The other day I was talking to another trainer friend of mine about the psychoactive effects of coffee and tea. Both contain caffeine and have a stimulant effect on the brain, however the effect that comes from tea is like being gently encouraged to do something by your gramma, while coffee is like being kicked in the butt by a trainer at a 6am workout..
After that conversation, I of course had to do some reading on tea and how it affects the mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love coffee and I believe it to be healthy. In fact, I tend to call it my all-time favorite “health drink.” It’s all the crap that people add to it that is unhealthy. However, coffee does definitely have a downside for me. It tends to give me a nice and strong energy boost, but I believe it sometimes prevents me from getting much done because the “wired” feeling can cause my brain to wander. This excessive stimulant effect of coffee can make me spend a lot of time on unproductive tasks like checking e-mails, hanging on Facebook, reading pointless news stories, etc. It turns out that tea has less caffeine than coffee, but also three stimulant substances that may provide some sort of synergistic effect.
Caffeine is the world’s most widely used psychoactive substance. That sounds like a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Coffee, the biggest source of caffeine, also happens to be the biggest source of antioxidants in the western diet, and consuming it has been associated with various health benefits. The second largest source of caffeine worldwide is tea.
In one study, researchers looked at the antioxidant content of different foods by serving size.
Coffee ranked eleventh on the list, after several different types of berries. Let’s face it though, very few people eat large amounts of berries, but drinking several cups of coffee per day is common. For this reason, the total amount of antioxidants provided by coffee far outweighs the amounts in berries, even though berries may contain greater amounts per serving.
In Norwegian and Finnish studies, coffee was shown to be the single biggest antioxidant source, providing about 64% of the daily total antioxidant intake. In this study, the average coffee intake was 450–600 ml/day, or 2–4 cups. Additionally, studies from Spain, Japan, Poland and France all concluded that coffee is by far the biggest source of antioxidants in the diet.
Drinking coffee has been associated with a reduced risk of many diseases.
For example, coffee drinkers have a 23-50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Each daily cup of coffee is linked to a 7% lower risk.
Drinking coffee also seems to be very beneficial for the liver, with coffee drinkers having a much lower risk of liver cirrhosis.
Coffee may also lower the risk of liver and colorectal cancer, and several studies have shown a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
Consuming coffee on a regular basis may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease by 32–65%.
Some studies have shown that coffee may also benefit mental health. Women who drink coffee are less likely to become depressed and commit suicide.
Above all, drinking coffee has been linked to a longer lifespan and up to a 20–30% lower risk of premature death.
However, keep in mind that most of these studies are observational. They cannot prove that coffee caused the reduction in disease risk, only that coffee drinkers were less likely to get these diseases.
There are many types of dietary antioxidants, and coffee is a very good source of some of them.
However, it does not contain the same antioxidants as whole plant foods like fruits and vegetables. For optimal health, it is best to get a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant compounds from many different sources. So while coffee may be the biggest source of antioxidants in the diet, it should never be relied on as the only source of antioxidants.