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Water vs. Tea
January 17, 2008 6:44 AM   Subscribe

Is drinking unsweetened, decaffeinated tea equivalent to drinking water in terms of health benefits?

In other words, is there any reason that it's better to drink water alone rather than unsweetened decaf tea (aside from potentially stained teeth)?
posted by amro to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
From BBC: Tea 'healthier' drink than water. But really, who knows?
posted by General Malaise at 6:55 AM on January 17, 2008


Are you talking about decaffeinated tea, as in tea that has been altered to eliminate/reduce caffeine, or are you talking about "herbal" teas that have no caffeine to begin with?
posted by thedanimal at 6:58 AM on January 17, 2008


Tea should be fine.
posted by TedW at 6:58 AM on January 17, 2008


thedanimal, I was referring to decaffeniated tea rather than herbal tea because I assume that the various types of herbal tea (about which various health claims are made) aren't equivalent to water. For example, dandelion tea is a diuretic.

TedW, I know tea is fine, I'm just wondering if water is any better for any reason.
posted by amro at 7:04 AM on January 17, 2008


unless the process that makes it decaffeinated is potentially harmful, the obvious answer is no, drink away
posted by matteo at 7:10 AM on January 17, 2008


As that BBC article General Malaise linked says, tea will bind some iron to it, so if you're prone to anemia, you shouldn't drink it near mealtimes. And yes, it does stain your teeth. These things apply to decaffeinated tea, too.

But tea will hydrate you almost as well as water, so why not drink lots of tea and lots of water? When you balance the small negative health effects of any kind of tea (teeth staining, the potential issues with caffeine if you drink that type) against the potential advantages (heart health, cavities, etc.), I'd say drinking both makes sense (says the woman who goes through 5-6 cups a day).

(Or, more succinctly: water is neutral good. Tea is chaotic good. :-)
posted by maudlin at 7:15 AM on January 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


I can't really back any of this up right now, so the following is just stuff to think about.

- Humans are water based creatures. We did just fine without tea for a long time. We evolved to reap the maximum benefits from drinking water.
- Drinking water has the effect of diluting whatever else is in your digestive tract for easier removal of good stuff and bad stuff.
- Simply from personal experience, nothing is as refreshing an hydrating as pure water.

So, with all that said, try drinking only tea for a day and see how you feel the next day. Sure, there may be health benefits to drinking tea (I'm not hating, I love tea), but I sincerely doubt it will be anything like taking a vitamin every day.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 7:25 AM on January 17, 2008


Some nurses at the blood donor clinic recently told me that nothing rehydrates except for water - no mint tea, no chamomile tea, no nothing. They then proceeded to offer me coke and coffee when I finished donating, though. I drink tons of herbal tea (mostly the two above and rooibos) and always feel very refreshed from it. I almost never drink straight water, in fact. I just don't like it unless I'm at the gym.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:32 AM on January 17, 2008


As I understand it, it's not possible/practical to remove 100% of caffeine from tea, so even "decaffeinated" tea will have some caffeine.
posted by amtho at 7:33 AM on January 17, 2008


For what it's worth, a lot of days I drink maybe one glass of water and then 8/9 cups of tea (variety of herbal, green, black) and I do just fine as far as hydration.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 7:42 AM on January 17, 2008


Some nurses at the blood donor clinic recently told me that nothing rehydrates except for water

Nonsense, these nurses should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating old wives' tales like that. Anything that contains water will rehydrate you, and the (very mild) diuretic effect of caffeine is more than compensated for by the amount of liquid you consume.
posted by biscotti at 8:10 AM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Some people (not many) are concerned about lackadaisical decaffeination methods. I don't know the true straight dope on it, but I heard from a less-than-trustworthy source about chloride and/or acetate being used in the process and thus being introduced into decaf products.

A quick Google seems to indicate that there are many methods to decaf things (including some that mention the above chems), so who knows?

* I'd just like to add that the source is prone to hyper-sensitivity when it comes to food urban legends, so YMMV.
posted by unixrat at 9:26 AM on January 17, 2008


My daughter's pediatrician told me that tea is a reasonably good substitute for Pedialyte.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:40 AM on January 17, 2008


Some nurses at the blood donor clinic recently told me that nothing rehydrates except for water

Nonsense, these nurses should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating old wives' tales like that. Anything that contains water will rehydrate you, and the (very mild) diuretic effect of caffeine is more than compensated for by the amount of liquid you consume.


Well, they are technically right. Only water rehydrates, including the water in you coffe, tea, beer, it's still the water.
posted by racingjs at 9:52 AM on January 17, 2008


I'm sure your tea is just as hydrating as a Diet Coke- which is 99% water.
posted by wfc123 at 10:22 AM on January 17, 2008


As that BBC article General Malaise linked says, tea will bind some iron to it, so if you're prone to anemia, you shouldn't drink it near mealtimes.

Thanks, that's the sort of info I'm looking for. I am anemic, so that's good to know.
posted by amro at 10:34 AM on January 17, 2008


Some people (not many) are concerned about lackadaisical decaffeination methods.

My sister, who's PhD is in Food Science, and who doesn't get at all handwavy about anything to do with food or food scares, suggested to me that drinking chemically decaffeinated coffee was probably not a very good idea. I didn't go into it with her, but she indicated she wasn't impressed with the level of chemical residue left behind from the process. I would imagine the same applies to tea.

But there is water decaffeinated tea available.
posted by OmieWise at 11:39 AM on January 17, 2008


I've heard that coffee and tea used to be decaffienated with methylene chloride, a potentially carcinogenic solvent, but nowadays liquid CO2 is used.
posted by mismatched at 7:21 PM on January 17, 2008


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