December 15 is celebrated as World Tea Day but to all Indians, no morning is complete without the quintessential ‘Chai’. Tea is one of the oldest beverages in the world with records dating back to 2737 BC. Its charm has only magnified over the ages as it still remains one of the most popular and widely consumed drinks in the world. So, apart from tugging your heart strings and making sure the world makes sense again, does tea have any other health benefits? Studies suggest that tea might actually be a super health beverage when consumed in the right manner and dosage depending on the type of tea.
You can read my kadha recipe towards the end, but first, here are some tea health benefits.
Green tea is generally processed by raw tea leaves and roasting it on a pan, making it stay close to its natural form. Green tea is exceptionally high in flavonoids which play a key role in maintaining heart health by lowering bad cholesterol and reducing blood clotting. Further studies have also shown that this type of tea can also help lower blood pressure, triglycerides and total cholesterol. This tea variety has also shown to be anti-inflammatory and aids in metabolism and weight loss.
This variety of tea is most consumed around the world and is made by drying and fermenting tea leaves thereby imparting a stronger and richer flavour. A cup of black tea has several benefits such as being packed with flavonoids that combat inflammation and support healthy immune function.
Oolong tea is a partially processed tea. Green tea is not allowed to oxidize much, but black tea is allowed to oxidize until it turns black. Oolong tea is a compromise between black and green tea. This partial oxidation is responsible for oolong tea’s colour and characteristic taste. Oolong tea is notable for containing l-theanine, an amino acid that reduces anxiety and increases alertness and attention. Scientists have found that l-theanine can help prevent cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Drinking Tea is Good For Your Health
While teas have been linked with a number of health benefits, some of the key health advantages of drinking tea are outlined below:
- Boosts Metabolism
Black, oolong, and green tea's polyphenols all have been shown to increase calorie expenditure and reduce body fat. A number of studies have also demonstrated that those who consumed two to six cups of green tea a day for longer than 12 weeks had lower body fat and body weight than subjects who did not.
- Reduces Inflammation
In recent years, the scientific community has discovered that inflammation is a precursor to most chronic diseases including diabetes and cognitive degeneration. All types of tea with green tea in particular, are rich in antioxidant polyphenols which is highly effective in combatting inflammation. In fact, studies have shown that antioxidants in green tea is 100 times more potent than antioxidants in vitamin C.
Green tea may help reduce complications from diabetes. Research shows tea can improve insulin sensitivity, protect pancreatic cells from further damage, and decrease inflammation, all benefiting those at risk for or already diagnosed with diabetes.
- Mental Health
Regular tea consumption has been linked to lower risk of neurological disease and decreased stress levels and may lower the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. The combination of caffeine and L-theanine in tea has been shown to improve reaction time, visual processing, memory, and concentration.
- Gut Health
Drinking tea is a great way to boost your gut health and digestion. Research shows that tea's polyphenols can beneficially modify gut bacteria. This can lead to a host of positive health effects like reduced carbohydrate absorption, improved blood sugar levels, and weight loss.
Kadha - The Ultimate Tea Concoction
While the inimitable ‘chai’ especially on winter mornings will always have a special place in our hearts, our Dadi and Nani’s ‘Kadha’ is every bit of the magical health potion as heralded by generations. Kadha is a mixture of herbs and spices boiled in water for about 7-10 minutes. Lemon juice and honey/jaggery are added, mixed and this herb and spice mixture or tea is a remedy for colds, flus and coughs. It also aids in boosting immunity and weight loss when combined with apple cider vinegar. In order to reap maximum benefits, this should be had on an empty stomach about 20 minutes after waking up.
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons of ginger
- ½ inch piece of cinnamon
- 4-5 cloves
- 4-5 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon green tea/black tea/herbal tea
- 2 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Optional (yet highly recommended ingredients)
- Fresh turmeric or turmeric powder
- Tulsi leaves/ holy basil
- Mint leaves
- Ajwain seeds/ carom seeds/bishop’s weed/ajmo
- Dry roast all the spices in a saucepan till fragrant and then add ginger and other herbs
- Then add water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer with the lid on for about 3-4 minutes
- Stir in tea leaves and remove from heat. Brew with lid on for 5 minutes.
- Strain and pour in a cup. Add lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and honey or jaggery as per taste.
(The author is a lawyer turned business intelligence consultant turned chef. He also designs weekly and monthly meal plans for clients and conducts baking and cooking workshops.)