It’s tea time! Are you a tea drinker? If so, just like the many millions of people around the world who drink tea every day, then you may have heard about the potential health benefits that come with those leaves. While tea does seem to have some awesome properties, is there enough science to back up these claims? In this blog post we’ll explore how drinking tea can affect our health, and whether or not we should be brewing up a pot for medicinal purposes.
Possible Health Benefits
Firstly, let’s look at some of the pros. Tea has been a popular drink for thousands of years in China and Japan due to its potentially medicinal properties. According to different research, there could be some purported health benefits of tea that include reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, maintaining the elasticity of blood vessel linings, improving overall blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar control. All of these possible benefits play a role in reducing our risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. However, current findings are still quite mixed and unclear, so it seems that more research is needed to validate these suggested claims.
What’s so special about tea?
You may be wondering if there’s some secret ingredient in tea that provides all these advantages. Well, the answer may actually be yes! The possible benefits are believed to be related to the polyphenols that are naturally found in tea. Polyphenols are antioxidants, and might act in our body to reduce inflammation and our risk of some chronic disease.
Types of Teas
Now, not all teas have the same proportions of these health-promoting compounds. Green, black, and oolong teas are actually made from leaves of the same plant species, but are processed in different ways.
More processed = less antioxidants Processing tea will decrease its antioxidant properties. For that reason, your powdered and decaffeinated teas might be lower in antioxidants than the natural ones. Opt for teas that are less processed to obtain more of those antioxidants.
Some people with health conditions may need to watch their tea intake. For example, tea can play a role in the development of kidney stones.
Some people like tea for the boost in mental alertness that comes from caffeine. Found in both green and black teas, caffeine can also cause a variety of side effects in individuals, so the general recommendation is not to consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. Too much caffeine can make you feel restless or jittery and can also affect your sleep. Some other side effects include loose stools, nausea, dizziness, sore muscles, or stomach aches. In addition, caffeine can interact with certain medications, so be careful about what you take. Caffeine may also trigger heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux, and heart palpitations.
A small number of people have experienced a link between liver problems and concentrated green tea extracts. It’s recommended to only take green tea extract supplements with food, and to stop taking them if any liver issues, like jaundice, dark urine, or abdominal pain, are developed.
Speak to your doctor if you experience any of these, or have a liver disorder already.
Consult with your doctor if drinking tea is a concern for you.
Watch the Temperature
Some research has found that drinking tea that’s too hot (over 130°F or so) may lead to a higher risk of cancer in the esophagus and stomach. Let it cool down a tad before you start sipping!
Tea naturally has very minimal calories, so you can rest easy if you wish to include tea as part of a healthy diet. However, keep in mind that it’s best to avoid or limit adding extra calories to your cup with sugar, half and half, or whole milk.
If you do prefer milk in your tea, make sure to choose the low-fat or fat-free kind. Be sure to also watch out for bottled teas, which can contain high levels of added sugar! You can check the Nutrition Facts Label to make a healthy choice.
Brewing the Perfect Cup
Depending on the brew, different teas have slightly different suggested brewing instructions. Oolong and black teas should be brewed for 4 to 5 minutes in water that is at about 210°F. Green tea meanwhile takes a little longer, around 4 to15 minutes, at a slightly lower water temp of around 180°F.
While tea is not necessarily proven to be the magic medicine for a healthy heart, you can certainly enjoy it as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
We still need more scientific evidence to prove that tea is actually beneficial for particular areas of our health, so there are no recommendations yet on how much tea should be consumed daily. If you don’t usually drink tea, there’s no need to start just to improve your health. If you’re already an avid tea drinker, then continue to enjoy it in moderation.
Keep in mind that being healthy is about so much more than focusing on just one thing, like tea. It’s important to strive to follow an overall healthy eating pattern with a balance of different nutrients, in addition to getting in that regular physical activity.
Liz is passionate about helping people improve their health and wellness through lifestyle and nutrition changes, and she is especially interested in diabetes prevention and management. Liz enjoys working with clients to find individualized strategies to improve their health in ways that last. Outside of work, you will likely find her rock climbing, biking, or spending time with her family.
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