Charles Mwangi, a casual worker in Nairobi’s Industrial Area has not taken tea for three months. His love for beer interferes with tea intake, he says clarifying that “I can occasionally take uji or soup in the morning but not tea.”
Little does Mwangi know that drinking up to 10 cups of tea has several health benefits ranging from controlling major risk factors for chronic diseases like heart coronary, heart disease, hypertension and some types of cancer.
Mello Achieng, a trained nutritionist says tea contains antioxidant polyphenols which lower the risk of heart diseases and “it is sad that despite surplus production of tea in Kenya, local consumption is low as people are not aware of its health benefits.”
“We only consume about five per cent of our tea which is why we have to export the rest,” said Irene Cheruiyot, Factory Manager at Gatitu Tea Factory, part of the Nyayo Tea Zones in Kirinyaga County. “Kenya has no tea drinking culture like say, the Chinese or the Pakistani. Tea is also best taken without milk.”
Mello adds that tea contains antioxidants which detoxify harmful and excess free radicals, which are molecules that naturally occupy the body. Excessive free radicals caused by exposure to sunlight, pollution and smoking have been linked to increased cases of cancer and coronary heart disease.
Antioxidants, therefore combat adverse effects of cigarettes, too much sunlight, pollution besides neutralizing production of free radicals, says Mello adding that antioxidants and the ingredients in tea can lower the risk of stroke and oral cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
Mello adds that both black and green tea can suppress unfavourable bacteria in the intestinal tract but maintain favourable bacteria that are helpful to metabolic functions. A 2015 study by Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2015 revealed that antioxidants in tea help the body fight harmful free radicals that can suppress immunity and advance ageing.
The antioxidants in tea also help lower the growth of abnormal cells and black tea is good in preventing oxidation of bad cholesterol, according to FAO.
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“One mechanism involved in coronary heart disease is oxidation of bad cholesterol associated with the risk of atherosclerosis and antioxidants in tea inhibit this adverse oxidation thus lowering the risk of heart,” says Mello.
Regular tea intake also helps to develop strong muscles as the calcium in tea also helps prevent gastric ulcer, blood sugar, blood pressure, intestinal problems and tumour. Mello adds that tea protects teeth from cavities thus preventing decay by curbing plaque formation.