Ahh, black tea. The less glamorous and popular cousin of green tea, right?
Chances are that you’ve heard of all the amazing health benefits of green tea. But did you know that black tea has just as impressive of a resume?
We’ve put together a list of all the ways in which black tea may help your health:
- Support digestive health
- Support heart health
- Help with healthy blood sugar regulation
- Support a healthy metabolism
- Improve mental focus
Pretty impressive, right? We’ve got all the facts (and science) for you below. You might be surprised to see how black tea stacks up against green tea and why it’s a favorite of many tea drinkers.
But first, here’s a little background on what exactly black tea is . . .
What is Black Tea?
Made from the exact same plant as green tea, the Camellia Sinensis plant, black tea only differ in how the leaves are processed. To make black tea, the tea leaves are actually oxidized or aged.
During this oxidation stage, there are two compounds that form which are unique to black tea, and not found in green tea: theaflavins and thearubigins.
You’ve heard of catechins in green tea? Well, as tea is oxidized, these catechins actually transform into theaflavins and thearubigins.
Fun fact: catechins, theaflavins and thearubigins are ALL polyphenols. And polyphenols are the antioxidants well known for doing battle against the free radicals in your body.
So when you hear that drinking tea is healthy because it contains polyphenols, it’s good to keep in mind that there are many different varieties of polyphenols, and drinking a variety of them will bring about greater health benefits!
Theaflavins and thearubigins not only make black tea look and taste different from green tea, but they also are responsible for black tea’s unique health benefits.
What about its caffeine content? Black tea contains more caffeine than other teas, but still less than coffee.
Types of Black Tea
Though we speak of “black tea” singularly, there’s actually an unbelievably wide variety of black teas to choose from.
Two of the most popular types of black tea are Assam black tea and Ceylon black tea, which are each named for the region in which they are grown. You can check out the links to learn more about them, and how they differ.
Black tea consumption goes back centuries. And tea makers have concocted numerous blends with black tea leaves, among the most popular being the robust and earthy English Breakfast, the bergamot-infused Earl Grey, and spicy Chai tea as well.
Health Benefits of Black Tea
1. Support Digestive Health
As mentioned above, black tea is derived from oxidized/fermented tea leaves. Fermented foods typically tend to be very good at putting friendly bacteria into our bodies, and black tea is no exception. The polyphenols in black tea have been researched and proven to improve gut microflora. (1)
Why on earth should you want to improve the bacteria in your gut? Science has shown us that trillions of bacteria actually live in our digestive tract, and our “gut” is responsible for 70-80% of our immune system. (2) To put it mildly, the bacteria balance in your gut can have a significant impact on your overall health.
Ok, so you know you should be taking a prebiotic, but you’re not exactly sure how all that works, right? In a nutshell, a prebiotic is something that encourages the growth of “friendly” bacteria in your digestive tract. Sadly, many products that market themselves as prebiotics have one fatal flaw: they are digested and absorbed too quickly by your stomach acid to ever really have a significant effect on your microbiome.
This is one important way in which black tea is different. The theaflavins and thearubigins are larger molecules that are not immediately absorbed into your liver or blood. This means they hang out in your intestines for a longer period of time, which is where they work their magic of encouraging your body to grow more healthy bacteria.
2. Support Heart Health
One of the best ways to support healthy heart function is to keep your blood pressure levels in a healthy range. It turns out that drinking 4-5 cups of black tea per day can in fact support healthy blood pressure levels. (3)(4)
Interested in maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood lipid levels? Research has demonstrated that adding black tea to your diet for 12 weeks can result in a better LDL/HDL ratio (that’s good vs. bad cholesterol) and can also help with healthy triglyceride levels. (5)
3. Help With Healthy Blood Sugar Regulation
If you regularly have elevated or unstable blood sugar levels, you may be at a higher risk for various health problems. Drinking black tea can help keep your blood sugar levels stable. (6)
Here’s how: studies show that black tea can actually delay the digestion of starches and sugars. This means your blood sugar will be less prone to spikes after eating. (7)
4. Support Healthy Metabolism
Does it seem like everything remotely healthy these days claims it can help with weight loss or to increase your metabolism? We wanted some proof, so we did some digging into how it is that black tea has been considered a weapon to help with healthy weight management.
It turns out that when you consume black tea, you are supporting your body’s ability to form microbial metabolites. These little guys are critical to regulating your energy metabolism, which supports your body’s ability to lose weight. (8) Pretty cool.
5. Improve Mental Focus
If being more focused and alert sounds good to you, black tea has two powerful weapons for you: caffeine and L-theanine.
Caffeine is a well-known stimulant, but in combination with the calming amino acid L-theanine, these two will give you a steady, calm, and focused mental state with no subsequent energy crash.
In a couple different studies on black tea’s ability to enhance mental alertness and focus, the group drinking black tea was more accurate in mental tasks than the placebo group. The black tea group also self-reported feeling more alert than the placebo group. (9)
If you’re a coffee drinker or tend to stick to green tea, maybe it’s time to broaden your beverage horizons to include a cup of black tea.
With so many delicious types of tea to choose from, and so many documented black tea benefits – plus a healthy amount of caffeine – it couldn’t be easier to do something really good (and simple!) for your health.