Love my nice cup of tea and a sit down
March 14, 2007 2:42 AM   Subscribe

Is tea good for you or not?

While flipping through a Health & Fitness mag, I read a little blip about how to keep young and healthy and one of the tips was to avoid coffee and tea because of caffeine and something about them makes it difficult to absorb vitamins and minerals and as a diuretic it could dehydrate you.

A couple of pages later there's an ad by some (British) service recommending 4 cups of tea a day, highlighting it as a source of anti-oxidants (I've seen this ad on the Tube as well) among other virtues.

I'm guessing they mean "normal" tea, and not herbal tea, which doesn't seem as popular here (in Britain). I'm easily drinking 3-4 cups of tea a day (man, that stuff is great!). I only take skim milk, no sugar. Am I doing all right or should I cut back?
posted by like_neon to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Reading glossy magazines has clearly stressed you out. You need to relax. Have a cuppa and a nice lie down.
posted by flabdablet at 3:00 AM on March 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

It's also useful to have something to drink in places where your system is not used to the water, that obliges you as a matter of course to boil it.

Don't know if the good outweighs the bad but it can't be that bad for you - people have been drinking it for thousands of years.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:06 AM on March 14, 2007

If you look hard enough, you'll find that everything is bad for you, at least according to someone.

Health and Fitness Magazine is in the business of selling magazines, and being a fear pimp is one way of doing it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:09 AM on March 14, 2007

Best answer: Joanne - I hope you're not saying we in Britain have water that needs boiling!

like_neon - i think the milk in your tea takes away anything good about the tea itself... thats what it said in the report i think you are talking about.

I just drink Green/White tea. No milk. Tastes ok, I'm assuming its better for me than instant coffee so I'm happy.
posted by tomw at 3:09 AM on March 14, 2007

Best answer: I would not worry too much about the caffein in three or four cups of tea. Tea does have some health benefits, however, according to recent research, those benefits do not exist if you add milk.
posted by davar at 4:03 AM on March 14, 2007

I forgot: tea also contains some anti-nutrients like tannins that make it a little more difficult to absorb some minerals (most notably iron). If you are eating a healthy diet with enough vegetables and vitamin C and not much junk food I would not worry about that.
posted by davar at 4:07 AM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: I guess my skim milk is countering any good effects of tea, but I can't take it plain, that is just too hardcore for me. But as Davy's article states "There are benefits for tea, with or without milk, so keep on drinking". Sounds good.

How about teeth staining? Probably not has bad as coffee but does tea stain your teeth? Sorry, typical Californian obsessed with white teeth here.

Thanks for the tip about iron absorption. I do have a tendency to have low iron so I will avoid tea during meals.

After this one.
posted by like_neon at 5:48 AM on March 14, 2007

The Tea advertson the tube are from the Tea Council. Who have their own reasons for wanting you to drink more tea. Regardless of the benefits.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:54 AM on March 14, 2007

The hardcore nature of tea without milk can be somewhat mitigated, I've found, by using honey instead of sugar. The "rounder" sweetness of honey successfully masks some of the bitterness of the tannins that sugar cannot touch.
posted by Dreama at 5:54 AM on March 14, 2007

...adverts on...
posted by Helga-woo at 5:55 AM on March 14, 2007

What's the point in being young and healthy if you stress about something as simple as a few cups of tea a day? Drink it in moderation and maybe you'll live a few extra years. And stop stressing, that will definitely make your life miserable and short.
posted by JJ86 at 6:03 AM on March 14, 2007

The currently available information about tea and coffee does not provide a sufficient reason for changing your habits one way or the other, in my opinion. If you want to do something that will truly lower your risk of injury, always look both ways before crossing the street.
posted by chinston at 6:25 AM on March 14, 2007

Tea is less hardcore if you don't steep it long. Try leaving out the milk & sugar and using very short steeping times - say, until the water just starts to color. Gradually increase the steep time until it tastes too strong, then scale back.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:22 AM on March 14, 2007

