- Researchers say drinking black tea every day can help lower your overall mortality risk.
- They say that’s because the polyphenols found in tea can act as antioxidants that reduce cell damage in the body.
- Experts note there are other foods that contain polyphenols, including herbs, spices, cocoa, nuts, and seeds.
People who drink black tea on a daily basis may outlive their non-tea-drinking peers.
That’s according to a new study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In it, researchers say the all-cause mortality risk was 9 to 13 percent lower among people drinking at least two cups of tea per day.
The study was primarily funded by the National Cancer Institute Intramural Research Program.
Researchers analyzed data on half a million men and women, aged 40 to 69 years, who completed a baseline questionnaire between 2006 and 2010 for the UK Biobank.
Some 85 percent of participants reported being regular tea drinkers. Of them, 89 percent reported drinking black tea. Tea strength and portion size were not assessed.
Researchers said the benefits of daily tea drinking were observed regardless of:
- whether participants also drank coffee,
- added milk or sugar to their tea,
- their preferred tea temperature,
- or genetic variants related to caffeine metabolism.
The study authors suggested their findings demonstrate that even higher quantities of tea can fit into a healthy diet.
What experts have to say
“This study brings home how beneficial black tea can be to our health and mortality,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based dietitian in Stamford, Connecticut, and owner of “Plant Based with Amy.”
Amy Bragagnini, MS, RD, CSO, an oncology nutrition specialist at Trinity Health Lacks Cancer Center in Michigan and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adds that this new research is in line with previous findings.
“Many studies have found that polyphenols found in tea (polyphenols are compounds that we get from certain plant-based foods) can act as antioxidants in our body,” Bragagnini told Healthline.
“These can help reduce oxidative damage in our cells and may help lower the risk of several chronic diseases (cardiovascular diseases and diabetes). The polyphenols may also act as anti-inflammatory agents, which could help lessen joint pain and arthritis,” she said.
Andy De Santis, a registered dietitian with a master’s in public health nutrition, told Healthline that for many people, beverages such as coffee and tea may represent a top contributor of dietary antioxidants.
As such, he said, it makes sense that there’s an association between tea drinking and lower mortality risk given that these compounds generally have protective roles to play against both cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
Tips for tea drinkers
If you are trying to select the perfect black tea, there are a few important points to remember, says Bragagnini.
She offers these tips:
- Determine if you want tea bags, tea sachets, or loose-leaf tea. If you are new to the tea world, Bragagnini recommends starting with tea bags as they are “easy and foolproof to make.”
- Venture into other tea types. “Black tea tastes wonderful, but it is also a good idea to venture out into other flavor categories (white, green, yellow, oolong, and yerba mate) to see what the right fit is for you,” she said.
- Ask yourself when you are likely to drink the tea and choose based on your answer. For example, black tea tends to have more caffeine than green tea, so Bragagnini advises against drinking any caffeinated tea close to your bedtime.
- Consider your storage. “Keep the bags in their original container and store the loose leaf in an air-tight container,” says Bragagnini.
Not sure what you want? Gorin suggests looking for a tea that is made with whole tea leaves.
“Typically, you’ll find this with loose leaf tea, and some brands promote the fact that they use fuller- leaf quality tea in their tea bags,” she told Healthline.
Tips for people who don’t love black tea
If you don’t like black tea, experts note there are other food sources that provide these antioxidants.
Gorin suggests first trying a different type of tea to see if that better suits your preferences. She recommends trying green tea or white tea as these are “both full of antioxidants and very beneficial for health.”
“People who don’t like coffee or tea really don’t need to feel like they are selling their health short,” says De Santis.
He adds there is “a plethora of other food sources containing these beneficial compounds,” including berries and green vegetables.
De Santis says food sources rich in polyphenol compounds include:
“The most important thing to do is try to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables,” says Bragagnini.
“Next time you go to the grocery store, challenge yourself to fill your cart with a rainbow of colored produce,” she suggests.
Easy ways to add antioxidants to the menu, according to Bragagnini:
- Adding mushrooms to your spaghetti sauce
- Snacking on yogurt topped with fresh berries
- Adding broccoli, bell peppers, onions, snow peas, zucchini, and squash to any stir-fry
- Retraining your taste buds away from artificial sugar by choosing whole naturally sweetened foods more often such as any fruit, beets, peas, carrots
Gorin echoes the encouragement of eating more berries, pointing to a 2016 review study in Scientific Reports that found people who regularly ate berries had lower “bad” cholesterol levels compared to people who did not regularly eat berries.
“Cholesterol levels influence heart health, which influences mortality. Berries taste wonderful in anything from pancakes to smoothies,” she says.