As our lives become increasingly complex and fast-paced, staying focused on our wellbeing is essential. For this feature, the experts at the Tea Advisory Panel share with us five ways to help put you on the right track for 2023.
Looking after one’s mind and body should be atop everyone’s agenda in 2023. However, we appreciate that it is easier said than done. It is often said that the body has two brains, one in the head and the other in the gut, and they need to be fed the right ingredients to perform. One simple solution, which we are flagbearers for, is drinking tea, as it’s a simple and cost-effective way to get the right things into your body.
Dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Tea Advisory Panel says, “We are bombarded with diet and exercise information, so it’s no wonder people switch off. Fewer than one in 100 adults in the UK follow all the government’s diet advice.
“Yet, having just emerged from the worst of the pandemic, there’s an urgent need for everyone to get fitter and healthier. As a result, the Tea Advisory Panel has published a new report – TAKE 5 – How Actioning Just 5 Health Hacks Can Unlock Your Better Self – which distils the science into five simple, effective lifestyle hacks that we can all do.
“TAKE 5 also includes new real-world research data which confirms the nation’s love of the great British brew – with nearly six in 10 people polled saying that tea makes them feel relaxed (57%) while a fifth (21%) claim tea is like a superpower in a mug!”
Proven health benefits of tea
And people are well aware of the proven health benefits of tea, with more than half (55%) knowing that tea is good for the heart, according to data reviewed in the New TAKE 5 report.
GP and a guest advisor to the Tea Advisory Panel, Dr Gill Jenkins, says, “Tea works on the heart and vessels thanks to its rich content of polyphenols, beneficial plant compounds that help to lower blood pressure and fight oxidation – a process which damages our cells if we don’t eat enough antioxidant-rich foods.
“What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain as studies show that drinking tea – especially black tea – can have a positive effect on cognitive function (attention, mind wandering, and focus), mental wellbeing (stress and mood), and brain blood flow. Even just one or two cups a day provided some benefits, according to studies.”
Studies examining associations between tea and heart health suggest that the sweet spot for tea drinking is around 4-5 cups a day. Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) member, health researcher, and chemist Dr Tim Bond says, “Encouragingly, the real-world research poll that we reviewed as part of the TAKE 5 report shows that 21% of the nation are hitting the target of 4-5 cups during their working day, but that leaves room for improvement.”
Dr Tim Bond adds: “Ideally, when having our 4-5 daily cups, we should leave the tea bag to brew for at least three minutes to release the optimal number of polyphenols.”
The TAP TAKE 5 report also details a variety of knowledge gaps when it comes to tea and the many health and wellness benefits the cuppa has, including:
- A third of Brits not knowing that tea comes from the leaves of the tea plant – Camellia sinensis
- Two-thirds of Brits polled were unaware that black (regular) and green teas come from the same plant, while a confused one in ten (9%) incorrectly believed green tea contains green food colouring!
In addition, just one in ten knew that tea is a great source of polyphenols, fluoride and L-theanine. Dr Carrie Ruxton comments, “Tea is like nature’s pharmacy with polyphenols for heart and brain health, fluoride for strong teeth, caffeine for alertness and L-theanine – a unique amino acid found in tea – for destressing and focus. Yet, most people are not aware of this despite four in 10 choosing regular black tea as their go-to stress reliever.”
Take five! Top tips from TAP’s wellbeing experts
So, cutting to the chase, what are the five simple, effective hacks we can try this winter to get our health and fitness back on track?
HACK 1: Hydrate with 5-a-day
Dr Tim Bond advises: “With extensive research on the benefits of tea drinking – from both observational studies and clinical trials – scientists have settled on 4-5 cups a day as the optimal intake to not only help keep us hydrated but provide the right amounts of the natural polyphenol compounds. Top this up with tap water, soup, herbal infusions, and fruits to reach the recommended 1-2 litres a day of fluid”.
FACT: Flavan-3-ols are a sub-group of flavonoids, healthy plant compounds found in many foods and drinks, such as tea, apples, berries, and cocoa. While many foods contain flavan-3-ols, and we know in the UK and European diets that black tea is a significant source of flavan-3-ols/ flavonoids, new research emphasises that tea accounts for more than 35% of dietary flavan3-ol intake in the US diets.
HACK 2: Take 5 minutes to recharge
Dr Gill Jenkins says: “Stress is a major driver of ill health and disease, so it’s a false economy to ignore your own wellbeing by not taking a regular five minutes out of your day to rest and reset. Brewing a cuppa is a great way to stop doing or thinking and just be yourself for five full minutes. Plus, it’s great news for our brain and mind health, as well as providing that TLC time for our bodies, top to toe.”
HACK 3: Strengthen your core
‘Use it or lose it’ is a helpful phrase to remember when your motivation for exercise is waning. “What we put in our bodies, how we rest and recharge, and how we move are the three key pillars to maintaining our health”, says Dr Carrie Ruxton, who recommends five simple exercises to get you going:
- Crunches for abdominals
- Twist-ups for obliques
- Plank for stability
- Bridge for gluts
- Toe taps for core strength
What’s more, a cup of tea can provide a gentle boost to help you maintain motivation and don’t forget to rehydrate afterwards – drinking tea or infusions is a great way to rehydrate!
HACK 4: Flex it
“Healthy movement doesn’t only involve getting the heart pumping with cardio and building muscle through strength training. Stretching our muscles and supporting our joints are equally important aims – perhaps more so as we age,” says Dr Tim Bond, who advises these five exercises:
- Roll down and up
- Standing lateral flexion
- Spinal twists
- Hip flexor stretch
- Hamstring stretch
HACK 5: Balance your diet
Eating well doesn’t have to cost the earth or involve ultra-complicated recipes and starvation regimes. Slowly build up to a more nourishing diet and a healthier you with these five steps from the experts at the Tea Advisory Panel:
- Boost your breakfast fibre – by choosing wholegrain bread or breakfast cereal to keep your gut happy and feel fuller until lunch.
- Just add fruit and veg – don’t get hung up on numbers; just eat more by adding veg or beans to recipes, snacking on fruit, or making a smoothie with frozen berries and bananas.
- Decommission the sugar bowl – it’s just empty calories, so junk the white stuff. According to the TAP-reviewed research, nearly a third (27%) of Brits still add sugar to their tea, so try a low-calorie sweetener or gradually reduce the amount you add.
- Friday is treat day – we all need a treat, but don’t let it take over. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, a whopping quarter of our daily calories come from nutrient-poor cakes, biscuits, sweets, and sugary drinks.
- Relieve the mid-afternoon slump with a cuppa – instead of reaching for the biscuit tin, have a warming cup of tea with a handful of nuts to keep cravings at bay.
You can read more wellness guides and features in our dedicated section here.