The Truth on Tea: Debunking Myths

I drink tea regularly and recommend it to everyone to stay healthy and fight disease. Over the years, I’ve gotten some interesting questions regarding tea and some of the myths surrounding it.

Both green and black tea come from the same plant, camellia sinensis, a shade-grown shrub. After farmers pick the leaves, they process them in different ways to generate different types of tea. Black tea leaves result from oxidation, when the enzymes in the tea leaves convert the polyphenols within the tea into something less bioactive. Green tea, instead, is processed before the oxidation process can occur, and the polyphenols remain intact.

Recently, I tweeted: #OzTip Drink black tea to protect your heart. The antioxidants in the tea will prevent hardening of the arteries.

In response, I got some great questions: Photolas ‏@Photolas @DrOz But black tea has caffeine in it. What if you don’t do well with caffeine?

Because they come from the same plant, most teas (including green teas) have some form of caffeine. However, you can find tea that is “naturally decaffeinated,” or you can decaffeinate your own tea by pre-steeping it in hot water for about 20 seconds. This initial process removes most of the caffeine, but retains the flavor. Afterward, you can place the tea bag  in a second cup of hot water and drink away!

M G ‏@MeliG1975
can I have any type of tea products if I suffer from severe anemia?

Great question! Studies do show that tea interferes with iron absorption, which can aggravate anemia. However, that same study showed that taking an iron pill or getting enough iron in your diet can negate that. Some chemicals in tea, tannates, absorb the iron in your stomach and steal it before your body has a chance to absorb it. Studies have shown that it can reduce absorbed iron by as much as 87%!

Saleh Al-Salhi ‏@Dr_S3S
@melig1975 That means ” I should not have tea after the meal immediately ” Am I right ?

Absolutely. You should wait at least an hour after a meal before you drink tea. That allows your body time to absorb as much iron as possible before the chemicals in tea can steal it from you. You can also drink tea at least an hour before your meal as well.

pelton boy ‏@peltonboy
Or how about 24oz T-bone steak for your iron?

I live in a vegetarian household, so I don’t get many chances to try out a T-bone steak. However, beef is a good source of iron. However, I would find a lean cut that’s no larger than 3-6 ounces – about the size of a stack of cards. However, if you want to avoid the saturated fat in steak, you can switch to turkey, salmon, or clams. All of which have excellent iron content. You can also find high levels of iron in pumpkin seeds, beans, and spinach.

Alain Palacios ‏@visramcl
Is it the same with the coffee?

Actually, yes. Studies have shown similar effects from drinking coffee. However, the iron-loss isn’t as strong as tea. One study found that coffee can block iron absorption by as much as 39%; however, the mechanism is different than that of tea.

But don’t let coffee or tea scare you! They both have multiple health benefits, so you shouldn’t avoid drinking them. In fact, even if you drink tea or coffee with your meals, if you’re not already anemic, chances are you’re getting the iron you need anyway. If you’re constantly fatigued and think you may have iron-deficiency anemia, you should see a doctor and get your iron levels tested