How I get five "doses" daily
I recently learned of the specific health benefits of drinking black tea and decided to add it to my regular diet. However, I don't enjoy drinking it.
Here’s how I get the benefit of five “cups” of black tea daily. It’s a matter of process over preference.
But why bother?
The micronutrients in both black tea and green tea are associated with a range of health benefits, particularly related to cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that drinking black tea on a regular basis helps to reduce the chances of onset of cardiovascular disorders.
Both teas have anti-cancer properties and are good for diabetic patients (since polyphenols present in tea inhibit obesity by suppressing the digestion and absorption of fat and complex carbohydrates).
They also both reduce the risk of dementia. The research supporting tea’s dementia-fighting benefits isn’t as extensive as research on coffee. But so far, it seems that tea may offer similar benefits to coffee.
Black tea antioxidants fight free radicals
The characteristic quality of black tea is the fact that it is an heavily oxidized tea. This just means that enzymes in the tea leaves interact with oxygen during the fermentation process, causing the tea to develop distinct flavors and aromas. The longer the fermentation the more the oxidation.
The antioxidants in black tea are different from those in green tea, due to the oxidation process. Green tea mainly contains catechins. The long oxidation process of black tea converts catechins into thearubigins, theaflavins, and flavonols.
The flavonoids found in oxidised tea are rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E. These flavonoids have strong protective qualities and inhibit the oxidation of bad cholesterol. (Flavonoids are a kind of polyphenol. The benefits of red wine are thought to be related to flavonoids.)
The rich amount of antioxidants in black tea counter ‘free radicals’. Free radicals are unstable molecules in the body that result from both natural processes and environmental pressures (stress). Our body can remove free radicals, but if too many build up, they can damage or change cells in the body. This damage precipitates disease.
Reducing the level of free radicals has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by more than 50 percent. In 2013, researchers found evidence to suggest that people who drank four cups of black tea or more per day had a lower risk of stroke.
Black tea contains useful amounts of potassium, which helps keep our blood pressure in a healthy range.
Today, most Americans get barely half of the recommended amount of potassium in their diets. A study in Nutrition Reviews (2015) found reductions in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a reading) with tea consumption.
Enjoy a cup of black tea with your dinner of cooked vegetables, as the nitrate in vegetables - once considered to be poisonous - is now believed to be essential for cardiovascular health. Your tea with veggies give you a double dose! Vegetables, cooked the right way, are also a good source of antioxidants.
Black tea improves our gut biome
What caught my attention recently were the unique benefits of black tea, which are surprisingly different from green tea:
Black tea polyphenols pass through to our colon. Our colon microflora bioconvert the BTP to make them available to other parts of our metabolism. Concurrently this breakdown improves gut microbial diversity.
This could be why the protective qualities of black tea inhibit the oxidation of bad (LDL) cholesterol.
The improving our gut biome by black tea is similar to the work of prebiotics. Prebiotics are a relatively new discovery, and evidence supporting their health benefits is only beginning to emerge such as:
Reduce age-related neurological disorders
Some studies have suggested caffeine can ease the early symptoms of Parkinson’s, while others show consuming coffee and tea might help protect against getting Parkinson’s in the first place.
In a study looking at coffee consumption in men and women over a span of 22 years, those who consumed coffee had a significantly lower risk for developing Parkinson's than non-drinkers.
Speaking of coffee - black teas are known for their caffeine content as they contain more caffeine than their counterparts such as green or white tea. However, the caffeine content in black teas are far less compared to coffee.
Another long-term study of almost 30,000 adults found drinking three or more cups of tea per day was associated withs a 69% reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (Hu et al., 2007).
Finally, the high levels of antioxidants in black tea benefit hair health. That has to be good.
Those differences with green tea, and the benefits, convinced me to add black tea to my daily diet.
There was just one problem. I'm not one for drinking black tea.
I don't mean that I don't like the flavour, I'm fine with that. I avoid added sugar, and plain black tea can be astringent, but I'm fine with the taste.
I just don't enjoy sitting down to drink a cup of black tea. Coffee is my choice for enjoying a hot drink.
