Maybe you read somewhere that tea is healthier than water and so now you're considering replacing water for a welcome change. Before you do, you might be wondering what the differences between tea and water are? Should you replace water completely? The answer might surprise you.
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 and can differ in appearance, but they all come from the same shrub: Camellia Sinensis.
Tea was discovered accidentally in China by emperor Shen Nung in 2732 B.C when tea leaves accidentally fell into his boiling water. He was intrigued by its amazing scent and ended up tasting it. And from there, tea consumption was and has been a part of Southeast Asia's culture ever since!
With time, it was soon realized that a cup of tea was more than just a casual beverage with a pleasant scent; but a beverage jam-packed with healthy components too.
For the purposes of this article, "tea" refers to the drink 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.
Drinking Tea Instead Of 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 health benefits
Some of these amazing benefits include:
- Studies have shown drinking tea can help improve your mood and attention.
- It also helps improve memory and cognitive function.
- 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.
- It's even proven to help with anxiety and depression.
- Some studies have suggested that it could help with weight loss to some extent.
- It's even great for your oral health by reducing the growth of harmful bacteria, reduces inflammation and prevents teeth resorption.
- It also helps prevent osteoporosis and reduces the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Can Tea Replace Water?
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 can be.
Tea is rich in caffeine, which makes it 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 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 might not be a great idea. 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 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, 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 can 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
Whether you get this caffeine from a cup of tea or a cup of coffee, 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 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, the gastric content can 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 this beverage.
What About Decaffeinated Tea?
It's a myth that decaffeinated tea does not contain any caffeine. It's not possible to remove caffeine completely. So, remember going decaffeinated contains caffeine albeit in 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
What About Non-Caffeinated Herbal Teas?
Herbal Teas are technically not teas as they are not derived from the tea shrub. Non-caffeinated herbal teas are made up of other herbs and will not cause the side-effects regular tea might cause. However, you’d think since it’s non-caffeinated and herbal, you can consume it as much as you want. You will be wrong.
The reality is that herbal tea may exhibit their own set of side-effects. The side-effects may vary depending upon the herb that it contains. For example, chamomile 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 completely. Peppermint, 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.
Here's What You Should Do Instead
Even though tea is an incredible beverage, a heavy intake is not recommended as it can lead to many side-effects. So, instead of replacing water with tea, keep both in your daily routine. Too much is not good, but a moderate amount will give you great benefits, and you don't want to miss out on that.
To maintain a balance, keep a maximum of there to four cups 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!