Coffee gets a bad rap, charged with causing a host of health ailments from dehydration and energy crashes to heart disease and cancer. Many diet programs urge caffeine junkies to drink tea instead of coffee as a presumably healthier pick-me-up, but, as it turns out, most of coffee's health drawbacks are mere myths, and a cup of daily joe may be better for you than tea.
Coffee contains more caffeine than tea – but that's part of its appeal. Caffeine has been widely shown to enhance alertness and improve athletic performance. Coffee in particular may also slow the cognitive decline of aging and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. But to reap these benefits, you need to consume 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily. An eight-ounce cup of green or black tea contains about 30 or 70 milligrams of caffeine, respectively, while coffee packs in 80 to 160 milligrams. So while you'd need at least five cups of green tea, or three cups of black, you could be good to go at fewer than two cups of coffee. Just don't exceed 550 milligrams daily, or about 3.5 cups. Coffee also beats tea in its antioxidant tally.
"A typical cup of coffee – a medium roast from a standard bean – is higher in certain antioxidants than green or black tea," says Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at the University of California at Davis. Two or three cups of coffee deliver about 1,200 milligrams of polyphenols, strong plant antioxidants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Finally, recent research suggests that coffee may stave off Alzheimer's more effectively than other caffeine sources, including tea. Scientists determined that caffeine interacts with a mystery compound in coffee that helps improve the memory of mice bred to develop Alzheimer's-like symptoms.