By now, you’ve heard the news: Drinking tea regularly can help support a healthy heart thanks to its abundance of plant-based bioactives called flavonoids. When consumed on its own, unsweetened tea is an ideal hydrating beverage given it also doesn’t contribute any calories or added sugars as experts now know too much added sugars can be a contributor to heart disease. “Tea can help keep you hydrated when you get bored of drinking water, and it fits nicely into a healthy diet,” says Kristina Petersen, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition science in Texas. Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart pump blood through the blood vessels, which in turn keeps your muscles working more efficiently.
Green and black tea, in particular, have heart-health benefits. “There are some differences in the composition of each type of tea, but current science suggests that regular consumption of either is good for long-term health,” says Benjamin Haddon Parmenter, a research associate and Ph.D. candidate in Australia and a lead researcher on the subject. “Tea is a top source of flavonoids, bioactives that have long been associated with heart health, and can be a health-promoting beverage as part of a healthy diet.”
Tea also positively affects blood vessels, a key factor in heart-disease risk. Compounds called flavonoids found in green and black teas can help dilate the blood vessels, which may lead to healthy blood flow essential for heart health. Research has found that those same compounds may also help lower cholesterol, further helping to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
While it’s usually consumed in beverage form, there are many ways to increase your tea consumption. “The benefits of tea don’t deteriorate if you cook it or add it to other foods,” Dr. Petersen says. “It just enhances the flavor.”
Use these simple—and delicious—tips to increase your consumption of tea so that you can reap its rewards day in and day out. However you choose to increase your unsweetened tea intake, your overall health, and especially your heart, will benefit.
Table of Contents
Six Ways to Work Tea Into Your Daily Diet
1. Sip It Warm or Cold
With different flavors to choose from, it’s no wonder that tea is the most popular drink in the world next to water. “Adding different fruits to unsweetened iced tea helps make it a refreshing drink,” Dr. Petersen says, though tea is most often enjoyed warm in countries all over the world. Whether enjoying it hot or cold, to prevent the tea from tasting bitter, be careful not to over-squeeze the tea bag. A cup of hot tea can be sipped at any time of day, including in the morning when you’d normally drink coffee, or try decaf at night, and unsweetened iced tea is a flavorful alternative to plain water.
2. Make a Marinade
Southerners have perfected the art of sweet-tea-brined chicken, a recipe that relies on a zingy marinade made with freshly brewed tea, but that’s certainly not the only way to give your hot meal a boost of flavonoids. Add tea to your favorite one-pot recipes for an earthy, herbal flavor that’s great on meats and vegetables alike. It’s easy to do: Bring the liquid to a boil, and steep multiple tea bags in the broth or sauce for 10 minutes.
3. Enjoy Some Green Tea Ice Cream
Whether in the freezer aisle at the grocery store or in your local ice cream parlor, green tea ice cream has become a popular and tasty way to infuse tea into the standard American diet. Next time you’re scanning the freezer for your after-dinner treat, grab some green tea ice cream instead of your usual mint chip.
4. Blend It Into a Smoothie
Mixed with fresh or frozen fruit and other ingredients, iced tea is the perfect base for smoothies, normally made with water, milk, or juice. Along with tea providing flavonoids, maximize the flavonoid content of your smoothie by including berries — blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and/or strawberries — which also provide a source of plant-based bioactives to help support heart health. For a thicker shake, make sure your berries are frozen, or add crushed ice to the blender.
5. Make a Spice Rub
Tea leaves can be ground and folded into spice rubs for beef, chicken, or fish. More conveniently, the ground tea from your tea bags can be cut open and added to a rub along with other seasonings like salt and pepper. After rubbing the mixture into the meat, let it sit for at least 15 minutes, up to several hours, prior to cooking to allow the seasoning to penetrate for maximum flavor.
6. Bake Tea Cookies and Cakes
To boost the flavonoids and flavor profile of the sweet treats you’re making, add some flavored ground tea to your mixing bowl when baking cookies or cake. Any number of teas can be used for baking, including black, green, or flavored green tea.
Any way you add unsweetened brewed tea to your diet, you’re helping your body get hydration and flavonoids that it needs to help support your overall wellness.