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Why that cup of tea is good for you

 Why that cup of tea is good for you (Photo: iStock)

Some people call it nature's tranquilliser; Tea is a comforter, able to smooth away stress and lift the spirits. As such, most Kenyans readily offer a cup of tea to visitors, someone who has been bereaved, given birth or has experienced some other kind of shock.

But tea has not only been proven to calm nerves, it also offers nutritional and antioxidant benefits for your body, according to research. We break down the pros and cons of common components in your cup of tea to help you milk the most out of it.

Tea leaves: Did you know tea leaves have more caffeine than coffee before brewing? See, tea leaves have around 3.5 per cent caffeine, whereas unbrewed coffee beans have only about 1.1-2.2 per cent caffeine. However, when you make tea, plenty of the caffeine is left in the tea leaves you dump, leaving less in the tea you drink.

Coffee releases more caffeine upon brewing, leaving more for you to consume. Moderate levels of caffeine stimulate the brain and the central nervous system, enabling you to stay alert and preventing the onset of tiredness.

Excess caffeine is considered unsafe as it triggers anxiety, increases heart rate, restlessness and other central nervous system-related side effects. Tea leaves also contain nicotine but only in small amounts. Furthermore, one study revealed that brewing tea for 5 minutes released only about half the amount of the nicotine in dry tea into the drink.

Sugar: Other than a dash of sweetness, it contains no nutritional benefits and often leads to weight gain, increased blood pressure and high blood sugar. Adding sugar to your tea has also been shown to reduce the anti-inflammatory benefits of tea leaves.

Milk: It contains integral nutritional benefits, including proteins, calcium, and potassium. Unfortunately, many studies have found evidence that adding milk significantly reduces tea's antioxidant activity, which in turn affects its health benefits.

The components of tea leaves, especially catechins, have also been proven to interact with milk protein, resulting in poor absorption of the proteins in the digestive system. Still, tea on its own tastes a little bitter, acidic and dry. Adding milk mellows and smoothens the tea's flavour, and some nutritional loss may just be the price to pay for that enjoyable cup of tea.

Condiments: Most people enjoy a dash of spices, including ginger, cardamom, or tea masala, all of which enhance flavour and nutritional benefits, including anti-inflammatory, blood pressure reduction and immune boosting.

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