Britain's favourite drink - the cup of tea

School Of Nutrition Posted Sep 07, 2016 Future Fit Training


Time for tea: everyone loves a cuppa, but nutritionally speaking which is the best?

Britain's favourite drink - the cup of tea

It is often claimed that tea is good for your health; it is already known that tea contains substances which can help to lower the risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Studies have found that when teas are incorporated into an overall healthy diet, along with a healthy lifestyle, they can impact and improve our overall wellbeing.1

What Does Tea Contain And How Can It Improve My Health?

Most teas naturally contain certain chemical substances such as polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants - this means they can neutralise oxidants, which are harmful when in high levels within our bodies. Elevated levels of oxidants are known to increase the risk of damaged artery walls and cardiovascular disease. Green tea is enriched with polyphenols, as well as black tea - however in lesser amounts than green tea.

Recent research has found that polyphenols can assist in the regulation of blood glucose levels. This information goes in hand with other long term studies which found a link between regular tea drinkers who were less likely to develop diabetes, in contrast to those who drink little to no tea at all.2

Catechins are a natural phenol and antioxidant which can be found in high quantities in green tea. These have been found to inhibit bacterial growth, which can work to directly lower the risk of infections in dental health. This leads to improvements in dental health, a lower risk of caries and a reduction in bad breath.

Green tea also contains the stimulant caffeine, in a lower quantity than coffee but enough to produce a stimulatory response in some people without negative effects. Caffeine can lead to improvement in various brain functions such as quicker reaction times, improved memory and vigilance as well as uplifting our moods.  It also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which can work with caffeine to give better brain function.3

Which Other Health Benefits Would I Get From Drinking Tea?

More research suggests that drinking tea could also be associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This theory works consistently with the fact that regular consumption of tea seems to lower the likeliness of developing diabetes, as diabetes can also contribute to heart disease and stroke.4

Researchers have found that tea is able to increase our stamina when it comes to exercise5. The antioxidants in green tea can increase our ability to burn fat by mobilising fatty acids from fat tissues and making them available for use as energy. This in turn leads to improved muscle endurance. Tea can also assist in weight loss, by boosting our metabolism rate. Green tea has been shown to be particularly effective at reducing abdominal fat.6

One study which took into consideration participant health and medical backgrounds as well as their lifestyles and gender, found that regular tea drinking was associated with a lowered risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.7

Which Tea Is Best For My Health?

It is important to note that when looking for these added health benefits of tea we should stay away from processed tea and chai beverages which can be unnaturally sweetened with artificial sugars. When scientists talk about tea and its health and nutritional benefits, usually they are referring to black, green, white and oolong teas - these are all extracted from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.

Black tea is thought to be the most popular of all the teas and considered to be consumed by around 75% of the world. Green tea on the other hand is the most popular tea in Japan and China; it also has the most abundant levels of polyphenol, which is the key ingredient for the numerous health benefits of tea. This is why green tea is studied by researchers almost five times more regularly than black tea and is highly praised.  

Matcha tea is a kind of green tea also made from the Camellia sinensis plant. To grow matcha, the tea bush needs to be covered around one month before harvest to increase the plants chlorophyll levels for a higher production of amino acids. The leaves of the plant are then stone ground and the tea is created in a powdered, high quality form. Matcha tea is more potent and enriched with caffeine and antioxidants and is thought to be more nutritious than simple green tea. It is estimated that a single cup of matcha is equivalent to three cups of green tea yet the health benefits are thought to be the same.

Drinking a few cups of tea everyday can not only be an excellent way to take a break and relax, it can also greatly benefit and impact your wellbeing and health. It is thought that green tea offers the most nutritional and health benefits in comparison to black, white and oolong teas. Whereas, the potency of beneficial nutrients in one cup of matcha tea, would be equivalent to multiple cups of green tea.

References

  1. Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School: Health benefits linked to drinking tea
  2. Salazar-Martinez, Eduardo, et al. "Coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus." Annals of internal medicine 140.1 (2004): 1-8.
  3. Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School: Caffeine and a healthy diet may boost memory, thinking skills; alcohol's effect uncertain
  4. Kuriyama, Shinichi, et al. "Green tea consumption and mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes in Japan: the Ohsaki study."Jama 296.10 (2006): 1255-1265.
  5. Murase, Takatoshi, et al. "Green tea extract improves endurance capacity and increases muscle lipid oxidation in mice." American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 288.3 (2005): R708-R715.
  6. Maki, Kevin C., et al. "Green tea catechin consumption enhances exercise-induced abdominal fat loss in overweight and obese adults." The Journal of nutrition 139.2 (2009): 264-270.
  7. Hu, Gang, et al. "Coffee and tea consumption and the risk of Parkinson's disease." Movement Disorders 22.15 (2007): 2242-2248.

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