Just for fun today, let’s examine the nutritional benefits of two deliciously sweet beverages.
The more common of these two is the drink which has been imbibed since the 19th century: Coca-Cola! And in the other corner, we have a newer phenomenon (at least, in the form we will examine): Chai Latte!
This is probably not a real comparison, for the general population. But in the Campbell home, this is very real. The first beverage is a favorite of the household matriarch, and the latter is the dessert-like beverage of choice of this author.
Actually, I also used to drink all varieties of pop. When I was a kid, into my very early twenties, I would drink any kind of pop, and lots of it! But one week in 1996, when I was spending a week providing music at a church camp and feeling really sick while doing so, I decided to flush out my system by only drinking water all that week. I did, and never stopped. It’s been seventeen years since I last drank the bubbly stuff! (Except for that time someone tricked me into drinking the punch at that party…!)
I still drink mostly water, but you’ll also find me consuming all varieties of teas, as well as yerba mate with great regularity. And then on occasion, I enjoy chai latte—especially the Tazo brand chai served at Starbucks.
I do not enjoy soda pop. (See how I did that? I used both words to be sure to offend everyone.) 🙂 But Jen does, and some of the kids do. And so there are sometimes quarrels over whether or not I want the kids to drink the stuff, and sometimes Jen will bring up the fact that I enjoy a sweet drink (chai), too … how is that different?
Well, I was curious. How is it different?
The short answer (so you can stop reading if you are not finding yourself to be as curious as me): it’s not that different.
But, here are the details.
Introduced in the 1880s, Coke has obviously been a worldwide favorite for many decades. It is a little different in other countries as, for some reason, the United States allows bad dyes and high-fructose corn syrup to be used in our drinks, but the flavor and “secret” recipe is mostly the same everywhere you go.
There aren’t really any benefits to drinking a Coke. One article labeled it “liquid candy”. A 12-oz can of Coca-Cola provides 140 calories, including 39 grams of sugar. But not cane sugar—high-fructose corn syrup sugars. (If you’d like, there’s more to read here about why that is bad.)
There is less caffeine in a Coke (34mg) than a Chai Latte (75mg) of the same size, but a small amount of caffeine per day is more than acceptable for most people. It’s generally around 300mg.
Bottom line on Coke: no real health benefits, only high sugar content (and the wrong kind), which can lead to obesity and even diabetes.
Chai Tea Latte
Now, the interesting thing about chai is that it is very natural; tea and spices. This gives it some natural health benefits, but there are detriments added as well. (Sugar being the primary.)
Dating back 5,000 years to India and Siam, chai is a blend of tea leaves and spices. There are too many health benefits to list here, but some include “increased attention and focus (Theanine), cardiovascular health, protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and [possibly even has] the potential to alter cancer genetics.” This page offers a much fuller list of what health benefit each of the spices used in chai provide.
There are more calories in a 12oz cup of chai (180) than in a can of coke (140), but in addition to the health benefits of the tea and spices mentioned above, chai also largely consists of milk. One of the detractors most people mention for heavy pop drinkers is that they are often replacing milk, and thus depriving their bodies of needed calcium, leading to osteoporosis later in life (predominantly in women).
Though there is plenty of sugar in a chai latte (41g), it’s not the corn syrup variety, and you’re also getting “8 percent of your vitamin A, 25 percent of your calcium and 2 percent of your iron daily needs.” (source)
Bottom line on chai tea latte: More sugar per 12oz, and more caffeine than coke, but also actual nutrition—things our body needs (hidden under yummy sugar with a caffeine kick!)
I think any person, when applying any amount of logic and reason can look at the facts laid out above and come to the correct, obvious conclusion regarding which highly-sugary drink is better for your health (and which is worse). The same objectivity could be applied to reach a similar conclusion regarding which drink tastes better. This clear victor would then be the obvious sweet, dessert-like beverage of choice for everyone who is able to draw this conclusion, right?
Yeah, probably not. 🙂
Now go grab your favorite drink and enjoy! Just don’t drink too much of any of it, and we’ll all be fine.
- Caffeine in the diet – NY Times
- Criticism of Coca-Cola, Health Effects – Wikipedia
- Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming America’s Health
- The Health Hazards of Drinking Coca Cola and Other Soft Drinks
- STARBUCK’S CHAI TEA LATTE NUTRITION FACTS – LiveStrong.com
- WHAT ARE BENEFITS OF DRINKING COKE? – LiveStrong.com
- 10 Things You Should Know About Chai
- Chai Tea History and Traditions