If you’re sipping a cup of tea while reading this, you’re supporting just about every organ in your body. Unsweetened tea is rich in antioxidants, which prevent chronic diseases and help repair cells in the body. “Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, which contains antioxidants known as catechins, most importantly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG),” says Anthony Kouri, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Toledo, Ohio. “These eliminate free radicals in the body and reduce inflammation.”
So pinkies up; it’s time to learn about the amazing benefits (and just a few risks) of drinking tea.
Tea drinking: Your risk of certain cancers goes down
The antioxidants and compounds found in tea have been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers. “Beneficial effects have been found in skin, prostate, lung, and breast cancers,” says Uma Naidoo, MD, Director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Faculty at Harvard Medical School. “Different types of tea impact different cancers.” Drinking tea is just one of the simple ways you can prevent cancer.
Tea drinking: Your risk of diabetes decreases
Drinking black tea every day can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by helping to control your blood sugar after meals. According to a study in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, black tea can lower your blood sugar after eating foods containing sucrose.
Tea drinking: Your teeth will be stronger
While sipping tea throughout the day could slightly stain your teeth, it may be worth it. According to a study in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, green tea has an antibacterial effect that could reduce cavity-forming bacteria in your mouth. Drinking green tea every day could also make cavities less severe.
Tea drinking: Your heart will thank you
Tea’s anti-inflammatory properties can keep your blood vessels relaxed, putting less stress on your heart, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition. “Catechins reduce inflammation and thus inhibit plaque formation in vital arteries,” says Dr. Kouri. Dr. Naidoo recommends drinking three cups of black tea per day to achieve the heart benefits.
Tea drinking: Your risk of Alzheimer’s disease could decrease
The thought of you or a loved one being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is frightening. It’s important to know the early warning signs and do what you can to prevent it. “Green tea can help you develop resistance against stress, and potentially Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Naidoo. “The polyphenols protect cells from damage.”
Tea drinking: Your sleep could improve
If you spend your nights tossing and turning, try winding down with a cup of herbal tea—no caffeine, of course—before bed. “East-Asian medicinal tea can improve insomnia,” says Dr. Naidoo. According to a study in Integrative Medicine Research, drinking tea can help improve sleep and quality of life in those with mild-to-moderate insomnia.
Tea drinking: Your attention span may improve
The caffeine in tea can improve your attention and alertness. “Theanine is an amino acid that is virtually unique to tea (apart from the fungus Bay bolete),” explains Dr. Naidoo. “It may also improve attention by relaxing the brain, but stimulating it when it is time to focus.” If you ever find yourself having difficulty with focus or concentration, try steeping a warm cup of tea just before it’s time to work or consider these other foods that might help you focus.
Tea drinking: Your metabolism speeds up
“The caffeine in tea helps to improve mental acuity as well as increase metabolism and fat burning (up to 100 calories per day),” says Dr. Kouri. Just be sure you’re not overdoing it in the caffeine department. One cup of green tea contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine, and Dr. Kouri recommends limiting your daily caffeine intake to no more than 300 to 400 milligrams. Check out these 12 other facts about caffeine.
Tea drinking: You may not absorb enough iron
The catechins in tea can alter your body’s ability to absorb iron. This means that even if you eat enough high-iron foods, you won’t get the benefits and could become anemic. “Though most healthy people will not be affected by this, those who have iron deficiency or anemia should abstain from large amounts of green tea,” recommends Dr. Kouri. This includes children, pregnant women, and anyone with a history of kidney disease.
Tea drinking: You could be at higher risk of bleeding
Drinking a large amount of tea every day could put you at risk for bleeding from a minor cut or bump. “It makes you more prone to bruising, explains Michelle Lee, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California. “I require all my patients to stop drinking tea two to three weeks before surgery.”
Tea drinking: Your medication may not work
While the benefits of tea seem unlimited, talk with your doctor and pharmacist before brewing a pot every day. “Catechins can interfere with some heart and blood pressure medications,” warns Dr. Kouri. “It is important to discuss this with your doctor.”
How much tea should you drink?
Studies vary on how many cups of tea to drink per day. You want to get the most benefits without overdoing the caffeine. “To get the maximum health benefits from green tea, it is most effective to drink three to five cups of green tea per day,” recommends Dr. Kouri.
Which tea is the healthiest?
When choosing a tea, make sure it is unsweetened. Even if some flavored teas contain no calories, they could still have artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Opt for making your own tea as opposed to buying it already prepared. “The more tea leaves are processed, the less effective the catechins become, explains Dr. Kouri. “Green tea is minimally processed and has the greatest health benefits of the available teas.” Here are 8 health benefits of green tea you may not have heard of before.
Pour a cup today
While you can always have too much of a good thing, tea is a healthy choice for the vast majority of healthy adults. “In general, those who drink green tea regularly are healthier than those who do not,” says Dr. Kouri. “It is very safe to drink and only has drawbacks when consumed in very large quantities.” So claim those health benefits and get steeping today. Read on to find out what happens to your body when you drink coffee regularly.