English breakfast tea is a classic black tea blend made from Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas. Each black tea variety has an individual flavor profile, but all are are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant, which also produces the leaves for Oolong and green teas. Tea drinkers have English breakfast tea any time of the day, despite its name, and it's commonly served with milk or with lemon and sugar. The full taste and richness of the tea take well to the added sweetness and cream. As a black tea, English breakfast is high in antioxidants, which provide a number of health benefits.
Lemon or Milk
English breakfast tea is commonly drunk with either lemon or milk. However, adding milk to tea may lower its antioxidant potential, according to a study published in a 2010 issue of "Nutrition Research." Scientists found that the lower the fat content of milk, the greater the reduction of antioxidants. Conversely, researchers publishing in a 2000 issue of "Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology" found that lemon juice in tea increased the antioxidant potential in tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant. To get the full health benefits of English breakfast tea, consider using lemon instead of milk to flavor your tea. If you do decide to use milk, consider a higher fat milk such as whole milk, to preserve its antioxidant capacity.
High in Antioxidants
All teas -- green, black and Oolong -- naturally contain flavonoids, the natural antioxidants found in plants. While black tea is lower in overall polyphenols and catechins -- natural antioxidants -- than green tea, it is still a good source of antioxidants, namely thearubigins and theaflavins, as a result of the longer oxidation process of the leaves. Antioxidants can help protect your body from damage from free radicals, produced from your body’s natural digestive process, and from environmental toxins, whether man-made of natural.
Effect on Cholesterol
A 2003 issue of the “Journal of Nutrition” found that black tea consumption may help lower cholesterol levels in high-cholesterol adults. The study, conducted on 15 people over the course of three weeks, found that five servings of black tea per day lowered total cholesterol levels by 6.5 percent. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol and as a primary contributor to atherosclerosis, was also significantly lowered, with more than an 11 percent reduction in overall levels. Scientists concluded that a low-fat diet along with regular consumption of black tea might help lower overall cholesterol levels. However, larger studies are needed to determine how well it works.
Effect on Heart Disease
Because of its antioxidant content, black tea has been shown to aid in reducing the risk of overall heart disease. A 2012 publication of “Preventive Medicine” included a study on the effects of black tea on cardiovascular risk factors. Adults taking a 200-milliliter infusion of black tea each day for 12 weeks showed lowered risk of developing cardiovascular disease, based on cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels, as well as low-density lipoprotein and triglyceride levels, were significantly lowered. High-density cholesterol levels, also known as “good” cholesterol, were raised. HDL cholesterol helps your body get rid of LDL cholesterol, improving the health of your arterial walls. Researchers concluded that black tea, when consumed regularly as part of a normal diet, reduces several risk factors for heart disease and improves overall antioxidant status.
Mental Stimulation and Hydration
A 2006 review in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that black tea's caffeine content may provide a mental perk and increased stimulation when consumed in small amounts. Researchers found that drinking three to eight cups of black tea per day led to increased mental stimulation -- as well as access to antioxidant properties -- without leading to excess caffeine consumption. They also found that when black tea provided less than 250 milligrams of caffeine per day, it was a good source of hydration. According to MedlinePlus, caffeinated beverages such as teas can provide general hydration, although water is still the optimal fluid source. MedlinePlus recommends six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids per day to stay properly hydrated.
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- Journal of Nutrition: Black Tea Consumption Reduces Total and LDL Cholesterol in Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Adults
- Preventive Medicine: The Effect of Black Tea on Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Disease in a Normal Population
- Journal of Nutrition: Antioxidant Activity of Black Tea vs. Green Tea
- MedlinePlus: Antioxidants
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Black Tea - Helpful or Harmful?
- Nutrition Research: Addition of Whole, Semiskimmed, and Skimmed Bovine Milk Reduces the Total Antioxidant Capacity of Black Tea