Black Tea Is Good For You, Too

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In health and fitness circles, green tea tends to get the most attention. According to proponents, green tea can do everything from fight cancer to enhance your athletic performance. Unfortunately, the other types of tea tend to dwell in the shadow of this oft-lauded beverage.

Black tea is especially ignored. Generally, black tea is seen as something that you drink in place of coffee just as a way to get some caffeine. But it isn’t normally associated with health benefits – not to the degree that its green cousin enjoys, at least. In reality, though, black tea carries with it plenty of benefits and may even rival green tea in some respects. So, what’s the difference? How can black tea improve your health?

Part Of The Process

Many people are surprised to learn that green, black, oolong and white teas all come from the leaves of the same plant – Camellia sinensis. These different varieties of the brew, however, are all created through varying processes.

In the case of black tea, leaves from the shrub are picked and allowed to whither. Traditionally, the tea leaves are then rolled – which is exactly what it sounds like. Large, cylindrical weighs press the remaining moisture out of the leaves and coats them in their own natural juices. This method allows the leaves to stay whole. More modern approaches, however, chop the leaves into smaller pieces and produce the sort of powdered tea that you’re probably used to.

The tea leaves are then spread out in a cool, damp environment and allowed to oxidize. This part of the process is typically called fermentation but that’s not a correct designation. Fermentation allows yeast to turn sugars into alcohol; that’s not what’s going on here. Instead, the cells of the leaves – which were already broken by rolling or cutting – are exposed to oxygen. As the plant cells react to the oxygen, the formerly green leaves turn copper.

By Sjschen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, the leaves are dried, completing the transformation. Depending on the degree of oxidation and variety of tea, the leaves end up either brown or black.

But why does any of this matter? Because, compared to other types of tea, black tea is the most processed. As a result, the black tea contains more caffeine than the other varieties. Black tea also has a different overall chemical composition, allowing to influence your health in different ways.

Protecting Your Lungs

One of the more surprising examples of potential uses for black tea came from a 2007 study that looked at how the drink can impact lung health in smokers. Interestingly, the researchers found that the antioxidants in black tea can protect your lungs from the damage caused by cigarette smoke.

Even if you don’t smoke, though, this could hint to some useful benefits of black tea. Specifically black tea has a way of reducing inflammation and oxidative damage to the lungs. Although the study dealt with damage caused by cigarette smoke, the reality is that your lungs are constantly be exposed to potentially harmful substances.

Theoretically, black tea could help protect your lungs from this sort of environment damage. It is important to note two things about this study, though. First, it was conducted in guinea pigs – not humans. Second, as mentioned, it dealt directly with cigarettes. So, while it’s logical to conclude that this protection might extend to other pollutants, this is just an assumption.

Cardiovascular Health

During the oxidation process that makes black tea black, several compounds are created which are either non-existent or barely present in other varieties. The chemicals have a number of roles in your body but are particular active in the cardiovascular system – improving your circulation and potentially reducing blockages.

As a result of this action, black tea has been found to significantly reduce the risk of suffering a stroke. In order to reap these benefits, though, an individual would have to drink four or more cups of black tea each day.

Weight Loss

Most of the time, when people talk about weight loss from tea, they’re referring to green tea. According to lots of recent research, though, black tea offers the same benefits. The mechanism, however, does differ in a pretty fascinating way.

Running weight loss.

Among the chemicals that are created when black tea is oxidized are polyphenols. These substances cannot be absorbed or broken down by your digestive system so they pass through to your large intestine. There the polyphenols become food for highly beneficial, metabolism-boosting bacteria. As the population of these bugs increases, so does your fat burning potential. At the same time, those bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which improve the energy metabolism of your liver – meaning that you will burn fuel more efficiently.

Cautions and Considerations

The primary thing to consider when it comes to using black tea as a sort of supplement is its caffeine content. While the exact amount of caffeine found in your cup will varying based on the type of tea and brewing style, it’s safe to say that black tea is the most caffeinated of the teas. If you are sensitive to caffeine, be mindful of this when making black tea part of your routine.

It should also be noted that the tannins found in black tea can cause digestive upset in some people – particularly when you drink it on an empty stomach. If you’re unfamiliar with how black tea affects you, don’t experiment with it right before a race.

Finally, remember that – like coffee – black tea can sometimes be laden done with all sorts of calorie-rich additives and flavorings. While these might have their place in your diet, it’s important to account for them.

Sources

  1. John Fuller, How Tea Works , Article, Nov 21, 2017
  2. Shuvojit Banerjee, et. al., Black tea prevents cigarette smoke-induced apoptosis and lung damage, Journal, Feb 14, 2007
  3. Susanna C.Larsson, et. al., Black tea consumption and risk of stroke in women and men, Journal, Nov 21, 2017
  4. Susanne M. Henning, et. al., Decaffeinated green and black tea polyphenols decrease weight gain and alter microbiome populations and function in diet-induced obese mice, Journal, Sep 30, 2017
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