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Tea is an indispensable part of the Indian kitchen with everyone having a different taste and liking for it. Although there are several varieties available these days, nothing replaces the classic black tea.

But, is tea really an Indian discovery? Well, China is the hometown of black tea but Indians sure have adopted it quite well. And rightly so; black tea isn't just a burst of flavours and aromas, but also has several benefits for your health, which will be discussed in this article.

In short, you must know that black tea is an excellent weight loss agent, it helps to lower blood pressure and protects your heart from the risk of cardiovascular disorders. It is an excellent antioxidant, which also makes it cancer-protective and an anti-inflammatory.

Before we discuss the benefits in greater detail, let's explore some interesting facts about black tea.

Some basic facts about black tea:

  • Scientific name: Camellia sinesis
  • Family: Theaceae
  • Common name: Tea, chai, kaali chai
  • History of tea, its native region and geographical distribution: Tea originated in China in the year 1590 and in the initial years of its history, China continued to be a major exporter of tea. Since then, the use, consumption and cultivation of tea has spread across the world, especially in India, Japan, Africa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Russia. India, in particular, is one of the largest producers, consumers and exporters of black tea. Depending on climatic conditions, tea is grown in different parts of North and South India at different times, with Darjeeling, Assam, Travancore, Nilgiri, Doars and Terai being the leading producers.
  • Parts used: Leaves
  1. Types of black tea
  2. Nutritional facts about black tea
  3. Health benefits of black tea
  4. How to make black tea
  5. Black tea side effects

There are several types of black tea depending on the area and type of tea made. The most commonly used types are:

  • Assam tea: One of the strongest varieties of tea from North-Eastern parts of India.
  • Ceylon tea: This is a Sri Lankan variety, which has a spicy and citrusy flavour.
  • Darjeeling tea: This is a light and relaxing variant originating from Darjeeling.
  • Earl grey tea: It is a light, floral and fruity type of tea made by mixing dried tea leaves with citrus fruit extracts.
  • English breakfast tea: This tea originated in the United States and is a blend of various types of black tea.
  • Masala chai: Masala chai is a blend of Assam tea with different spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves or pepper and is an Indian favourite.

Tea is considered to be the healthiest beverage, second only to water. It is known to have zero calories; despite that, it has a few important nutrients, which are excellent for your health as they have an antioxidant effect. Following is the nutritional composition of black tea without milk, as per the USDA:

Nutrients and value per 500 ml of tea

Black tea for weight loss

Modern diet and lifestyle have gotten many struggling with weight issues. Most weight loss advice centers around increasing physical activity or making changes to what you eat. However, opting for healthier beverages is equally important when trying to lose weight.

Yes, daily beverages we consume are loaded with calories, aren’t they? By opting for healthier beverages like black tea, you can not only reduce weight but can also protect yourself from the risk of obesity-related problems like cardiovascular disorders and certain types of cancer, which will be discussed ahead.

Concerning weight loss, studies conducted on black tea have found that its rich polyphenol content helps reduce weight. The possible mechanism for this has been explained on the lines of lipid metabolism, which improves the utilisation of fats and prevents their excessive storage in the body. Black tea also helps to reduce the absorption of fats. Comparing black tea with green tea variants, scientists have found that the former is a better weight loss food due to its polyphenol content. Not only was it proven that black tea is great for weight loss, but also it was found that it helped to reduce the risk of several comorbidities related to obesity.

Another study demonstrated that the intake of black tea over a 3-month period significantly helped to reduce weight in clinical subjects. Along with reduction in weight, drinking black tea was found to be associated with a better distribution of body fat, giving the body a more shapely look.

Its weight loss benefit has been rated to be better than that of coffee. So, maybe it’s time to ditch your sugary cup of tea, coffee or even green tea for some black tea.

(Read more: Calorie count in Indian foods)

Black tea as an antioxidant

Antioxidant foods protect you against the harmful effects of free radicals in the body. Due to the presence of vitamin C and polyphenol in black tea, it is a potent antioxidant, which has also been confirmed by several studies. This implies that this tea can have beneficial effects for your hair and skin, and also protect you from the risk of several diseases caused due to the aggressive actions of free radicals. Drinking black tea has also been demonstrated to reduce the harmful effects caused due to having an excessive amount of coffee. So, if you are on caffeine withdrawal, black tea can be a safe and helpful alternative.

Black tea for high blood pressure

Chronic elevation of blood pressure beyond the normal range can have detrimental effects on your health, particularly the heart. It is known to raise the risk of cardiovascular disorders. But, since high blood pressure is reversible, you can reduce this risk by making a few dietary and lifestyle changes, and by including back tea in your routine.

Studies have found that regular consumption of black tea significantly lowers blood pressure, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disorders. The results of this study demonstrated that having 4 to 5 cups of black tea everyday can help lower blood pressure by 1 to 2 mm of Hg. However, if your blood pressure is exceedingly high, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor before having tea in such large amounts.

(Read more: Diet for hypertensives)

Black tea for diabetes management

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, which is characterised by elevated blood sugar levels beyond normal limits.

For pre-diabetics, it is often a daunting task to keep blood sugar levels from escalating further to diabetic levels. Since diabetes is irreversible, and it is known to have an ill-impact on almost all the systems of the body, it is best to keep blood sugar levels in check. Black tea can help with this.

Since it helps to manage weight, studies suggest that it reduces the risk of obesity and insulin resistance and even avoid diabetic complications. However, the mechanism by which black tea helps diabetics is only partially understood. Anyhow, it is a great substitute for your sugary tea or coffee.

