deprivation. Green tea also contains theanine which has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress and improves cognition and mood in a synergistic manner with caffeine. Thus, despite having caffeine, green tea has a soothing effect which makes you less nervous than coffee. I would favour green tea over coffee regarding this information.
This is certainly hard to debate as everyone has a different taste. For sure, one could say that coffee has a very acquired taste but also green tea is not for everyone. However, here no general judgement should be made as this choice is to be left to the individual. But why not broaden your horizons and try both beverages? Also, both come in so many varieties and better quality usually also means better purity. This is important, as this will determine the health benefits you may gain. Try to get some good quality coffee or green tea and taste the difference for yourself. I would not recommend to use instant coffee as it has very low levels of antioxidants. Also, there are many flavoured green teas on the market which may enhance your gourmet experience.
Green tea is a fantastic support for those seeking weight loss. Firstly, EGCG and caffeine stimulate metabolism and therefore slightly increase your metabolic rate, i.e. more fat will be burned per exercise you do. In addition, green tea is usually consumed without sugar or milk, whereas many people do not like black coffee. This is more of a psychological factor of course or simply a matter of taste. However, green tea has also been shown to slightly suppress appetite, which will help you decrease calorie intake. I would recommend to drink green tea about half an hour to an hour before sports as it will help you burn fat, should you desire to lose some pounds. Here, green tea would win over coffee.
Blood acidity levels
The acidity of your blood is extremely important for your body to be kept in a certain range. However, certain foods can either increase or decrease the pH of your blood and thus your body has to compensate. Your body is more likely to tolerate a slightly basic blood over an acidic blood. Green tea has a slightly alkalising and coffee an acidifying effect on your blood. In other hands, coffee will deplete you of magnesium and also calcium. On a short-term this can cause insomnia, muscle fatigue and hormonal imbalances. On the long run, this can cause an acceleration of the onset of osteoporosis. However, you should not worry too much, as you’d have to drink litres of coffee every day to really suffer from these symptoms. Looking at these information, green tea is definitely the better choice.
In summary, there are clear benefits for both beverages. However, coffee does have some draw-backs and green tea certainly wins in terms of health benefits. Nevertheless, coffee isn’t just bad for you and many love the smell and taste. Maybe this information helps you to make a choice for yourself the next time you fancy a hot drink.
If you want to try original Japanese Sencha Green Tea, you can order it directly from Amazon:
Japanese Sencha Luxury Loose Leaf Tea 100g
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About the Author: Sebastian Müller was born and raised in Leipzig/Germany and moved to England as an adolescent. He is a trained research chemist and geneticist and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut Curie in Paris/ France working in cancer research. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and is still actively involved at the university today. He is fluent in English, German and French and has many fortés and interests including science, philosophy, linguistics, history, competitive sports such as rowing, fitness and nutrition. He is one of the co-founders of City Connect. He is a freelance writer also drawing from his experience as an author in peer-reviewed scientific journals. "I love writing and putting my thoughts down on paper. The written word to me is one of the most powerful ways of conveying thoughts and initiating discussions."