Health Benefits of Black Tea

Health Benefits of Black Tea

Medically reviewed by Allison Herries, RDNMedically reviewed by Allison Herries, RDN

Black tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Its color and flavor are more intense than green tea because it undergoes more oxidation (exposure to air) during processing. This results in dark-colored tea leaves with a rich, malty taste.

There are many types of black tea, including Earl Grey, Assam, and Ceylon tea, which vary in flavor and color. Black tea contains several beneficial compounds, such as polyphenol antioxidants, and drinking it regularly may support overall health and protect against common health conditions like high blood pressure and cognitive decline.

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May Protect Heart Health

Incorporating black tea into your diet may help reduce heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure.  

Black tea contains plant compounds, such as polyphenols, that help reduce blood vessel inflammation, inhibit smooth muscle contraction (excess contractions can increase blood pressure), and increase the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that dilates (widens) blood vessels, improving blood flow.

Research shows that drinking black tea may reduce blood pressure levels and protect against the development of high blood pressure. A review of 13 studies found that black tea supplementation significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to control treatments.

Another recent study, which included data on 76,673 Chinese adults between the ages of 30-79, found that the adults who consumed tea, including black tea, had a 10% lower risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).

Since black tea may lower heart disease risk factors, drinking it regularly may protect against heart disease and other cardiovascular-related conditions, such as stroke. A review of 39 studies found that tea drinkers had an average 4% lower risk of heart disease-related death and a 4% lower risk of stroke for every cup of tea drank per day.

Rich in Antioxidants  

Black tea is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances like tea polysaccharides (TPS), theaflavins, thearubigins, epigallocatechin (EGC), and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

These compounds have strong cellular-protective activity and may reduce the risk of conditions associated with oxidative stress, a condition characterized by an imbalance between the body’s antioxidant defenses and highly reactive substances called free radicals. Antioxidants protect cells from damage by interacting with free radicals and neutralizing them before they can cause harm to the body.

Consuming antioxidant-rich foods and beverages, like black tea, may protect against conditions linked with oxidative stress, such as certain cancers and heart disease.

Although studies show that green tea has a higher concentration of certain antioxidants, like polyphenols, drinking black tea is an easy way to boost your intake of health-protective plant compounds.

May Lower the Risk of Certain Cancers

Due to its high concentration of antioxidants, black tea may protect against the development of certain cancers.

For example, studies show that people who regularly consume black tea are less likely to develop certain gynecological cancers than people who don't drink black tea.

A review of 19 studies that included data on more than two million people found that women who consumed between 1.40-3.12 cups of black tea per day had a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer, one of the most common types of cancers in women.

May Protect Against Cognitive Decline and Depression

Black tea is high in several compounds that may benefit brain health, including polyphenols and caffeine. These compounds have neuroprotective effects and may reduce cellular damage and inflammation in the neurological system, protecting against conditions like Alzheimer's disease and depression.

A review of seven studies that included 410,951 people found that green or black tea intake was associated with a significantly reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia (brain damage due to decreased blood flow).

The review also found that tea intake protected against dementia development in people with low activity levels, people who smoked, and older individuals.

Drinking black tea may also reduce your risk of developing depression. A study of 491 adults found that people who consumed more than one cup of black tea per day had a lower risk of depression compared to people who drank less than one cup.

Compounds found in black tea, like polyphenols and amino acids, modulate the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and interact with signaling pathways in the brain to support healthy cognitive function and protect against depression.

Nutrition of Black Tea

Like other teas, black tea is not a significant source of nutrients.

One cup of brewed black tea provides:

  • Calories: 2.37
  • Protein: 0 grams (g)
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: <1 g
  • Manganese: 0.519 milligrams (mg), or 23% of the Daily Value (DV)

Black tea is a good source of manganese, a mineral involved in energy metabolism, blood clotting, and nervous and immune system function. One cup of black tea covers over 20% of your daily manganese needs.

Black tea contains small amounts of other minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Black tea is also very low in calories and sugars, which can be helpful if you are looking to reduce your caloric or sugar intake. Reducing your consumption of added sugar could help improve your health by supporting blood sugar regulation, improving liver health, and helping you lose excess body fat.

Risks of Black Tea

Drinking black tea is safe for most people, but there are a few risks associated with its consumption.

First, it's important to choose a quality, preferably organic, black tea whenever possible as there have been reports of black tea products containing pesticide residues, mycotoxins, and other contaminants like heavy metals. Purchasing organically-grown black tea ensures it was grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.

Black tea also contains caffeine, which some people may need to limit. The caffeine content of black tea varies, but research shows the average cup of black tea contains around 47 mg of caffeine. This is about half the caffeine found in coffee. However, it's still important to monitor your black tea intake if you're sensitive to caffeine or have to limit it for health reasons.

Additionally, the polyphenols in black tea inhibit iron absorption in the digestive system. Drinking black tea in large amounts may be harmful for people with low iron stores. Black tea seems to have a more significant inhibitory effect on plant-based (non-heme) sources of iron, so people following plant-based diets, like vegan diets, should be especially aware of their black tea intake.

Tips for Consuming Black Tea

Black tea has a rich, malty flavor. It can be enjoyed on its own or combined with other ingredients to make delicious drinks.

Here are some of the most common ways to drink black tea:

  • Drink black tea with a splash of milk or non-dairy milk
  • Make a black tea latte using steamed milk, black tea, and a sweetener of your choice
  • Drink chilled black tea over ice with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Try adding spices, like cinnamon or cloves, to hot black tea

Black tea is available as a loose-leaf tea and in tea bags, and it comes in various forms and flavors.

Black tea has a long shelf life, so it's an easy ingredient to keep in your pantry. When stored in an airtight container at room temperature, loose-leaf tea and tea bags can last for up to two and three years, respectively.

A Quick Review

Black tea is a popular beverage that has a dark color and rich flavor. It's packed with health-protective compounds and when consumed regularly, it may reduce your risk of several health conditions, including high blood pressure and dementia.

Though black tea is generally safe for most people to consume, it does contain caffeine, which some people have to limit in their diets.

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