Most people have a preference when it comes to their morning caffeinated beverage. Coffee is naturally higher in caffeine content than tea which can be very beneficial to your daily productivity, but many people worry that too much caffeine could affect their health. Tea is an ancient beverage that is making a comeback here in the United States as many coffee-addicted adults try to watch their caffeine levels. Is the concern about caffeine levels a valid one? Beyond caffeine levels, which beverage boasts more health benefits? Or is there such a thing as “too much” coffee or tea? First let’s examine the facts.

On average, a freshly brewed cup of coffee contains about 150 mg of caffeine.  A cup of plain black tea contains between 45 and 55 mg of caffeine. Green tea weighs in with around 25 mg per cup. But these numbers shouldn’t discourage coffee drinkers from brewing a fresh cup in the A.M. There are a number of positive effects caffeine can have on the body when consumed in moderation. For instance, caffeine can have a positive effect on calorie burn when consumed before exercise. It also helps people with asthma because it relaxes the lung airways. Caffeine also constricts the blood vessels in the brain, so the next time you feel a migraine coming on,you might reach for a cup of coffee (of course, I’d check with your doc first as this is in no way medical advice!). In addition to the benefits from all the caffeine, research on coffee shows that consuming the beverage daily may reduce the incidence of dementia and type 2 diabetes. However, some of the studies have contradictory counterparts so more research is needed before coffee lovers can claim any serious health benefits.

Tea on the other hand boasts some benefits to brag about. Tea contains antioxidant substances called polyphenol compounds which may aid in preventing cancer. Levels of this compound are highest in green tea which is why green tea seems to get the best reputation in the health world. However, black tea also contains theaflavins and thearubigins which can protect cells from damage.  Whether consuming coffee or tea, fresh brewed varieties are best because the cold, already packaged beverages labeled as “coffee” or “tea” often contain loads of sugar and less of these beneficial components.

Now to the tricky question: how much is too much?

Many studies voice different opinions, but according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is not harmful to consume up to 400 mg of caffeine a day. That’s three cups of coffee or 8 cups of black tea! They also point out that if an individual is looking for a jolt of caffeine, it is much healthier to find their pick-me-up in a cup of black coffee or tea than in a sugary soft drink. The best way to make sure you’re not tipping the caffeine scale is to become familiar with the negative side effects of too much, since everyone’s body is different. If you’re suffering from heart palpitations, anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, or headaches, it may be time to cut back.

Besides the obvious side effects of too much caffeine, both coffee and tea do have one small drawback. Similar to other dark colored beverages, if it can stain your clothes, it can stain your teeth! Repeated consumption of either coffee or tea can make teeth less white or even mildly stained over time. If you have time, brushing your teeth after you’re finished drinking either beverage can help control this effect.

All in all, my research on tea seemed to produce many more scientifically valid studies on it’s health benefits than coffee. However, I was surprised to find that other than possibly affecting your pearly whites, there aren’t any widely known negative effects of gulping java every morning (as long as you don’t drink the whole coffee pot!). So whichever morning motivator you choose, you can sip comfortably and know that you’re not adversely affecting your health. Just remember to skip any sugary, preservative-ridden creamers or sweeteners! Always enjoy your caffeinated beverages in the purest and freshest form available.