Both drinks have their benefits, so here’s what to expect if you want to cut back on coffee.
Your teeth might get brighter
Coffee is notorious for staining teeth, so switching to tea could make your smile brighter, especially if you stick with white or green tea. “Your teeth won’t get stained as much, which people often don’t think about,” says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, CLT, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.
You could lower your cholesterol
Drip coffee removes compounds called cafestol and kahweol, but unfiltered coffee, like French pressed coffee or espresso, retains them. Those compounds may increase “bad” LDL cholesterol, which could up your risk of heart attack and stroke. “A lot of people drink unfiltered coffee because they don’t think of espresso as unfiltered,” says Angelone. Swap out those coffee drinks for tea, though, and your cholesterol may improve.
You might get headaches
Depending on how sensitive your body is to changes and how much caffeine you’re used to getting, you could feel withdrawal symptoms if you cut down during your switch from coffee to tea. “It usually happens when you have a significant change like cutting it out, but it could happen as well if you just cut down,” says Angelone. After your body gets used to the change, though, those symptoms will go away.
Your heartburn might get better
Coffee can relax the band of muscle between your esophagus and stomach. When that space opens, stomach acid could splash back up and cause acid reflux. “You may be better off having tea, even if it has a little caffeine,” says Angelone. “There’s something in coffee, but we don’t know what it is. For some people that tend to have heartburn, coffee could make it worse—even decaf.”
You’ll probably get better sleep
Because coffee has more caffeine than tea does, you could find that you sleep better at night with less of the stimulant. “It might help you sleep better if you’re getting less caffeine, because caffeine can contribute to restlessness and insomnia,” says Angelone.
You could feel less on edge
If you regularly drink more than three or four cups of coffee a day, you could be over-stimulating your body. “Sometimes, especially people sensitive to caffeine, they can be jittery and irritable if they have too much caffeine—and that’s stressful,” says Angelone. “Too much is bad, and just the right amount is good.” Because there’s less caffeine per cup in tea, though, you’re less likely to go overboard.
You might raise your risk of diabetes
Numerous studies have shown that coffee could prevent type 2 diabetes, but scientists haven’t pinned down why. Some think it’s because coffee increases proteins that carry sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, which help reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, while others say it’s because coffee increases insulin sensitivity. “Observational types of studies don’t always come up with a reason. They just say we see it,” says Angelone. “But when they continue to show the same things, it’s a good sign.” Regardless, you probably won’t get that same level of prevention from tea, she says.
You could avoid muscle cramps
Too much coffee in your system could make it hard for your body to absorb magnesium, even though coffee contains small amounts of the mineral. “If you drink a lot of coffee and don’t get enough magnesium—which most people don’t—it would look like muscle cramps and trouble sleeping, which could be from caffeine or not enough magnesium,” says Angelone. Some drugs, such as proton pump inhibitors, can decrease magnesium levels too, so pairing them with coffee could make levels go down even more. By switching to tea, though, you can avoid the effects.
Your mood might change
It could be from the caffeine, or it could be from the socializing people do when sipping a cup of joe, but studies have shown coffee can improve mood and lower risk of depression. One Harvard study even found that adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee a day had about half the risk of suicide as those who drank little or no coffee. Making the switch to tea could make you lose out on those benefits. “Even if it were the caffeine, it would mean you’d need twice as much tea,” says Angelone.
You could lower your risk of cancer
Studies have linked coffee consumption with a lower risk of liver and colon cancer, but tea doesn’t stop there—research has linked it to a lower risk of those cancers, plus stomach, pancreas, breast, and more, though studies haven’t been conclusive. “The key difference between coffee and tea is tea has a very potent antioxidant called ECGC,” says Angelone. Coffee and tea both have antioxidants, but green tea is particularly high in ECGC, which could help fight highly reactive molecules called free radicals that play a role in cancer development.
You’ll be better hydrated
Despite what you may have heard about caffeine as a diuretic, coffee helps keep you hydrated. Your body still holds about a third of the liquid in a cup of coffee, which isn’t much less than the half-cup would hold from an 8-ounce glass of water. Still, tea’s lower caffeine content could make it a bit better for hydration, helping your whole body feel better. “You don’t tend to get dizzy. Your skin looks better when you’re better hydrated, and your whole body functions better,” says Angelone. “It basically detoxifies the blood.”