When you wake up in the morning, the first thing on your mind is likely to be about getting a much-needed caffeine boost in the form of a cup of coffee or tea. It’s such a habit for so many people that we tend not to think about it. But are your hot drink habits actually good for your health?
There are a lot of different facts flying around about various drinks. You might have heard that coffee is good for your liver, or bad for your heart. You’ve probably spotted plenty of claims about green tea talking about antioxidants or something similar, but what do they actually mean?
Well, we can cut through the mythology for you and let you know in simple terms which hot drink you should be preparing for yourself in the morning. Here is your guide to how healthy these beverages actually are:
While this is one of the most popular drinks in the world, the actual health benefits are unclear. There have been a lot of studies that suggest a link between coffee consumption and lower risk of liver disease, some cancers, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, but none of them are conclusive enough to really prove this is the case.
What is known is that coffee – especially freshly-ground beans – contains a high level of antioxidants. These chemicals prevent damage to your cells, so it’s generally a good idea to eat and drink a lot of them. However, coffee is also a diuretic, meaning it causes the body to produce urine faster.
This can lead to dehydration, as your body expels water faster than it should. With lots of people drinking coffee instead of water, this is becoming more of a problem. Ideally, if you can’t go without coffee, you should try to limit yourself to four cups a day maximum. Drink plenty of water in between, and avoid anything with too much sugar, milk or cream added to it.
There are loads of different varieties of tea, but the most common is black tea. This is what most people think of as ordinary tea, but also covers varieties such as Assam, Earl Grey and Darjeeling. There aren’t really any health risks associated with drinking this variety of tea, but are there any benefits?
First of all, tea is also high in antioxidants. This is more the case for green teas – we’ll get to them later – but black teas are still a good source of these chemicals. There have also been studies that suggest drinking two to three cups of black tea per day can reduce your chances of developing dementia by 50 per cent.
Not much else is certain about this beverage, but it’s thought that it can also help to prevent strokes. Tea contains a chemical called theanine, which is thought to be the reason for its brain-protecting abilities. There have even been studies suggesting that drinking tea can protect your lungs from the effects of smoking, although that doesn’t mean you should reach for the cigarettes!
This drink is made from the same leaves as black tea, but it isn’t as heavily processed. Black tea leaves are fermented, which strips them of some of their health benefits, whereas green tea leaves are simply steamed. This means they have much higher concentrations of antioxidants, especially one chemical known as ECGC.
This is thought to protect against a variety of different cancers, including lung, breast, stomach and pancreatic cancers. It’s also thought to have a positive effect on fat burning, and can help reduce cholesterol levels and prevent your arteries from getting clogged.
Green tea also contains higher levels of theanine than black tea, meaning it has even more of a positive effect on the brain. This includes protecting against strokes, dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s clear that this is one of the healthiest hot beverages around, as long as you don’t saturate it with sugar.