Maybe you read somewhere that tea is healthier than water and so now you're considering replacing water with tea. Is tea healthier than water? Yes, indeed. But should you replace water completely? In this article, we'll discuss why you should not replace water completely with tea (despite tea being so nutritious), along with some health benefits of tea, and much more. 

But first, let's see what exactly is tea?

What Is Tea?

Tea is a beverage that is prepared by brewing the leaves of a shrub called Camellia sinensis. There are many different types of tea, like green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea, and many more. They all may differ in appearance, but they all come from the same Camellia Sinensis.

Tea was discovered accidentally in China by emperor Shen Nung in 2732 B.C when the tea leaves accidentally fell into his boiling water. He was intrigued by its amazing scent and ended up tasting it. And thus, tea came into existence and has been a part of Southeast Asia's culture ever since. 

With time, it was soon realized that tea is more than just a casual beverage with a pleasant scent; it’s jam-packed with healthy components too.

For the purposes of this article, "tea" refers to tea prepared by you at home using a tea bag or loose tea leaves rather than the commercially produced, "overly-sweetened" tea, full of artificial preservatives and flavors, available in bottles or cans. 

Now, is drinking tea the same as drinking water? Speaking from a hydration point of view, you can count your tea intake in your total water intake. So, if you take 4 cups of tea (250 ml each), you will actually consume 1L of your required daily intake of water. Nutritionally, tea is superior to water because it contains many extra components that are responsible for the many great benefits of drinking tea.

Some of these amazing benefits include:

  1. Studies have shown drinking tea can help improve your mood and attention. It also helps improve memory and cognitive function.
  2. It is also well known for its antioxidant activity, which provides protection against inflammation and cancer-producing free-radicals, thus preventing cancer. Some studies also suggest that it could possibly decrease the recurrence and metastasis of cancer.
  3. It's even proven to help with anxiety and depression.
  4. Some studies have suggested that it could help with weight loss to some extent.
  5. It's even great for your oral health by reducing the growth of harmful bacteria, reduces inflammation and prevents teeth resorption.
  6. It also helps prevent osteoporosis and reduces the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Why You Shouldn't Replace Water Completely With Tea

Your total water intake depends on your weight and the total amount of water loss you had, but the general recommendation is that you get at least 8 glasses of water (2 liters) each day.

Now, should you be drinking 2 liters of tea each day? No, you shouldn't. Drinking tea every day is not a problem, but drinking too much tea is. 

Tea is rich in caffeine, which makes tea a stimulant. Any stimulant in that amount is more than enough to cause you heart palpitations and restlessness even if you don't have anxiety. It will leave your entire body agitated.

Too much tea will cause many short-term and long-term side-effects. 

What Are the Side Effects of Drinking Too Much Tea?

1. It Can Cause or Exaggerate Restlessness and Anxiety

When you consume tea at a moderate dose it will help you calm down, but too much caffeine will do the opposite. If you suffer from anxiety or if you are caffeine sensitive, drinking too much tea might not be a great idea. As mentioned in the above section, tea is a stimulant and too much of it will agitate your whole body leading to anxiety and restlessness. This was proven by a 2005 study conducted at Cambridge University. 

A high intake of tea will cause more anxiety if you have anxiety or panic disorder when compared to people without any kind of anxiety disorder. So, too much tea for a patient of anxiety disorder is a big no.

Children are particularly sensitive to caffeine, and studies have found that caffeine (coming from any source) is one of the major causes of stress, anxiety, and depression in school-going children today. Therefore, don't allow children under 12 to have more than 1 cup of caffeinated drink per day, if they do.

So, if you start to feel a bit agitated for no reason after consuming one too many cups of tea, it's an indication that you must stop.

2. It Can Cause Iron-Deficiency Anemia

A study conducted in 2017 showed that excessive consumption of tea also leads to iron deficiency anemia. Tannin, one of the many components of tea, binds with the iron and forms insoluble complexes that are non-absorbable. Conversion of iron into complex reduces the bio-availability of iron, thus resulting in iron-deficiency anemia over-time.

