Don’t have tea or coffee very close to your meals! Here’s why

a cup of black tea

Are you a tea or a coffee lover, and does your day always start with brewing a cup of your favourite beverage? While tea and coffee may offer a good kickstart to our day, many people also like to enjoy a cuppa before or after their meals. Now that might not be such a great idea. Enjoying a cup of tea or coffee very close to your meals can impact the way your body reacts to the caffeine. It may also affect the way our body absorbs various vitamins and minerals.

Recently, The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued a series of dietary guidelines for Indians, indicating that tea and coffee should not be had right before and after meals.

Why should you not have tea and coffee right before and after meals?

According to the ICMR, tea and coffee should not be enjoyed with a gap of one hour before and after meals. The reason behind this is that excessive consumption of caffeine, present in tea and coffee, can stimulate the nervous system and result in physiological dependence. It can also affect the way our body absorbs iron.

Both tea and coffee, as well as other caffeinated beverages, contain Tannins, compounds that can bind the iron to the stomach. So when we don’t have tea and coffee very close to our meals, we give our bodies a chance to absorb the iron well. This can prevent conditions such as anemia.

Tea and coffee: How much to have

The recommended dosage for tea and coffee, according to the ICMR guidelines is 300 milligrams of caffeine per day. A 150 ml cup of brewed coffee has 80-120mg of caffeine, while instant coffee has 50-60 mg of caffeine. When it comes to tea, 30 to 65mg of caffeine is there per serving. It is important to keep these figures in mind while deciding your preferred beverage.

Black tea is healthier than tea with milk. But it should be enjoyed in moderation as well. Image courtesy: Freepik

Side effects of caffeine in tea and coffee

Caffeine is a natural stimulant and is consumed in tea and coffee, as well as hot chocolate, energy drinks and soft drinks. While moderate consumption can make you more alert, and give relief from fatigue, there is a need to regulate your caffeine intake. From overstimulating the brain to issues such as insomnia and digestive issues, excessive caffeine consumption can be extremely detrimental to your health.

Also read: 5 reasons why quitting caffeine may be good for health

What is the healthiest way to have tea and coffee?

1. Don’t consume tea or coffee on an empty stomach

Tea and coffee contain tannins and these are acidic. If a person is already suffering from acidity, tea and coffee on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, can aggravate the issue. The bitterness of coffee can also trigger the release of acid in the stomach. It can cause heartburn and acid reflux, states this study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

2. Don’t overboil the tea or over brew coffee

Overboiling of tea is highly discouraged as this may lead to contaminants from the tea leaves to transfer to the brew, states this study, published in Food Additives and Contaminants. Where coffee is concerned, over brewing it can lead to the release of bitter chemicals.

3. Don’t have it very close to your bedtime

Both coffee and tea contain a sizeable amount of caffeine, and having a cup very close to your bedtime can interfere with your sleep pattern. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, caffeine should not be had four to six hours before bedtime.

A cup of tea with a kettle
Tea and coffee should not be had close to bedtime as it can hamper sleep. Image courtesy: Freepik

4. Reduce frequency

Keeping the caffeine content in mind, make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended range of caffeine. The FDA recommends 400 mg of caffeine in a day, which is about four to five cups of tea or coffee. However, it all depends on how sensitive your body is to caffeine. Also, if you suffer from some underlying health condition or are pregnant or breastfeeding, then consult your doctor.

5. Switch to black tea and coffee

The ICMR guidelines also state that black tea has a lot of health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease and stomach cancer, as well as improved blood circulation. Black coffee also comes with a host of health benefits such as lower calories, as well as promoting mental awareness and clarity and reducing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. However, these should be enjoyed in moderation as well.


While drinking tea and coffee can go a long way in helping you overcome feelings of fatigue and stress, it is important to drink these beverages at the right time, in the right quantity and right manner. Tea and coffee should not be had to close to meal times, and a gap of one hour should we insured. Besides this, both tea and coffee should not be overbrewed, and over consumption of the beverages can lead to increase in caffeine consumption.



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