Friday 19 January 2018

From antioxidants to iron absorption: how to make the most of your cup of tea!

ive millennia on, tea is still delighting scientists who want to prove slightly obvious things. The latest news on that front is that it can make us more creative. In the journal Food Quality and Preference, Yan Huang, from the Psychological and Cognitive Sciences Department of Peking University, illustrates how his 50 subjects performed better when “trying to come up with a cool name for a noodle bar”, among other tasks, when given a cup of tea instead of a glass of water. As marvellous as this info is for the noodle bar franchising industry, the health and cognitive benefits of tea certainly don’t end there. We’ve all had the debate about how to make the tastiest cuppa. But what about the healthiest? Here are some tips:

Theanine, an amino acid, is at the core of how tea relaxes us. It is extraordinarily useful: good for anxiety, for high blood pressure, and preventing Alzheimer’s. It is also used to make cancer drugs more effective. There is more theanine in the stems than in the leaves. In that sense, pricey loose-leaf teas picked from the topper-most leaves in Nepalese villages are less valuable than those stems that are mashed into a standard builder’s brew.Use cheap, bagged tea
Avoid milk
Or not. Tea contains about 10 times as many antioxidants as fruit or vegetables, so it’s worth some thought either way. Some studies have shown that milk reduces the bioavailability of the antioxidants within tea. Others, however, suggest there is no difference. Jury’s out.
Prefer green
Black, white and green teas all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. The difference is simply the timing of the harvest and the level of oxidisation. Catechins, associated with cardiovascular health and weight maintenance, exist in all teas, but they’re affected by oxidation, so are highest in unoxidised green and white teas.
Don’t shake
Or tap, or otherwise whisk the tea around in the receptacle. That can increase the quantity of tannins released, which aside from being bitter, can bond to iron molecules in any food recently eaten, preventing them from being absorbed.
Brew for 20 minutes
Which is the point at which 80% of the “bioactive” – catechins, theanine, etc – are extracted? A tad inconvenient? Possibly disgusting? Settle for two to three minutes, when 60% of the catechins and 80% of the theanine will be absorbed. Alternatively, stewing for 30 seconds, then putting your mug plus the bag in the microwave for a minute (medium) will bring the levels up to a three-minute equivalent in half the time.

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