Black tea for the heart

High blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels are the top risk factors for cardiovascular disorders in addition to obesity. By having an effect on these factors, black tea helps to reduce your risk.

As has been discussed previously, black tea can help lower blood pressure and reduce weight. In fact, it can also help lower total cholesterol. It does so by reducing the amount of lipids or fats in your body (i.e. lipolytic action). The cardioprotective actions of black tea can also be attributed to the fact that it is a powerful antioxidant.

Studies have found that the presence of flavoinoids in black tea enables its lipolytic action. This significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Having 3 cups of black tea each day was found to be conducive to this positive relationship. Having even 5 cups a day was recommended by researchers but you must check in with your doctor before consuming black tea in excess.

Black tea may help prevent cancer

Uninhibited growth of atypical cells which has a tendency to spread to distant or localised sites is termed as cancer. Scientists have been working feverishly to discover foods that can avert or ward off cancerous growth, and it has been found that black tea is one such food. Credit again goes to its rich antioxidant status and the presence of several bioactive compounds.

Black tea functions by reducing DNA damages and preventing mutations, which are responsible for cancer. This it does by blocking action pathways of mutagens and enzymes responsible for these changes. Thus, it helps to prevent cancerous growth. Its free radical scavenging actions may also help to ward off cancerous growth at an initial stage and is thus helpful in the early stages of cancer.

Positive results have been obtained against prostate cancer and some cancers of the gastrointestinal tract like liver cancer. Some researchers have even suggested the role of tea in the prevention of lung cancer but the results have not been specific.

Black tea for better immunity

Immunity refers to the ability of the body to fight off an infection or illness. While it a natural body mechanism, some foods and items are known to improve this action and black tea happens to be one of those.

Studies have linked the consumption of black tea with the activation of the biomarkers of the immune system. Its stimulatory actions have been confirmed both for healthy individuals and those with elevated blood pressure.

Other than improving immunity, black tea has an antimicrobial action, which further assists in preventing illnesses and infections. Due to these benefits, the intake of black tea has been suggested for health promotion of the population.

(Read more: How to improve immunity)

Other benefits of black tea

The intake of black tea also has:

  • Anti-inflammatory action: This suggests its role in the management of joint pain in arthritis and reduction of swelling.
  • Beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal system: It helps to improve gastric motility, aiding in the digestion of food. Other than that, it also helps in the absorption of food nutrients.
  • High calcium content: This helps to improve bone mass density, preventing the risk of repeated fractures and bone pain.

Quite sure you’d like to brew a cup after reading so many benefits of this tea. So, here is an easy recipe:

  • Take a cup of water and bring it to a boil
  • Take a teaspoon of loose tea leaves and add it to boiling water
  • Turn off the gas after pouring in the tea leaves
  • Stir and add any spices of choice like ginger or cinnamon
  • Strain the tea and enjoy hot

It is recommended to not add in milk or sugar and to not boil tea leaves on high flame in order to reap maximum health benefits from the tea.

Although black tea is completely safe for consumption, it has the following side effects:

  • Excessive intake of black tea causes your teeth to be stained with a yellow or brownish tint.
  • Excessive tea consumption may also irritate your gastric lining and lead to symptoms of acidity. It is also associated with digestive problems.
  • If you have too many cups of tea in a day, withdrawal can lead to the feeling of headache and uneasiness.
  • Some studies have linked excessive intake of tea with worsening in asthma symptoms.
  • Too much tea can affect the sleep-wake cycle, having an impact on your daily activities. (Read more: Insomnia management)
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References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture. Full Report (All Nutrients): 45233280, ZONE 8, BLACK TEA, UPC: 799471921005. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release; Agricultural Research Service
  2. Pan H, Gao Y, Tu Y. Mechanisms of Body Weight Reduction by Black Tea Polyphenols.. 2016 Dec 7;21(12). PMID: 27941615
  3. Bøhn SK1, Croft KD, Burrows S, Puddey IB, Mulder TP, Fuchs D, Woodman RJ, Hodgson JM. Effects of black tea on body composition and metabolic outcomes related to cardiovascular disease risk: a randomized controlled trial.. 2014 Jul 25;5(7):1613-20. PMID: 24889137
  4. Greyling A, Ras RT, Zock PL, Lorenz M, Hopman MT, Thijssen DH, Draijer R. The Effect of Black Tea on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. 2014 Jul 31;9(7):e103247. PMID: 25079225
  5. Beresniak A, Duru G, Berger G, Bremond-Gignac D. Relationships between black tea consumption and key health indicators in the world: an ecological study. 2012 Nov 7;2(6):e000648. PMID: 23138107
  6. Gardner EJ1, Ruxton CH, Leeds AR. Black tea--helpful or harmful? A review of the evidence.. 2007 Jan;61(1):3-18. PMID: 16855537
  7. Sharma V1, Rao LJ. A thought on the biological activities of black tea.. 2009 May;49(5):379-404. PMID: 19399668
  8. Pasquet R, Karp I, Siemiatycki J, Koushik A. The consumption of coffee and black tea and the risk of lung cancer.. 2016 Nov;26(11):757-763.e2. PMID: 27743642
  9. Gostner JM, Becker K, Croft KD, Woodman RJ, Puddey IB, Fuchs D, Hodgson JM. Regular consumption of black tea increases circulating kynurenine concentrations: A randomized controlled trial. 2014 Dec 4;3:31-5. PMID: 26673554
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