Ahh, black tea. The less glamorous and popular cousin of green tea, right? Chances are that you’ve heard of all the amazing health benefits of green tea. But did you know that black tea has just as impressive of a resume? We’ve put together a list of all the proven health bonuses that black tea can add to your life:
- Improve digestive health
- Improve heart health
- Regulate blood sugar
- Assist in weight loss
- Improve mental focus
- Reduce risk of cancer
Pretty impressive, right? We’ve got all the facts (and science) for you below. But first, here’s a little background on what exactly black tea is . . .
What is Black Tea?
Made from the exact same plant as green tea, camellia sinensis, black tea only differs in how the leaves are processed. To make black tea, the tea leaves are actually oxidized, or fermented.
During this oxidation/fermentation stage, there are two compounds that form which are unique to black tea, and not found in green tea: theaflavins and thearubigins. These two players not only make black tea look and taste different than green tea, but they also are responsible for black tea’s unique health benefits.
Black tea contains more caffeine than other teas, but still less than coffee. You can find it as straight black tea, or often it is blended with fruits and spices to get everything from the bergamot-infused Earl Grey to a spicy Chai.
Black Tea Benefits
1. Improve Digestive Health
As mentioned above, black tea is derived from fermented tea leaves. Fermented foods typically tend to be very good at putting friendly bacteria into our bodies, and black tea is no exception. The polyphenols in black tea have been researched and proven to improve gut microflora. (1)
Why on earth should you want to improve the bacteria in your gut? Science has shown us that trillions of bacteria actually live in our digestive tract, and our “gut” is responsible for 70-80% of our immune system. (2) To put it mildly, the bacteria balance in your gut can have a significant impact on your overall health.
Ok, so you know you should be taking a prebiotic, but you’re not exactly sure how all that works, right? In a nutshell, a prebiotic is something that encourages the growth of “friendly” bacteria in your digestive tract. Sadly, many products that market themselves as prebiotics have one fatal flaw: they are digested and absorbed too quickly by your stomach acid to ever really have a significant effect on your microbiome.
This is one important way in which black tea is different. The polyphenols are larger molecules which are not immediately absorbed into your liver or blood. This means they hang out in your intestines for a longer period of time, which is where they work their magic of encouraging your body to grow more healthy bacteria.
2. Improve Heart Health
One of the best ways to keep yourself safe from cardiovascular disease is to keep your blood pressure levels in a healthy range. It turns out that drinking 4-5 cups of black tea per day can in fact lower your blood pressure. (3) (4)
Interested in maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood lipid levels? Research has demonstrated that adding black tea to your diet for 12 weeks can result in a better LDL/HDL ratio (that’s good vs. bad cholesterol) and can lower your triglycerides by up to 36%. (5)
3. Regulate Blood Sugar
If you regularly have elevated or unstable blood sugar levels, you will be at a higher risk for various health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and kidney failure. Drinking black tea can help keep your blood sugar levels stable. (6)
Here’s how: studies show that black tea can actually delay the digestion of starches and sugars. This means your blood sugar will be less prone to spikes after eating. (7)
4. Assist in Weight Loss
Does it seem like everything remotely healthy these days claims it can help you lose weight? We wanted some proof, so we did some digging into how it is that black tea has been considered a weapon in the fight against obesity.
It turns out that when you consume black tea, you are supporting your body’s ability to form microbial metabolites. These little guys are critical to regulating your energy metabolism, which supports your body’s ability to lose weight. (8) Pretty cool.
5. Improve Mental Focus
If being more focused and alert sounds good to you, black tea has two powerful weapons for you: caffeine and L-theanine. Caffeine is a well known stimulant, but in combination with the calming antioxidant L-theanine, these two will give you a steady, calm and focused mental state with no subsequent energy crash.
In a couple different studies on black tea’s ability to enhance mental alertness and focus, the group drinking black tea was more accurate in mental tasks than the placebo group. The black tea group also self-reported feeling more alert than the placebo group. (9)
6. Reduce Risk of Cancer
With so many things in our world that apparently can cause cancer, it’s nice to know there are some simple things that might be able to help us fight the formation of cancer cells. Black tea is one of these.
Studies have demonstrated that the polyphenols in black tea seem to be able to kill off cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. (10) For this reason, consumption of black tea has been linked to a decreased risk of developing bladder, prostate, mouth and stomach cancer. (11)
If you’re a coffee drinker or tend to stick to green tea, maybe it’s time to broaden your beverage horizons to include some black tea. With so many delicious varieties to choose from, it couldn’t be easier to do something really good (and simple!) for your health.