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What’s the right tea for me?

Want to know what tea to drink if you have insomnia, need to stay awake or have diabetes? Dietitian Mbali Mapholi answers your tea-related questions

09 June 2022 - 08:30
Which is the best brew for your needs?
Which is the best brew for your needs?
Image: 123RF/nitr

According to Statista, a database company specialising in market and consumer data, tea is the second most consumed beverage globally, second only to water. In fact, in 2020 the global consumption of tea amounted to roughly 6.3-billion kilograms.

But despite being a popular drink, you may have lingering questions about the best way to enjoy tea. For example, which tea is best to drink if you suffer from insomnia or need to stay awake, are pregnant, have diabetes or are trying to lose weight? Can you give your child tea to drink and does green tea really assist in weight loss?

Dietitian and Laager Rooibos partner Mbali Mapholi spills the tea.

I struggle with insomnia — will drinking tea help?

If you struggle to sleep, a herbal tea may be the answer for you. Herbal teas such as rooibos, honeybush and chamomile are caffeine-free. Chamomile in particular is often associated with promoting sleep. Researchers believe its effect on sleep is due to the fact it contains apigenin — a flavonoid that binds to certain receptors in the brain, which can promote sleepiness.

I work long hours — which tea can help keep me awake and alert?

Though caffeine often carries a negative stereotype, it can also be beneficial when consumed in moderation. Caffeine can improve memory and mental alertness and decrease fatigue. Teas containing caffeine are from the camellia sinensis plant which include black tea, green tea, oolong tea and white tea. The differences in these tea varieties comes down to the way they are processed, and the caffeine quantity differs depending on the type of tea and the time taken to steep the beverage.

Can I give tea to my children?

Rooibos tea is the perfect choice for children because it is caffeine-free and naturally sweet. Young children should ideally not consume caffeine on a regular basis. All teas, except herbal teas like rooibos and honeybush, contain caffeine. Rooibos also has other benefits for growing bodies — it is hydrating, low in tannins, high in antioxidants and can help soothe tummy ache and allergies.

I have an iron deficiency — can I still drink tea?  

Tannins are naturally found in tea and while they may have potential health benefits, a well-researched downside is that tannins may inhibit the absorption of non-heme iron which is the iron from plant food sources. To avoid this, you can opt for herbal teas like rooibos, which are low in tannins, or drink tea between meals (avoid drinking tea during meals where you are eating iron-rich foods).

If you struggle to sleep, a herbal tea may be the answer for you. Herbal teas like rooibos, honeybush and chamomile are caffeine-free

I have diabetes — which tea is best for me?

A lot of research has been done on the benefits of rooibos for those struggling with diabetes. Rooibos may help people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels under control as part of a healthy lifestyle and therefore reduce the risk of complications. It is also naturally sweet meaning it can be enjoyed without sugar or other sweeteners.

Can I drink tea when I’m pregnant?

Herbal teas such as rooibos and honeybush are the perfect choice during pregnancy. They’re naturally caffeine-free and can also help soothe an irritated stomach. They can also be enjoyed hot or cold to keep you hydrated and feeling at your best.

I’m lactose intolerant — which teas taste best without milk?

Any tea can be enjoyed without milk (or with a milk substitute) but green tea and herbal teas like rooibos and honeybush are those most frequently consumed without milk. These teas are generally enjoyed plain or with added honey and/or lemon.

I’m trying to lose weight — can green tea help me?

Though green tea is packed with antioxidants which are important for good health, green tea on its own is not a magic cure for weight loss. Weight loss is achieved through lifestyle changes such as adopting a nourishing and varied diet and keeping active. This being said, green tea is a healthy drink which can certainly form part of your weight loss programme. In addition, green tea may improve your workouts as it has the ability to increase your blood flow, which then results in improved oxygenation to your bodily organs.

• Q&A courtesy of Joekels.

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