Monday May 10, 2010 | 3 comments
Tea party for two – a tradition shared by two young cousins. Our table setting included tea, crackers, sugar, and, of course, milk. At our young age, we did not realize the health benefits of tea; we simply enjoyed the good company and the feeling of adulthood. Tea parties like the ones I used to have with my cousin foretold my current love of tea. At this stage of my life, however, the crackers, the milk, and the sugar are relegated to memories and I enjoy tea in its natural state. There is no doubt in the scientific community that tea has many benefits for the body, inside and out. One benefit of regular tea consumption is preventing the narrowing of the arterial wall in the heart, ameliorating the heart’s workload.
The catechins in tea may contribute to its bitter taste, but on the plus side, they are one of the components of tea that helps our arteries. Many in today’s societies are developing cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes or heart disease. Catechins promote the production of a substance called nitric oxide from the arterial wall. This helps to relax and expand the arteries and facilitate the movement of blood from the heart to the entire body. Exciting news to all tea drinkers, right? But what about those who add excessive amounts of milk to their tea?
That’s right – milk! Cow’s milk has many body-benefiting nutrients, like casein. However, research from the Charity Hospital University in Berlin suggests that casein decreases the heart-healthy benefits of tea by binding to tea’s catechins, rendering them less effective.
However, for those of you who like a bit of milk in your tea, don’t despair. The ratio of milk to tea at which catechins are less effective is one to four. This means that if 25 percent or more of your mug is milk and the rest is tea, there is a significant decrease in the effectiveness of your tea’s catechins. Although it might be rare to see that ratio, it still occurs. Take the United Kingdom, for instance. The British have a long tradition of adding rather substantial amounts of milk to their tea.
A study done at Unilever Research and Development Vlaardingen in the Netherlands showed that the British drink approximately five to six cups of tea a day, while the rest of the world drinks about one to two cups a day. One would assume that with such a large number of cups a day there would be fewer incidences of heart disease and strokes, but the opposite is happening. When further research was performed, the difference in tea-drinking habits between the United Kingdom and other countries was that the British used milk and black tea, while those in other countries generally used green tea and honey or lemon as an additive.
Tea, undoubtedly, benefits the body by helping the cells, blood, organs, and our mind. Adding milk decreases some of the health benefits of tea, but according to Catherine Collins, the spokesperson for the British Dietetic Society, “There are benefits of tea, with or without milk, so keep on drinking.” With or without milk, we are receiving nutrients, antioxidants, and a little happiness with each sip of tea we take. With everything we do, there is a balance; if we add milk to tea, we are consuming calcium and vitamin D; if we do not, we are allowing catechins to do their magic in our arteries. As we say in the nutrition world – balance, variety, and moderation. Balance tea consumption with healthy eating choices, try a variety of teas for various health benefits, and consume tea in moderation.