I love coffee, but I fell in love with the ritual of tea years ago. After my morning cup of joe, I switch to hot or iced black, green, oolong, or white tea. For years I’ve been calling it medicine in a mug because of the numerous studies linking it to protection against heart disease, cancer, and plain old aging. Now a new study finds that it may help fend off type 2 diabetes, an illness with a global prevalence that has jumped six-fold over the past few decades.
Researchers looked at the consumption of black tea in 50 countries across the world and then analyzed World Health Organization data for the same nations, including the prevalence of respiratory and infectious diseases, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. They found that countries with a high intake of black tea (Ireland topped the list, followed by the U.K. and Turkey) also had a low rate of diabetes.
While it’s not a cause and effect study and scientists aren’t certain about why tea may be protective, other research points to the brew's natural anti-inflammatory properties. A recent animal study led by scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that disabling the inflammatory pathway in mice prevented insulin resistance and subsequently type 2 diabetes.
RELATED: In addition to drinking more tea, eliminate these 10 foods that cause inflammation from your diet to reduce your risk of numerous diseases.
Anti-inflammation properties may also be why tea has been shown to boost brain health. One study in older adults found that compared to those who drank less than three cups a week, those who drank more than two cups a day had more than a 50 percent lower risk of age-related memory decline.
Aside from water, tea is the most popular beverage in the world, but teatime hasn’t quite caught on in the United States. Here, 80 percent of tea is consumed iced, mostly during the summer. If like many Americans you don’t enjoy it hot, that’s okay; there are other ways to reap the benefits.
In my kitchen, tea is much more than a beverage. After brewing, I use it as the base for soups or to steam whole-grain rice or veggies. I also combine it with garlic, onion powder and herbs to create a rub for meat or tofu. My go-to marinade is a mixture of brewed chilled tea, garlic, fresh grated ginger, and minced hot peppers. And I whip loose tea leaves into smoothies and fold them into melted dark chocolate as a dip for fresh fruit. It’s versatile, healthful, and delicious!
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.