You could try green tea. It tastes just fine without anything added, so if you are interested in those benefits that would be taken away by putting milk in your tea, that would be one way to get them. You could also try putting lemon

I don't think you really need to try either of those things, they're just options. The only reason I can think of to limit your tea intake at this point is if you're having trouble sleeping, or don't sleep very well at night. An alternative to limiting your tea intake would be to avoid drinking tea after a certain time of day to give the caffeine a chance to wear off before you go to bed. But like I said, that may not be necessary either.
posted by benign at 8:22 AM on March 14, 2007

davar most antioxidant research at this point is basically in a test tube. I doubt that OMG -milk study is any different. There is very little research as to whether dietary antioxidants actually make a damn bit of difference, or what their mode of action actually is.

Drink your tea. Let the scientists keep doing what scientists do, which is try and figure stuff out. Smile politely when "science journalists" turn the crank on the cycle of hope and controversy that help them sell copies.
posted by Good Brain at 8:39 AM on March 14, 2007

I am not a doctor.

The danger of dehydration due to caffeine in tea is probably nearly nil. All consumption of liquids contribute to hydration, and the amount of H2O in a cup of tea overwhelms the mild diuretic effect. In regular tea/coffe drinkers, the diuretic effect may actually be diminished.

Unless you have some medical condition, or are on medication which compromises your hydration levels, tea should be perfectly safe in normal doses.
posted by ijoshua at 8:44 AM on March 14, 2007

I drink green tea all day, and it makes me race like a pisshorse. But Jesus lord allmighty do I love it!

P.S., if it's too bitter for you, you're either steeping it too long or steeping it in water that is too hot.
posted by afx114 at 9:01 AM on March 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

P.S., if it's too bitter for you, you're either steeping it too long or steeping it in water that is too hot.

That's what I came to say. Definitely try shorter steeping time and less than boiling water if you're not already. Of course, it still may be too bitter to you, everyone's different.
posted by birdie birdington at 11:56 AM on March 14, 2007

If you are a woman of menstruating age, and especially if you're a vegetarian, look into tea's inhibition of your ability to absorb iron. Otherwise it's fine for you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:24 PM on March 14, 2007

Also, yes, tea stains your teeth.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2007

In an independent study, it was determined that nutritionists do not know what the hell they are talking about. Usually these people wait a while before completely contradicting themselves, but, as evidenced by your magazine experience, tea is both bad for you and good for you at the same time. Given the paradox, why don't you just continue doing what you obviously enjoy.
posted by tjvis at 1:09 PM on March 14, 2007

Switching to green tea (assuming you're drinking black right now), in addition to maybe being more palatable, will increase the level of antioxidants. Black tea is allowed to ferment, oxidizing the polyphenols, whereas green tea is roasted before this fermentation can take place, leaving more antioxidants. But as Good Brain said, the jury is still out on whether these polyphenols are absorbed at concentrations that will do you any benefit.
posted by twoporedomain at 7:56 PM on March 14, 2007

All I've ever read about tea says that it's good for you. I think there's plenty of scientific evidence for that. As far as caffeine being bad for you, there's just no sufficient evidence for this. If you're worried about dehydration, drink a cup of water between cups of tea.

As for bitterness in the tea, everyone is right, you're either steeping too long or in water that is too hot. Or you are using crap tea. To accurately gauge the temperature of water, I use an electric candy thermometer w/ LCD readout ($15). Works great.

You might want to also try some other varieties of tea. I can't stand the grassy flavor of green tea, but houjicha, a roasted green tea, is probably my favorite tea of all time. White tea is smoother than green tea, and better for you. I drink a quart of white peony everyday (and never get dehydrated). If you need caffeine, try pu-erh; it's smooth and velvety and BLACK. It replaced by beloved morning coffee a few months back.

The best place I've found to buy tea (in the US) is straight from Rishi Tea
posted by keith0718 at 1:33 AM on March 15, 2007

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