Myth Busting: Does Drinking Tea Hydrate or Dehydrate You?
Tea is a well-loved and well-known beverage that has transcended its ancient origins and thrives in modern society. To some, tea's origins might be considered ancient history, but its modern value has kept it significant despite the reduced interest in its past. Nowadays, dozens of different teas are on the market, increasing the odds of finding one that suits your particular tastes.
In addition to being a soothing and tasteful beverage, green tea is lauded for its numerous health benefits and nutritional content. Those details, combined with tea's cultural significance in Asia and the United Kingdom, make tea one of the leading breakfast drinks in the world, next to coffee. Unfortunately, some concerns about tea's effects on our bodies have some people second-guessing its benefit.
We primarily drink tea, or any beverage, to hydrate ourselves. Without proper hydration, our bodies would fail and shut down since they need water to survive. While water is the best source of hydration in the world, some people choose to use other drinks due to a desire for flavor. Considering water has a subtle taste, this has led to a surge in the consumption of soft drinks, juices, and alternative beverages like tea.
That said, there is concern that tea, like coffee, can dehydrate the body and induce excessive urination (which further compromises the body's hydration). The rumor that tea dehydrates us has persisted for years, driving more than a few people away from drinking tea. The question of the hour is: does tea dehydrate us, or is it a source of hydration?
What is Tea?
This might seem like a silly question since tea is easily recognized and is frequently consumed by those around us (not to mention its constant portrayal in media). There is some confusion about where tea comes from and how it is made. To the average observer, the most common tea source is the Camellia sinensis plant, colloquially known as the tea plant. C. sinensis is a species of evergreen shrub native to several continents, but it is most well-known for its origins in East Asia.
The leaves of a C. sinensis shrub are the source of 5 distinct tea varieties commonly consumed worldwide. Specifically, C. sinensis leaves can be refined into green, white, yellow, oolong, and black tea, which are extremely popular among enthusiasts. A variant of green tea called matcha is also cultivated from C. sinensis plants grown in specific environments. Despite the variety of teas cultivated from C. sinensis, other plants yield alternate teas.
One lesser-known but highly regarded tea source is the Clitoria ternatea, commonly called the butterfly pea. C. ternatea derives its name from its distinctive appearance that closely resembles the female clitoris and is named directly after it by the locals of Ternate.
The tea steeped from butterfly pea flowers is considered an exotic and novel drink because it has a pleasant blue color, but it yields almost all the same benefits as tea made from C. sinensis leaves. Tea is also made from Matricaria chamomilla and Chamaemelum nobile, both chamomile plants. Chamomile tea has a reputation for its soothing effects, including a misconception that chamomile has a drowsing effect on us. While chamomile tea can make us calm, it does not induce drowsiness or put us to sleep.
There are countless other flowers and shrubs from which tea can be created, but the bottom line is that they all create a beloved drink. Tea leaves, and the tea they create, are packed with powerful nutrients and vitamins that bolster our health. Tea also contains a powerful stimulant that has more than one beneficial effect on our physiology. Regardless, some are concerned about tea's additional impact on our bodies and whether it causes dehydration.
This has left a few people averse to drinking it because they believe it will cause more problems than it solves. That said, the idea that tea dehydrates us might not be as accurate as they believe.
Does Tea Dehydrate Us?
There are substances in this world called diuretics, infamous for expediting our body's salt and excess fluid filtration. In layman's terms, diuretics make us urinate to purge the unnecessary liquids and salt content consumed throughout the day. When used properly, diuretics can greatly improve our health, but abuse can cause health complications. Most diuretics people know about are prescription pills designed to help people urinate when they retain too much liquid or have trouble urinating.
Natural diuretics can also be used by consuming specific foods and drinks readily available at any market. Natural diuretics are less powerful and harmful than prescription diuretics but can increase our overall fluid loss. One of the most common diuretics we have is tea, which derives its diuretic effects from a stimulant called caffeine.
You likely know caffeine since almost everyone drinks coffee to start their morning. Many people have begun to rely on caffeine in their morning coffee to get through the first few hours of their day. This caffeine reliance is because caffeine stimulates the body and allows us to stay energized for several hours. Unfortunately, caffeine has a few drawbacks that can adversely affect us if we do not exercise moderation.
One of the most common drawbacks of caffeine consumption is that it is a diuretic, meaning it causes us to urinate more often than we would otherwise. Excessive urination can cause us to purge the liquid keeping us hydrated rather than just the excess liquid we might have consumed that day.
As a result, consuming too much caffeine means we would purge more fluid than we can spare and dehydrate our bodies. At least, that would seem to be the case considering caffeine has a diuretic effect. However, this is not necessarily an issue that will affect you since caffeine's diuretic properties will not cause dehydration unless you consume an obscene amount within a short timeframe.
