Pure teas as well as herbal teas and tisanes have been known help in preventing and managing diabetes. In this blog, take a closer look at popular teas recommended by diabetes educators, and explain in easy terms how and why they are effective.
Tea, the second most consumed beverage in the world (after water), has been drunk across cultures for its health benefits. Now, growing scientific research seems to confirm what traditional wisdom has been telling us for centuries : that tea is an amazing powerhouse packed with nutrients and compounds helping lower risks of heart-attack to cancer to diabetes.
Pure teas refer to the teas that have been made from the tea plant - Camellia Sinensis, a native of China and India. Based on its processing, teas made from Camellia Sinensis can be classified six main categories :
Black Tea – fully oxidized
Oolong Tea – semi-oxidized
White Tea – slightly oxidized
Green Tea – un-oxidized
Yellow Tea – partly-oxidized
Pu erh Tea – post-oxidize
Since all pure teas are made from the leaves of the same plant (Camellia Sinensis), they are all abundant in a compound called Polyphenols. Polyphenols constitute around 30-40% of freshly plucked tea-leaf. Amongst various kinds of polyphenols in tea ( tea has an estimated 30,000 polyphenolic compounds), the most studied has been Flavonoids - and it is Flavonoids that contain anti-oxidants which makes tea such a healthy beverage.
Flavonoids have flavanols called catechins or tannins. In the fully-oxidized black teas, these catechins are converted into theaflavins and thearubigins, while in the un-oxidized green teas, they remain as catechins, of which Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCC) is the most important and active catechin.
Our Top Teas for Diabetes
The health benefits of green tea continues to be highly-researched subject. Since it is consumed without milk or sugar, it is basically a zero-calorie drink. Type-2 diabetes is linked to obesity, and the zero-calorie green tea is known to aid weight-loss, helping keep blood sugar under control. It can also help in reducing the sharp spikes in blood sugar that can overload the insulin the system after eating.
In general, studies have suggested that green tea is beneficial for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity. Green tea has the highest concentration of the catechin EGCG, which is known to reduce the effects of insult resistance by decreasing the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. Green tea also helps in better metabolism. Some research has shown green tea to inhibit the enzyme amylase which turns carbohydrates into simple sugars (glucose). This prevents fats from being deposited in the body.
As black tea is fully oxidized, the flavanols (catechins) are converted to theaflavins and thearubigins. These act as insulin. Black tea also contains a special polysaccharide compound that can perform the same function as Precose and Glyset that are prescribed for Type 2 diabetes. Black tea has also been found to retard the absorption of glucose and helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Herbal Tea and Tisanes
In addition to pure teas made from Camellia Sinensis, there are many other herbal teas and tisanes that have beneficial properties in preventing and managing diabetes. Over the last few years, the world has re-discovered the wonderful properties of turmeric - that ancient and age-old herb/spice used in Indian food since times immemorial. Current research is increasingly suggesting how turmeric can effective against both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Turmeric is rich in curcumin, a chemical with known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Type 2 diabetes is linked to inflammation and oxidative stress, which plays a role in insulin resistance leading to uncontrolled blood sugar levels.
Because of its proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, turmeric may help in blood sugar management for Type 2 diabetes. In a study by the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry in 2015, participants who replaced metformin, a diabetes medication to lower blood sugar, with turmeric, found there was a notable reduction in blood sugar, inflammation and oxidative stress. In another study, curcumin was found to improve the functioning cells producing insulin.
It is only when you drink your tea in its purest form, that is, without addition of milk or sugar that you get most of its health benefits. Addition of milk tends to negate some benefits, while addition of sugar is a definite no-no of you are a diabetic. To enhance both taste and benefits, you can always squeeze in fresh lime, or crush some fresh ginger when the tea is steeping.
To recap :
All pure teas are abundant in polyphenols which are rich in antioxidants
Green tea has catechins, particularly EGCG
Black Tea contains flavonoids theaflavin and thearubigen
Black Tea also contains a special polysaccharide that acts like insulin
Turmeric has curcumin which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
For Diabetes, teas should be consumed without milk or sugar for best results
When consumed without milk and sugar, tea is a one of the healthiest beverages you can have - no calories, no sugar, no preservatives, no colour...and packed with antioxidants and nutrients! So, green or black, herbal or tisane, or even the divine turmeric tea - take your pick.
About the Author :
Ketan Desai | Chief Educator | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ketan Desai is the Chief Educator at VAHDAM Teas. After a brief stint with the family tea business, Ketan went on to work with some of the top tea planters, tasters, blenders and marketers across India, Sri Lanka, Russia and the CIS countries, the UK, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Africa.
A seasoned tea-taster and a passionate raconteur, Ketan conducts tea workshops and events, regaling participants with amusing stories while explaining the finer nuances of tea during live tasting sessions.
At VAHDAM Teas, Ketan spearheads content and community initiatives. He leads TEAch Me, VAHDAM’s social initiative focused on education of children at tea estates.
Ketan's favourite tea is Darjeeling First Flush, which he prefers to have without milk or sugar. He can be contacted at @ketdes on twitter or at email@example.com
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