6 health benefits of drinking black tea

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People have been drinking tea for 5,000 years — it’s the second most-consumed beverage in the world after water. There’s no argument among experts that all types of tea offer benefits, but researchers are still uncovering the full power of black tea and the many ways it can enhance your health.

Here’s what you need to know:

What makes black tea unique?

Black tea is the most popular type of tea worldwide. It’s one of four types of tea made using the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant — the others are green, oolong and white teas. The difference between the types of teas is in how they are processed.

Unlike other teas, black tea leaves undergo an extensive oxidation process, exposing the cells inside the leaves to oxygen. Experts believe this oxidation may give black tea some different benefits than green tea (which receives no oxidation). Both oolong and white teas undergo partial oxidation.

Benefits of drinking black tea

The benefits associated with most teas come from polyphenols — antioxidants that offer protection from several chronic diseases. But black tea contains one group of polyphenols, called theaflavins, that no other type of tea has. Theaflavins develop during oxidation and account for 3% to 6% of the polyphenols in black tea. That’s why black tea offers some of the same benefits as other types of tea but also provides unique advantages.

Flavored black tea still has benefits and may be healthier than drinking tea sweetened with milk and sugar. To get all the benefits, use loose tea leaves (not a tea bag).

Research shows that drinking black tea:

Promotes heart health

Black tea packs a punch when it comes to heart health. Theaflavins help to lower blood cholesterol. And flavonoids — the same antioxidants found in red wine, dark chocolate and nuts —reduce the risk of heart disease by 8%. Studies show that with every cup of tea you drink daily, you can lower your blood pressure, the risk of major cardiovascular events (such as heart attack and stroke) and the threat of death from heart disease.

Reduces the risk of stroke

Stroke — when there’s a blockage in the blood vessels carrying blood to the brain — is the second leading cause of death globally. Drinking black tea may be one way to reduce your risk of stroke. Studies show that drinking at least two cups of tea daily may reduce the risk of stroke by 16% compared to people who do not drink tea.

Improves focus

Unlike some other types of tea, black tea has caffeine — about half the amount in coffee. It also contains an amino acid called L-theanine. The combination helps with alertness and focus. While caffeine on its own can induce a more jittery energy, the addition of L-theanine in black tea produces a stable and level type of energy. One smaller study examined how drinking black tea affects cognitive performance compared to drinking water. Participants who drank black tea performed better in executive function and memory tasks.

Lowers blood sugar levels

Drinking black tea without added sweeteners can decrease blood glucose and improve your body’s ability to manage sugar. Research also shows that black tea improves blood sugar levels immediately following meals in normal and pre-diabetic adults.

Decreases the risk of some cancers

Researchers have studied the effects of tea on cancer for decades. They’ve found that the polyphenols in tea do play a role in fighting certain types of cancer. One study found that black tea decreases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer. A review of 64 studies concluded that all tea might help prevent oral cancer. Other cancers under consideration included breast, gynecological, lung and thyroid cancers, but more research is needed.

Lessens the risk of death from all causes

Drinking at least two cups of black tea daily lowers the risk of death from any cause by almost 13% compared to people who do not drink tea, according to a recent study. As in other findings, the more tea participants drank, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke.

How much black tea is too much?

Unlike other teas, black tea contains caffeine — about 50 to 90 milligrams per cup. Too much caffeine can leave you anxious, restless and unable to sleep. To avoid over-caffeinating yourself, keep your daily caffeine intake under 400 milligrams. But don’t assume black tea is your only source of caffeine. Your total intake needs to include caffeine found in medications and everything you consume.

To learn more about the benefits of tea, reach out to your primary care physician.

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