Tea or Water? Both!

Is tea healthier for you than water? Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits! The work in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition dispels the common belief that tea dehydrates. And the UK nutritionists found that tea not only rehydrates, as well as water, does, but it can also protect against heart disease and some cancers.

Tea leaves are a very rich source of flavonoids. Flavonoids are a class of naturally occurring plant compounds that function as antioxidants. They are plant pigments and even if they are not labeled as essential nutrients, they enhance the processing of vitamin C, which is itself a powerful antioxidant. Flavonoids are also needed to maintain capillary walls and protect against infections. The deficiency of flavonoids may lead to easy bruising.

water tea cup

Flavonoids are extremely potent anti-oxidants. Antioxidant properties of the natural pigments fight against molecular oxidation by the free radicals; this is why they are called anti-oxidants. In our body, an infinite number of chemical reactions take place every day. A part of the chemical changes in the cells that use oxygen gives birth to free radicals, which are harmful to the cells and the organism.

An excessive amount of free radicals interact with the DNA or parts of the other cells in the body and may damage them. But the antioxidants counteract and neutralize these organic "enemies." For the study, researchers have analyzed a large number of scientific works on water and tea's properties and effects upon our health. They found that tea rehydrates our body as well as water, but it also contains the "magic" ingredients, which keep us from a wide range of various health disorders.

Experts believe flavonoids are the key ingredient in tea that promotes health. These polyphenol antioxidants are found in many foods and plants, including tea leaves, and have been shown to help prevent cell damage. Public health nutritionist Dr. Carrie Ruxton, and colleagues at Kings College London, looked at published studies on the health effects of tea consumption.

Clear evidence is found, that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack. Some studies also suggested tea consumption protected against cancer, although this effect was less clear-cut. Other than that, there are even some health benefits including protection against tooth plaque and potentially tooth decay, plus bone strengthening.

Dr. Ruxton said: "Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it's got two things going for it." Tea is rehydrating. She said it was an urban myth that tea is dehydrating. "Studies on caffeine have found very high doses dehydrate and everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages dehydrate. But even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a net gain of fluid.

Besides the fact that tea is as much a rehydrating agent as water, it is an extremely potent antioxidant and anticancer agent. This is mostly due to the flavonoids and polyphenol antioxidants that are natural ingredients in the beverage. A cup of tea contains fluoride, which is good for the teeth," stated Public health nutritionist Dr. Carrie Ruxton who took part in the investigation.

There was no evidence that tea consumption was harmful to health. However, research suggests that tea can impair the body's ability to absorb iron from food; meaning people at risk of anemia should avoid drinking tea around mealtimes. Dr.Ruxton's team found average tea consumption was just less than three cups per day. She said the increasing popularity of soft drinks meant many people were not drinking as much tea as before. "Tea drinking is most common in older people, the 40 plus age range. In older people, tea sometimes made up about 70% of fluid intake so it is a really important contributor," she said.

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