For caffeine to yield significant diuretic effects, you would have to consume 500 milligrams of caffeine. An 8-fluid-ounce cup of tea has an average of 26 milligrams of caffeine, meaning you would have to drink between 6 and 13 cups of tea for its diuretic properties to overwhelm and dehydrate you.
Studies have been conducted to determine how much caffeine you would have to consume for dehydration to set in. One of those studies involved 50 subjects who were heavy coffee drinkers. The subjects in the test group were given 26.5 ounces of coffee daily for 3 days, whereas the control group was given 26.5 ounces of water.
The study showed no significant signs of dehydration in the test group, proving they did not consume enough caffeine to experience dehydration from caffeine's diuretic properties. To put things in perspective, the caffeine content in 26.5 ounces of coffee equates to 36.5-80 ounces of tea. This study further reinforced that tea does not dehydrate you unless you actively seek that result.
Additionally, a review of 16 studies focused on the effects a 300-milligram dose of caffeine has on the body. Consuming 300 milligrams of caffeine at once is equivalent to drinking 3.5-8 cups of tea simultaneously. The studies observed the effect this concentration of caffeine had on the subjects' urine production and discovered it increased by 109 milliliters compared to non-caffeinated drinks. An increase of 109 milliliters might seem like a big problem, but that increase is ultimately harmless.
The review concluded that drinking enough tea to increase your urine production does not cause you to lose more fluids than you drink. If the caffeine concentration were 200 milligrams higher, there might be a more worrying result. Fortunately, you are unlikely to drink that much tea in one day and should be drinking water between cups of tea. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that tea does not dehydrate you.
Does Tea Hydrate Us?
We drink because we need to be hydrated to survive, with most species relying on water to do the heavy lifting. The average person can only survive 72 hours without drinking water, but that number changes depending on weight, height, and age. Regardless, we need to stay hydrated to survive, and we will experience a painful death if we do not. As we mentioned before, some people prefer to hydrate with something that has more flavor instead of relying on water.
Many people swear by tea since one of the chief ingredients for steeping tea is boiling water, which theoretically hydrates us just as much as cold water. Nevertheless, the question of whether tea hydrates us remains since tea has diuretic properties that might inhibit its hydrating benefits.
While tea does not dehydrate us the way some people think, there is still a question of whether it offers the opposite effect. Unfortunately, this has not been studied as extensively as it could have been. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that tea hydrates the body as long as you do not overconsume it. As we said, consuming enough tea to ingest 500 milligrams of caffeine will cause its diuretic effects to overpower you.
Fortunately, the low probability of consuming that much tea means you should not have to worry about that. Furthermore, a study was conducted on black tea to determine whether it has a particularly powerful diuretic effect.
Black tea is the most oxidized tea produced by C. sinensis leaves, meaning its effects are more pronounced than green, white, oolong, or yellow tea. As a result, a hypothesis was formed that suggested black tea might be a more powerful diuretic. The study consisted of 21 male subjects divided into test and control groups.
The men in the test group were given between 4 and 6 cups of black tea, whereas those in the control group were given 4 or 6 cups of boiled water. This study assessed the effects over 12 hours and determined that black tea did not lower the subjects' hydration levels compared to the control group. Surprisingly, they discovered the opposite and determined that black tea is as hydrating as water when no more than 6 cups are consumed.
While those results are not a shining testament to a cup of tea's hydrating properties, it indicates that tea can keep you hydrated in a pinch.
In addition to the results of the aforementioned study, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a page dedicated to healthy drinks to keep the body hydrated. While water is in the spotlight on this page, the CDC recommends alternatives that can substitute water in a pinch. One of their first recommendations is plain tea, illustrating the CDC's official assessment that tea is at least nearly as hydrating as water.
Additionally, the CDC claims that caffeinated beverages that do not exceed 400 milligrams a day can still be considered healthy and hydrating. The only caveat is that the CDC recommends avoiding sweeteners and sugars, which can be accomplished since lemon juice and honey are healthy substitutes.
Finding the Right Blend
The revelation that tea does not dehydrate us might be a weight off your shoulders if you have a passion for tea and enthusiasm for health. If you fall into the latter category, you will be happy to hear that tea can enhance your health and keep you hydrated. Most tea enthusiasts have a favorite blend, such as green or oolong tea, while others prefer stronger drinks like matcha or black tea. The variety in tea can make it difficult to pick a favorite, especially since some blends provide greater health benefits than others. Even if you figure out the blend you want, sometimes the biggest challenge is acquiring it.
We at Teami have a longstanding relationship with tea and believe it is one of the best tools in the world for improving health. With a few adjustments, tea can even serve as a remarkable topical product for cosmetic improvement. That is why we have worked hard to cultivate a catalog of teas from different sources, including matcha, green tea, black tea, and butterfly pea tea (to name a few). If you are looking for a new tea blend, we encourage you to peruse our catalog and see if any of ours appeal to you. After all, finding the right blend is a Teami effort.
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