The health benefits of tea

A cup of tea has long been seen as a symbol of comfort. Whether it’s a steaming builder’s brew following a chilly walk or a comforting cup of chamomile after a bad night’s sleep, a mug of tea is often just what we want. But did you know that tea has a number of health benefits too?

From lowering blood pressure to alleviating depression, we explore how a cuppa can improve our wellbeing.

The health benefits of tea

Promote good gut health

We’re big fans of gut-friendly foods here at Liz Earle Wellbeing. From kefir to kimchi, these tasty additions to our diet help to support the beneficial bacteria living in our gut. While the probiotic benefits of kombucha – fermented black or green tea – have been known for some time, it seems a warming brew could have similar effects too.

Researchers say that drinking four to five cups of green tea a day can help to increase the amount of Bifidobacterium in our gut microbiome. These helpful microbes play a role in digestion and also work to stave off harmful bacteria.

The same team of researchers also believe there’s evidence to suggest that other types of tea – including black and oolong – may help to modulate our gut microbial diversity. The more different types of beneficial bacteria living in our gut, the better equipped we are for keeping well and staving off disease.

Lower high blood pressure

While we often focus on what foods we should cut out or cut down to reduce high blood pressure, studies suggest that increasing our tea intake could lend a helping hand.

A meta-analysis revealed that drinking either black or green tea for three months or longer could result in a reduction of blood pressure for those with hypertension. There’s some debate around how much you’d need to drink, but researchers say that an average of two cups a day could prove beneficial.

They think this is due to the tea’s antioxidant properties. Tea is a rich source of flavonoids and these compounds can help to mop up damaging free radicals within our body. This in turn has a lowering effect on blood pressure.

Ward off depression

We often turn to a cup of tea when we’re feeling blue, and it seems a brew could ward off depression in the long term too.

A meta-analysis investigating the links between levels of tea drinking and depression found interesting results. Populations who drink three or more cups of tea a day may decrease their risk of depression by 37%.

While this study didn’t investigate which specific types of tea may have the biggest effect, further research by scientists in China concluded that the constituents found in all major tea types – including polyphenols and the amino acid L-theanine – work together to reduce the likelihood that a person will become depressed.

Improve focus and concentration

Got a big project you need to focus on? Pour yourself a cuppa first!

It seems that having a mug of black tea can help support your concentration and focus. Why? Black tea contains both caffeine and L-theanine. Caffeine has a stimulating effect, whereas L-theanine plays a role in regulating our mood, concentration and alertness.

When combined, these two naturally occurring ingredients are something of a dream team. A small study by researchers in the Netherlands revealed that moderate levels of L-theanine and caffeine significantly improve accuracy and alertness.

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