Myths and Truths about Tea Health Benefits


Knowing what’s true and what’s not about something as complex as tea isn’t easy – but it can be crucial.

Tea’s role in nutrition and health – which includes everything from heart disease and cancer to dental and bone health, aging, weight loss, mood, work performance and more – has led to myths and misinformation.

Time, then, to set the record straight.

“As a registered dietician that’s my whole thing,” says Neva Cochran, MS, RD, LD, a Dallas, TX-based nutrition consultant, “to give out science-based nutrition information because there is so much myth about everything to do with nutrition. When people think about tea I think they’re think of the antioxidants and heart disease and cancer. But there are a lot of other conditions that I’ve discovered in my research that tea can help with mental health, bone health, mood, performance.”

One of the most prevalent myths is that green tea is superior to other types of tea, like black tea, when it comes to health benefits, says Cochran. “Not true, because both of them contain compounds that promote health. Some of them are the same and some of them are different, but when you look at the balance between the two they both have significant amounts of antioxidants and flavenols that can help with a variety of different diseases.”

“There are some misunderstandings about how much caffeine is in tea, and how caffeine actually affects people,” says Kyle Stewart, CTS, co-owner of The Cultured Cup in Dallas. “A lot of people think that if you drink caffeine at night – depending on how much you drink – that you can’t fall asleep. That’s not always true. We’re all a little bit different in terms of how we process caffeine, and how much caffeine we can have.”

Another myth, according to Stewart, is that tea bags and loose-leaf tea provide the same nutritional benefits. “That is really not true. You receive more flavonoids and antioxidants from loose-leaf tea. Now, are teabags healthy for you? Absolutely; I’m not there to badmouth teabags. They are convenient and full bodied. But you’re going to get a bigger bang for your buck with loose-leaf.”

Can tea really provide a mental and physical break from stress? “Absolutely,” says Stewart, “and the reason for that is a compound called L-Theanine. It actually helps to calm brain wave patterns; it’s been proven.”

Should pregnant women avoid drinking tea? No way, says Stewart, although individual reactions to any chemical can vary. “You always should check with your doctor. Some people do not, in fact, process caffeine in the same way, so it really depends on the person. But in general that is really not true.”

According to Cochran, many people believe that they cannot count tea as part of their daily fluid requirement because the caffeine in it is dehydrating. “That’s a myth,” she notes. “You can.”

Getting the truth out there is important, Cochran concludes, for a variety of reasons. “A lot of the things that people have heard about tea that are not true are probably things that would keep them from drinking tea, or as much tea. They need to find out that these myths are not true and that they can drink tea more – and also that tea has health benefits far beyond what they may have heard.”