A Healthy Choice: Coffee or Tea?

The press is filled with stories about the amazing health benefits associated with the consumption of coffee. But for many years, people assumed that tea was the healthy hot beverage. So Fox News asked the question to “Medicine Hunter” Chris Kilham. His answer was qualified, based on the differences in how tea is processed, resulting in green or black tea.

Since most tea drinkers choose traditional black tea, Kilham ranks coffee over tea (black) as the healthier choice. It’s those antioxidants - the flavenoids - in coffee which are believed to provide the good health effects. He goes on to list many of the benefits we’ve come to appreciate about coffee: increased blood flow to the brain; lower risk of Parkinson’s Disease; protection against heart attacks and stroke; reduced risk of gallstones, arthritis, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver; and protection against colon and rectal cancers. The caveat, however, is that green tea, which is unfermented tea, is a much healthier beverage than black tea. Black tea has undergone a process of fermenting which robs it of some of the healthy nutrition inherent in the tea plant. Because green tea has many antioxidants and flavenols, and is minimally processed, Kilham concludes that it is healthier than coffee.

Another reason he implies is that green tea has flavenols (a type of flavenoid) not found in coffee which helps to burn fat, among other things. None of this evidence is conclusive, of course. It is only to show that more and more, researchers are identifying compounds and nutrients in coffee and green tea that are associated with certain health benefits. Since both coffee and green tea contain the important category of nutrients called antioxidants, one may really have no advantage over the other. Kilham failed to fully explain why green tea should be called healthier, though finding out more about its special favenols would be helpful. It IS interesting to note that besides green tea, chocolate has some of the critical flavenols missing from coffee. It’s very possible that the solution for coffee lovers is to be sure to include dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) in their daily diet. It remains to be studied, but what can it hurt? Brew on, antioxidant –full.

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