When many Americans think of drinking tea, a tall glass of iced sweet tea might come to mind, or, you might think it’s a hot beverage often sipped by the senior set. But if you’re one of the 159 million Americans drinking tea on any given day, you already know how delicious this good-for-you beverage can be. About 75 to 80 percent of tea consumed in America is iced, and we’re going to guess that a lot of those beverages are sweetened.
But if there’s ever been a time to start a low-to-no-calorie healthy habit that can improve your health from head to toe—and yes, even help you feel less stressed—this is it.
Tea is chock-full of flavonoids, which are naturally-occurring compounds with antioxidant properties that can protect cells against free radicals. Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants might help reduce your chances of developing diseases, like heart disease and cancer, according to MayoClinic.
Here, discover some of the wonderful reasons to start drinking tea. Keep in mind that if you’re caffeine-sensitive or have trouble falling asleep at night, you’ll want to switch to decaf teas or herbal teas in the afternoon and evening. When starting a new healthy tea habit, try to enjoy tea without sugar or honey so you’re not taking in unwanted calories.
It may help you break unhealthy eating habits. If you want to end an evening (or afternoon) mindless snacking habit, consider pouring yourself a steaming mug of herbal tea in a special mug to create a new ritual.
“I think drinking tea can be a good substitute for snacking if you’re snacking when you’re not actually hungry,” says NYC-based dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. “Snacking at night isn’t a bad thing if you actually feel your stomach rumbling, but if not, eating at night may cause sleep disturbances and weight gain from taking in too many calories. Oftentimes, your body is just looking for something to do to cope with boredom or stress, and drinking tea is a great distraction.”
It can help you unwind and feel less anxious. While tea has a host of good-for-you benefits, one of the top reasons you might want to start this healthy habit is that it might help you feel more relaxed—something we could all use more of this year.
One randomized controlled trial found that subjects drinking black tea for six weeks showed lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels after completing challenging behavioral tasks. “Scientists believe that consuming l-theanine (an amino acid) in tea in conjunction with caffeine is the cause of the reduction in cortisol,” says Rizzo. A recent rodent study found that drinking Japanese Matcha tea helped reduce anxiety, likely due to the tea activating feel-good brain receptors, dopamine, and serotonin.
“I drink herbal tea at night during the winter,” says Rizzo. “Something about the warm drink at night is really relaxing. Research shows that just holding a hot drink may make you feel relaxed.”
It might give your workout a boost. Whether you decide to sip a mug of black or green tea before your morning run, or chug a cup of iced tea at lunch to help you power through your afternoon workout, tea and exercise pair well together. “Caffeine has been shown to boost athletic performance, so I tell athletes to include it in their pre-workout meal plans.”
It could help with blood sugar control. One small study of normal and prediabetic subjects found that drinking black tea can decrease post-meal blood glucose levels. “Blood sugar spikes occur when you eat a food that is rich in refined carbs, like sweets or chips,” says Rizzo. “Those spikes are usually followed by an energy crash. It seems that drinking black tea with a meal may prevent a blood sugar spike.”
It can benefit your heart. Drinking tea has long been linked to heart health benefits, and a new study Advances in Nutrition spans 30 years of evidence from 37 epidemiological studies. The researchers found that with each cup of unsweetened green or black tea consumed daily, there may be an average of 4 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and 2 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality, Rizzo says. People who drink two to three cups (8 oz each) of unsweetened tea per day may lower their risk of death from heart disease by about 8 to 12 percent, compared to nondrinkers.
It has brain health benefits. Want to feel calm, alert, and improve your mood? Pour yourself a mug of tea! Some studies suggest that drinking tea has a positive effect on cognitive function and mood. One study of a healthy Korean population found that those who drank three or more cups of green tea a week had a 21 percent lower prevalence of depression than those who didn’t drink green tea.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.