Tea for bone health
“The major bone benefits of drinking tea are due to its powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids,” says Sue Xiao Yu, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, a clinical nutritionist and registered dietitian at the Hospital for Special Surgery. “The potent polyphenols found in tea have shown to help increase bone mineralization, delay bone mineral density reduction, and increase the levels of vitamin D in your body.” (And vitamin D deficiency is pretty common, so that last one is extra important for many of us.) “Catechins also help to protect bone building cells in the body, while flavonoids have estrogen-like properties that help to prevent bone loss,” Yu says.
In order to reap these benefits, drink black, green, or oolong tea, as these are the types of teas most of the studies on tea and bone health looked at, according to Yu. “Black, green, and oolong teas are also recommend because they are the most commonly consumed in the world,” she adds. And it doesn’t really matter if you take your tea hot or iced; Yu says that while one study cited in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that drinking tea with a temperature of 122°F-140°F is effective because it helps preserve the catechins, none of the other studies mentioned the temperature of the tea.
Keep in mind that tea is excellent for maintaining many other bodily functions (beyond just bone health) as we age. It’s good for your heart, brain, focus, and even your mood. “[Green and black tea are] high in flavanols, which is a type of antioxidant, and these flavanols have been linked to reducing LDL cholesterol, also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol,” Neva Cochran, RD previously told Well+Good. This, she adds, means it can lower the risk of heart disease.
“The catechins found in tea also help protect the body from free radicals. This benefits the whole body and of course the brain as well,” Cochran said. What’s more, an article published in the journal Phytomedicine that took into account 21 separate studies on green tea found that tea consumption was linked to better attention and memory. The researchers say they believe this to be connected to the caffeine and L-theanine (an amino acid associated with calm and focus) in the tea. Between the catechins, caffeine, and L-theanine, there are so many components unique to tea that make it a superstar brain-boosting beverage.
As for how much tea to consume? Yu says that the research studies for bone health generally referenced consuming one to four cups of tea a day.
Just remember that drinking tea is just one component of healthy bones. “There are many other nutrients that are just as important for bone health. These include calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K, just to name a few,” Yu says. “It is vital that you allow follow a well-balanced diet that incorporates a variety of different foods and food groups to get adequate nutrients to support bone health.”
Learn more about the health-boosting benefits of green tea and matcha according to a dietitian in this video:
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