To quote the Mad Hatter (because, to be honest, I’m a little bonkers): “It’s always tea time.” Okay, so maybe not always, but there are some potential health benefits of tea to consider before choosing your next drink. I typically like to enjoy a cup of tea on a chilly afternoon, but we can’t forget one of the most refreshing summertime beverages: iced tea! So pour a glass over ice, find a shady spot to settle in and let’s talk tea.
Tea is the most popular drink in the world other than water. It’s easy to see why - there’s about as many varieties of tea and flavor combinations as the summer days are long. Dating as far back as around 2727 BC, tea has a long and intriguing history in numerous cultures. Initially, China was the only exporter of tea. Tea as well as tea culture spread from there to Japan, Korea and the Middle East in the 9th century. And though we may think that tea is synonymous with England, it didn’t make its way to London until 1657. Use of tea as medicine dates back as far as it’s history, with therapeutic applications being the first recorded uses in China. It later became part of many cultures’ rituals, worship and social gatherings.
There have been a multitude of studies performed on the health benefits of tea over the years looking at a variety of disease states such as cancer, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and arthritis as well as neurological health, bone and dental health, and weight control. Let’s take a look at what the most current research is telling us about some of these areas.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published February 19, 2020 in the journal Advances in Nutrition looked at tea and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).This analysis included 17 studies for CVD mortality, seven studies for cardiovascular events, 13 studies for stroke events and 15 studies for all-cause mortality. Findings suggest that there may be greater risk reduction for CVD, stroke and all-cause mortality as daily tea intake increases. It also found lower CVD mortality in elderly populations with daily tea consumption.
Tea does not naturally contain sugar, making it a desirable option for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Furthermore, tea may have added benefits for these individuals. White tea specifically may help reduce insulin resistance, while green tea may have protective effects against diabetic nephropathy. Tea is also known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may be protective against diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy.
Evidence regarding tea’s role in prevention and reduction of cancer risk remains inconclusive. While many human studies show some potential benefits, there have been mixed results. Not enough evidence is currently available to make health claims at this time. That being said, there does not seem to be any negative effects of drinking tea, so including it as part of a healthy diet, taking into consideration the amount of caffeine that may be appropriate for each individual, is probably not a bad plan!
Since June is National Iced Tea Month, I want to share one of the ways I enjoy tea in the summer: mixed with my favorite warm weather fruit - watermelon! Try this three ingredient recipe for Fresh Watermelon Iced Tea. (https://foodandnutrition.org/blogs/stone-soup/unilever-agents-of-change/fresh-watermelon-iced-tea/) I love making sun tea and it is absolutely delicious and refreshing in this recipe.
Cheers to summer and to your health,
Emily Ring, RD LD