If you’re a “But first, coffee” kind of person, you probably can’t imagine giving up your daily cup (or cups) o’ joe. And some green tea drinkers wouldn’t even toy with the idea of swapping their jewel-toned matcha for a cup of coffee.
But if you’ve ever considered switching teams, here’s what you need to know about green tea vs. coffee.
Is green tea better than coffee?
In terms of your health, there isn’t one clear winner. Even though there are some major differences between the two, green tea and coffee both provide antioxidants and may offer protection from certain health conditions.
But you may still find a favorite depending on your taste preferences and caffeine tolerance. Coffee contains about three times more caffeine than green tea.
Both sips come with some pretty impressive benefits for your health (and your happiness). Here’s what each has to offer.
Coffee has more caffeine
If you’re a caffeine fiend, coffee may be a better choice. Here’s how much caffeine is in 1 cup of each drink:
But more caffeine isn’t always better. Research suggests that some peeps are more sensitive to caffeine than others. That’s because of genetic variations in enzymes that break down caffeine. It’s also thanks to some receptors in your body that caffeine targets.
If you’ve found that you’re sensitive to caffeine but still crave the energy boost it gives you, you may want to make the switch from coffee to something lower in caffeine (like green tea).
Green tea and coffee are both full of antioxidants
Coffee is rich in phenolic antioxidants
Roasted coffee is a complex mixture that contains more than 1,000 bioactive compounds. Lots of these compounds have antioxidant effects.
Fun fact: Coffee is one of the main contributors of dietary antioxidants in many people’s diets.
Yup. It’s packed with compounds that have powerful antioxidant properties, especially phenolic antioxidants (like chlorogenic acid, plus diterpenes like kahweol and cafestol).
Green tea has lots of polyphenol antioxidants
Green tea shines in the antioxidant department as well.
Like coffee, green tea is high in polyphenol antioxidants. Catechins and flavonols are the major polyphenols in green tea. The flavonols found in green tea include myricetin, quercetin, caempherol, chlorogenic acid, coumarylquinic acid, and theogallin.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a catechin and is one of the most well-known antioxidants in green tea. It has been linked to all sorts of health benefits, including anticancer, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory effects.
Bonus: The caffeine in coffee and green tea has antioxidant effects as well.
Both drinks can lower your risk of disease
If you’re concerned that your favorite drink is harming your health, don’t worry. Green tea and coffee have been linked to a bunch of health benefits, and both can be part of a healthy diet.
A note on sweeteners
Before we get into the health benefits of these popular drinks, it’s important to clarify that we’re talking about the benefits of plain green tea and coffee. These perks may not apply if you’re sipping a prepared drink that’s got lots of added sugar or extra ingredients.
The coffee lovers out there will be happy to know that regularly drinking coffee has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, liver conditions, diabetes, and even death from all causes.
In fact, a large 2017 research review found that the largest reduction in risk of death from all causes, heart disease-related death, and heart disease was associated with drinking 3 to 4 cups of coffee per day (when compared with drinking none).
But don’t write off green tea just yet. It can hang too. Studies suggest that drinking green tea can help maintain healthy blood pressure and may help lower the risk of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Green tea also contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has calming and anti-stress properties.
Just keep in mind that it would take *a lot* of green tea to get this effect. A cup of green tea contains about 25 milligrams of L-theanine. That’s much less than the 200-milligram doses that have been found effective.
Matcha may get you closer. This is a specific type of green tea that’s made from a powder and contains about two times more L-theanine than sencha, another type of green tea.
Sipping on some matcha still won’t have the same effects as taking concentrated L-theanine supplements, but it may help.
Both coffee and green tea have potential health benefits. In most cases, you probably don’t need to choose between the two. You can have both!
Green tea is great if you want less caffeine
If you’re sensitive to caffeine or find that you feel jittery or anxious after drinking coffee, switching to green tea or decaf herbal tea is probably a good idea. Remember, although green tea does contain caffeine, it provides about three times less caffeine than the same amount of coffee.
On the flip side, if you need a caffeine boost or want to use caffeinated beverages to boost athletic performance before a workout, coffee may be the better choice.
However, you can overdo it on caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to sleep issues, restlessness, and other negative effects, even if you’re not super sensitive to it.
Coffee and green tea both have health benefits
A great way to both cut back on caffeine and add more antioxidants and other beneficial compounds to your diet is to have a cup of coffee in the morning and then enjoy a cup of lightly caffeinated green tea in the afternoon.
Coffee and green tea have plenty of health perks on their own. But mixing them with other ingredients (like added sugar) might cancel out those positive effects.
Try to avoid lots of added sugar
If you’re getting your coffee or green tea from a coffee or tea shop, you should be aware that, even though your iced pineapple matcha or white chocolate mocha may be fancy and delish AF, these drinks can be PACKED with calories and added sugar.
- A large iced matcha latte from Dunkin made with whole milk packs 340 calories and 25 grams of added sugar. That’s like having 6.25 teaspoons of the sweet stuff.
- A Dunkin large skim milk Caramel Craze latte has 440 calories and a whopping 51 grams of added sugar. That’s almost 13 teaspoons of sugar.
Plus, drinking sugary drinks can take a serious toll on your teeth and gums.
By making your coffee or green tea drink at home (whenever possible), you can be in charge of what goes into it.
And whether you’re ordering out or making a drink at home, it’s best not to use lots of add-ins (like flavored syrups and creamers).
Even though both coffee and green tea may provide health benefits, it’s important to drink responsibly. Consuming too much caffeine from any source isn’t good for your health.
Healthy adults should keep caffeine intake to less than 400 milligrams per day. That’s about 4 cups of coffee or 13 cups of green tea. Pregnant and breastfeeding folks should keep their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day.
Caffeine can make anxiety and symptoms of certain mental health conditions worse. So if you have anxiety or notice that caffeine increases symptoms of a mental health condition, it’s best to cut back on caffeinated beverages like coffee and green tea.
Caffeine can also cause headaches and heart palpitations in some folks. If you’re experiencing these symptoms and think it may be related to caffeine, talk with a healthcare professional.
Too much caffeine can negatively affect your sleep too. Getting too little sleep isn’t good for your overall health and tends to generally make you feel like crap. To avoid sleep-related side effects, experts recommend calling it quits on caffeine 6 hours before bed.
Coffee and green tea can both provide a boost of energy and a dose of antioxidants. Plus, these sips may even protect against certain health conditions.
Coffee has more caffeine and provides some different beneficial compounds, but one of these drinks isn’t necessarily “better” than the other. The choice is up to you when it comes to green tea vs. coffee… and feel free to choose both!