Are the health benefits of black tea reduced by adding milk? Find out what a new study shows.
When most people get up in the morning, the first thing they grab is a cup of hot coffee; but these days more people are reaching for tea instead as the many health benefits of this popular beverage are discovered. Some tea drinkers enjoy their freshly brew with only a little sugar, while others like to add milk or cream – particularly if they’re drinking black tea. That may not be such a good idea according to the results of recent research. A new study shows that the black tea antioxidants that make tea so healthy are destroyed by adding milk to black tea.
Antioxidants in Tea: How Does Milk Alter Them?
The researchers in this study used something called a FRAP assay to see how milk affects the antioxidants in black tea. They discovered that adding dairy based milk of any kind decreased the antioxidant activity of black tea – but that skim milk decreased it more than either whole milk or low fat milk. As little as two teaspoons of milk was enough to lower the antioxidant activity of black tea. The amount of black tea antioxidant activity lost seems to vary with the fat content of the milk and how much is added.
One of the benefits of tea is that it relaxes the arteries that supply blood to the heart. A 2007 study published in the European Heart Journal showed that this heart healthy effect is blocked when milk is added to tea. This occurs because the casein in milk binds to the catechins in tea that relax the arteries. Adding milk to tea may offset some of the other health benefits of drinking tea too.
What About the Antioxidants in Green Tea?
Green tea naturally contains more antioxidants than black tea since it’s not fermented. The effects of milk on green tea catechins haven’t been as well studied since green tea is usually drank plain – although the same effect could also be seen since green tea contains catechins that could be inactivated by the casein in milk.
How to Keep Tea Drinking Healthy
What if you enjoy the taste of black tea with milk, but don’t want to miss out on the health benefits? Soy milk and almond milk lack the casein that milk does, so they won’t bind to the antioxidants in tea and inactivate them. Try drinking your black tea with soy milk or drink it plain to get all of the health benefits of the world’s most popular drink.