Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
Fact-checked by Aditya Nar, B.Pharm, MSc. Public Health and Health Economics
Call it the superstar drink or simply refer to it as the second most popular drink in the world (after water); tea is one good old diabetes-friendly drink. We Indians in particular, kick-start our day with a perfectly brewed cuppa, making tea an integral part of our lives. Our ritual of sipping on piping hot chai transcends all boundaries and cultures. But with roadside vendors dotted with chai wallahs who serve black tea boiled up with spices, sugar and milk; one really wonders which types of tea (and its preparation) are best suited for diabetics.
Because when living with diabetes, deciding which variety of tea to consume and how much of it is best suited for us becomes a matter of in-depth conversation.
Dr. AK Jhingan, Consultant Diabetologist at the Diabetes Education Research, New Delhi says, “People with diabetes tend to have problems with metabolising their sugar levels. Insulin tends to decrease sugar levels further. With type 2 diabetes, the body is not that sensitive to insulin or is at times deficient in it, leading to the spiralling of blood sugar levels. It is here that tea can be extra beneficial for diabetics as it aids with metabolic system functioning while sensitising cells.”
Green Tea and Management of Diabetes
Dr. Jhingan points out these benefits of drinking green tea for diabetics:
- It contains high amounts of polyphenols (antioxidants), which have anti-oxidative properties that further help against carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) and inflammation.
- Polyphenols also assist in reducing oxidative stress and vasodilation, i.e. widening of the arteries.
- In fact, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a principal polyphenol in green tea, is the critical component that helps in sensitising cells for both types of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics to metabolise their sugar better. It reduces sharp peaks in blood sugar levels, which can overload your system with insulin.
- Along with diabetes, green tea also helps in keeping cholesterol and obesity at bay. Maintaining blood sugar levels also maintains the blood pressure and cholesterol, which can keep the health of your heart in check too.
- Green tea helps in preventing blood clotting, thus reducing cholesterol and obesity. Green tea inhibits fat from being accumulated in the body. Therefore, helping your body with processing the food you consume more efficiently.
- By consuming 2-4 small cups of green tea after every meal, the insulin production can be given a boost, thus keeping your diabetes in check.
Make sure not to add any processed sugar or artificial sweetener in tea to extract full benefits out of it. Best way to consume green tea is to dip the green tea sachet in water and sip it gradually.
Green Tea or Black Tea for Diabetes Management?
While green tea contains unfermented leaves, which is more effective than black tea, and is always considered the real hero of the tea world; black tea, too, is packed with diabetes-friendly properties. “Black tea is also extracted from the same plant as green tea, but unlike green tea, it is oxidised using heat and humidity to alter its texture, flavour and colour,” suggests Dr. Jhingan. He further adds, “Black tea holds its own glory as it contains higher levels of polysaccharides when compared to green tea, thus directly stabilising blood sugar levels. But the biggest trick with black tea is to drink it stand alone, not more than two times in a day, without adding any milk or sugar to it.”
In fact, according to Dr. Jhingan, you could add the following ingredients to your black or green tea to make it more effective:
- A small bark of cinnamon stick: Cinnamon is packed with excellent anti-bacterial properties. It is an excellent source of antioxidant that helps diabetics to increase their insulin sensitivity.
- A pinch of crushed cardamom: Cardamom is packed with manganese that helps regulate blood sugar levels and calcium absorption. Cardamom is also useful in reducing fasting blood glucose levels.
- A few specs of grated ginger: This Indian digestive ingredient is not only anti-inflammatory, but it also helps in improvising the production of sensitivity in the body. It reduces oxidation by managing cholesterol levels.
Irrespective of the fact you choose green, black, or any other type of herbal tea, the key lies in avoiding sweeteners and milk.For a refreshing taste, make your own homemade iced tea version using different varieties of tea such as green tea mixed with basil, green tea mixed with jasmine, Oolong tea or Earl Grey tea. And yes, adding a few slices of lemon always helps in boosting the tea’s advantages and flavour!
- Healthyeating.sfgate.com What Is EGCG in Green Tea? Available at: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/egcg-green-tea-8453.html