Myth: Tea and coffee are dehydrating.
Everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages such as tea and coffee dehydrate, but it’s an urban legend. Seriously high amounts of caffeine are needed before you lose more water than you drink in your cup of tea or coffee. Even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make (and drink), you would still have a net gain of fluid. So the good news is that enjoying tea and coffee in moderation does contribute to your daily fluid quota. Dehydration is more likely if caffeine is taken in tablet form.
What’s moderation? For tea it’s around 3–4 cups a day. For coffee it’s around 2–3 cups of brewed coffee; if you have high blood pressure, cut that back to 1–2 cups. The key thing with coffee is to resist temptation to upsize. Use a regular cup and order regular-sized servings. If you make your own, use the single shot function on your espresso machine. Pregnant women and older children should try to stick to one to two cups of weak coffee or tea a day.
With tea and coffee watch the extras – the milk, sugar and biscuits or cake! Opt for low-fat milk and if you need the drink sweetened, add a little sugar, gradually using less – you may find you even prefer it without after a while.
Key info Tea and coffee are a source of essential fluids, as well as protective antioxidants that help look after heart and blood vessels. They are also social drinks that bring us together and
help us take time out. It makes sense to avoid caffeine drinks at night if you have trouble sleeping.
Long story short For good health you should drink plenty of water, but tea and coffee (in moderation) do count toward your total daily fluid intake. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea and coffee replace fluids and contain antioxidants, so they’ve got two things going for them.
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist and author of Food Myths available in bookshops and online and from www.greatideas.net.au