You may be chugging trendy bone broths and tasty nut milks in your quest for better health. But one well-known drink, cultivated for millennia, also deserves a place in your health regimen: tea. Just like fruits and vegetables, teas from the Camellia sinensis plant are loaded with micronutrients—so much so that some teas are sold in the supplements aisle as well as on the beverage shelf. Discover some benefits of tea and what makes a tea a supplement versus a beverage in this article.
Just going through the ritual of preparing tea can help you unwind. Even better, tea compound L-theanine promotes relaxation and can help you sleep by supporting calming brain chemicals and reducing chemicals linked to stress. And it does this without making you groggy, says Michael J. Breus, PhD, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health (Dutton, 2006).
Boost brain health
Some scientists are pinning hopes on tea as a way to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2017, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario reported that green tea may interfere with the formation of beta-amyloid peptides, “one of the prime suspects in the early … molecular cascade that leads to cognitive decline.”
Protect against cancer
Numerous studies link green tea consumption to the prevention of many cancers, including lung, colon, stomach and breast cancer. Several epidemiological studies and clinical trials show that green teas (and, to a lesser extent, black and oolong teas) may reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, too.
Drinking tea may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, in which your body stops reacting effectively to the hormone insulin. In a 2012 study of 26,000 people in Europe, published in PLOS One, researchers found that people who drank at least four cups of tea daily showed a 16 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-tea drinkers.
Ward off heart disease
Keeping your heart strong may be where tea’s benefits shine most brightly. According to a 2017 American Journal of Medicine report that looked at 6,500 ethnically diverse people, being a moderate tea drinker—just one cup or more a day—may help prevent the development of coronary artery calcium (which indicates plaque deposits) and decrease your chances of damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack or another cardiovascular event.
Drink vs. Supp
You’ll find leaf teas in the beverage aisle, but tea may appear in the supplements section, too. What makes tea qualified to be in the supplement category? Here are the facts.
Tea is an optimal health drink, says Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, nutrition professor and senior scientist in Tufts University’s Antioxidants Research Laboratory, because it has no calories and offers abundant polyphenols, plant compounds such as catechins that offer protective or disease-preventing properties. And even at fairly high doses—six to seven cups daily—there’s no evidence of negative effects.
Herbal teas with ingredients such as slippery elm and ginger qualify as “an herb or other botanical” supplement, according to federal guidelines. Camellia sinensis teas may qualify as a dietary supplement when combined with herbal botanicals or when sold in extract form and labeled as such.
“Supplements Facts panels [on tea] allow companies to get more specific; they can list the ingredient source here,” says Todd Runestad, Delicious Living’s supplements editor. “They [also] need to include the plant part from which an ingredient is derived. With Nutrition Facts panels, companies have to list the Daily Value for an ingredient, but not so for Supplements Facts panels.” Without FDA approval, tea supplement labels can’t claim it affects any disease—but can make “structure/function” claims about how a nutrient may affect the body.
Prefer a pill? Green tea extract (GTE) delivers up to 700 mg of catechins per pill, compared to 50–150 mg in the average cup. Too much GTE can potentially cause liver damage, so as usual, consult your doctor before starting any new supplement.
Article copyright 2018 by Delicious Living and Stephenie Overman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Betsy’s Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure any condition or disease. Consult your healthcare provider before beginning any supplement, especially if you have a medical condition or take medications, even over-the-counter medications. For example, green tea can thin blood and many herbs are contraindicated with medications and medical conditions.