My process to get five "doses" - begin the night before
I have come up with a way of getting the benefits of 5 "doses" (cups) a day - here's what I do.
Tip: Black tea leaves offer the most health benefits since they consist of the full leaves. Tea bags contain broken leaves, dust and, fannings from black tea leaves and don't always offer the same quality when it comes to health.
This starts the night before when I prepare my breakfast of oats. I add milk and microwave them and then allow the bowl to cool overnight (to increase their resistant starch). Resistant starch acts a prebiotic and feeds the good bacteria in our large intestine.
Strangely enough, although we don’t associate oats with weight less, their transformation into a prebiotic (resistant starch) form can help with weight loss.
This prebiotic quality is enhanced by the black tea, since black (and green tea) change the ratio of intestinal bacteria in the animals. Typically, the percentage of bacteria associated with obesity decrease, while bacteria associated with lean body mass increase.
So the health benefits of black tea may add more value to the resistant starch benefits of oats.
So, for my first "dose" I empty a teabag of black tea into the bowl with the oats before heating it. That counts as one "cup".
This also starts the night before.
I simply add the contents of a tea bag to a large glass, and add hot water so that it can brew overnight. The next morning I heat it a little, stir it, and swig it down (tea leaves and all) in one gulp - as medicine! I do this before I go for a walk or run, usually around dawn.
Be aware though, this long steeping time could be controversial, as it increases the oxalate concentration in the final brew. Oxalate binds with calcium and reduces its availability to the body. Some researchers say that the level of dietary oxalates from tea is "modest when compared with the amounts of soluble oxalate found in common foods".
You may be best to just follow Lipton's recommendation to let the tea bag steep for a solid 2 to 3 minutes in freshly boiled water until it turns a rich amber color - not overnight.
Third and fourth dose
I have a protein drink for breakfast after returning from a walk or run (before the oats), and I now empty a teabag into the mixture in the blender. This is the third "cup".
The fourth cup is the same, a protein drink after exercising later in the day, with the contents of a teabag added. (If I don't exercise, I just skip this drink.)
Fifth and final dose
About 9pm I add the contents of a tea bag to a large glass, add hot water and let it cool. Then I gulp this down - medicinally! - before I go to bed.
I can see that this process seems quite awful when you read it as a prescription to benefit from black tea. But it is quite painless and gets the job done.
If you're not a black tea drinker but would like the benefits, this kind of process might suit you also.
Another option for tea, if you don’t like black
With so many kinds of tea on the market today, it’s hard to believe that all tea actually comes from one plant, camellia sinensis. Once harvested, the leaves are exposed to oxygen. The length and timing of the oxidation process determines the darkness, flavor and aroma of the tea.
The funny thing is in China black tea is not known as black tea, but red tea. Outside of China, however, red tea refers to the red South African herbal tea (also delicious and very beneficial) called rooibos.
If you still aren’t sold on drinking black tea, try green, white, oolong or pu-erh tea. You might find one of these that you love, and they have related health benefits to black tea.
Organic tea is another option.
It sounds fussy to be buying organic tea, until you understand how plants "suck up" contaminants from the soil into their leaves. Tea is no exception.
Sometimes this can lead to high concentrations of heavy metals - very much above the recommended limits. For example, black tea contains fluoride and other substances in trace amounts, such as arsenic and boron.
Tea grown in clean soil and organically fertilised, it should be contamination-free.
It's probably worth noting that the underlying reasons for the reported health benefits of black tea are not yet fully understood. It's very likely that tea's polyphenols and catechins (the powerful antioxidants in tea that fight cancer-causing cells and help prevent heart disease), play a significant role.
However, exposure to high concentration of polyphenols, and over a long period, could induce DNA damage and obtain notably negative effects. Therefore, don't overdose on tea. According to one study, little is known about the long-term effects of heavy consumption of black tea or what an acceptable limit might be.
The role of polyphenols in human health is still a fertile area of research.
Now I'm off to enjoy a relaxing cup of ...coffee.
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