The bad news is for the vegans particularly, because tannin forms complexes with iron that are derived from plant sources, and not animal sources, putting vegans and vegetarians at a higher risk. Although, it's a risk for all because green vegetables are our major source of natural iron.

3. Sleep Disturbance

Attributed to caffeine again, too much consumption of tea will disrupt your sleep and daytime functioning, according to a 2018 study

Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to many short-term and long-term health issues, including poor memory, focus and concentration, diabetes, heart disease, reproductive issues, anxiety, depression, and even cancer. Every part of your body gets affected when you don't get enough sleep.

Caffeine consumption even 6 hours prior to your bedtime can cause significant sleep disruption.

4. Caffeine Dependence

Caffeine dependence syndrome is a real thing. Just like other stimulants, you can get addicted to caffeine. And where there is an addiction, there are withdrawal symptoms. 

People with caffeine dependence experience withdrawal symptoms when they don't deliver their daily required amount of caffeine (which can vary) to their system. Some of the common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are headaches, anxiety, cravings, difficulty concentration, fatigue, irritability, and low mood. 

5. Gastric Distress

Excessive consumption of tea can also lead to heartburn.

Too much tea causes your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax. Your LES basically prevents the backflow of stomach content into the esophagus. But when it is relaxed under the influence of tea the gastric content will backflow and cause heartburn.

It also increases the total acid secretion by the stomach, thereby worsening the heartburns even more.

6. Drug Interactions

Apart from the effects that caffeine puts on your body, another thing to keep in mind is that certain components of tea are known to cause drug interactions with drugs like rosuvastatin (a drug used in cardiovascular diseases), sildenafil (commonly known as Viagra), and tacrolimus (used in dermatological conditions mostly, like Eczema). 

So if you are on any of these drugs currently, you might want to avoid tea completely.

What About Decaffeinated Tea?

It's a myth that decaffeinated tea does not contain any caffeine. It's not possible to remove caffeine from tea completely. So, decaffeinated tea contains caffeine too, but in much lesser amounts. 

The side-effects might still occur with decaffeinated tea when consumed in excessive amounts, however, it's logical to think that it will take a much larger dose for it to cause the above-mentioned side-effects caused by caffeine when compared to normal tea. 

Will Non-Caffeinated Herbal Tea Cause These Side-Effects Too?

Non-caffeinated tea is not "tea" in reality, as they are not derived from the tea plant. Non-caffeinated tea is made up of other herbs. Therefore, they do not contain any caffeine in them. Hence, these will not cause the side-effects tea might cause. Their health benefits will also differ, depending on what herbs it contains.

So, does this mean that you can consume herbal non-caffeinated tea instead of water? You’d think since it’s non-caffeinated and herbal, you can consume it as much as you want. But the reality is that herbal tea may exhibit its own set of side-effects. 

The side-effects may vary depending upon the herb that tea is composed of. For example, chamomile tea can cause allergic reactions, and shouldn’t be consumed by pregnant women as it can cause uterine contractions. It also has a blood-thinning effect, so if you are on blood-thinning medications, you should avoid chamomile tea completely. Peppermint tea, on the other hand, can lower the testosterone levels and affect fertility in men when consumed in a high amount.

Herbal teas may also be exposed to certain chemicals and flavoring agents while they are being processed. These substances, though rarely, may also cause allergic reactions.

So, again, it’s not safe to consume a heavy amount of herbal non-caffeinated tea either.

Here's What You Should Do Instead

Even though tea is an incredible beverage, a heavy intake of tea is not recommended as it can lead to many side-effects. So, instead of replacing water with tea, keep both tea and water in your daily routine. Too much tea is not good, but a moderate amount of tea will give you great benefits, and you don't want to miss out on that. 

To maintain a balance, keep a maximum of 3-4 cups of tea per day in your diet and complete the remaining need for water with plain water.

If you find water too bland, then you can go for fruit infused water. You can get a fruit infusion bottle, cut some fresh fruits like strawberries, lemon, cucumber, etc and put it in with water. The juices of these fruits will flavor the water naturally. You can also go for natural coconut water (not the packed, sweetened one). That's great for your health too.

Getting your daily requirement of water from different sources will keep your liquid intake interesting!