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Aromatic, a little spicy and wonderfully fragrant with notes of cinnamon and ginger, sometimes there’s nothing more inviting than a mug of chai tea. This black tea combines warm flavors with a kick of energy-boosting caffeine, offering a smoothness that’s hard to get from your morning coffee. Chai, a Hindi word that translates to “tea”, has been a staple in India for thousands of years – but today, in North America, it’s often called chai tea. No matter what you call this hot beverage, it’s always a black tea combined with warming spices. And in addition to its delicious taste, there’s another reason to choose chai: it’s great for your health.
Drinking chai can be a surprisingly healthy move. This particular blend of spices and black tea leaves offers benefits that can calm certain health and wellness woes, including risk factors for common ailments.
Here are five health benefits you’ll get every time you brew a cup of chai.
1. Less stress
Feeling stressed out? Grab a chai tea bag, and you might be able to calm your mind and soothe your stress in just a few sips.
While drinking a steaming mug of tea is a relaxing act on its own, tea itself contains certain nutrients that are naturally soothing. All varieties of tea – chai included – are high in flavonoids. Those flavonoids, or polyphenols, work like antioxidants and limit the impact of free radicals. Flavonoids are able to neutralize free radicals before they get to work damaging your cells.
And chai blends are particularly great for oxidative stress. They’re rich in catechins and theaflavins, two flavonoids that specifically fight this kind of stress. Get enough of these beneficial nutrients, and you’ll be countering the potentially harmful effects of oxidative stress each time you make chai tea.
2. Lower inflammation
Inflammation wreaks havoc throughout the body, and it can cause ailments like autoimmune diseases, different types of cancers, heart disease, diabetes and even allergies. While chai alone won’t be enough to combat these ailments, it can definitely be one tool in helping to combat chronic inflammation by soothing your body’s inflammatory response.
Chai tea includes ginger and cinnamon, two active anti-inflammatory ingredients. Ginger can target pro-inflammatory cytokines, or the particular molecules within the body that cause inflammation. Cinnamon – and clove, another chai spice – works to prevent an enzyme called cox-2 that leads to widespread inflammation.
And the fact that chai combats oxidative stress throughout the body also helps reduce inflammation and improve health. Oxidative stress can increase inflammation; it actually modifies proteins and genes in ways that cause inflammatory diseases. Chai, however, can help tackle both inflammation and inflammation-causing stress in one warm cup.
3. A soothed, settled stomach
If your stomach isn’t feeling so great, tea is mild and soothing. However, if you’re dealing with nausea or another kind of stomach distress, don’t just choose any tea blend – pick chai.
Chai has the same soothing effect as other types of tea; it’s a warm liquid, which can inherently feel calming on an upset stomach. But chai also includes spices that are proven to steady your stomach and calm nausea.
Ginger, which is central to any chai blend, is a proven anti-nausea spice. It can soothe seasickness and is particularly great for nausea that comes with pregnancy or chemotherapy. Cinnamon, another key chai ingredient, can also help combat nausea; it’s particularly great if you’re experiencing an upset stomach while on your period.
And if your upset stomach is caused by something else, like digestive issues or a bacterial infection, chai can still help. The cloves and cardamom in chai blends specifically target these kinds of gastrointestinal distress.
4. Better blood sugar control
Keeping your blood sugar levels in check is important whether you’re living with diabetes or not. Your blood sugar levels are linked to weight management, long-term health and your body’s ability to produce insulin. If you’re looking to keep your blood sugar under control, chai tea can help.
The flavonoids, or polyphenols, present in chai that combat stress also affect your blood sugar. Research shows that black tea varieties (like chai) can reduce your blood sugar after eating, helping to bring your levels back to a normal level sooner. This is particularly beneficial for anyone whose body isn’t producing enough insulin, as drinking black tea can help you get your blood sugar balanced out faster.
And chai specifically helps keep your blood sugar lower when you’re fasting. High blood sugar while fasting can be linked to diabetes – but research indicates that a cup of chai can decrease your fasting blood sugar. One study links the cinnamon in chai to this effect; another shows that ginger may also play a role.
5. Improved heart health
Those potent antioxidant-like flavonoids and polyphenols found in chai have yet another benefit for your health: they can lower your risk for heart disease. Drinking chai can both lower your overall risk and specifically target key factors that contribute to heart disease.
Research shows that in general, black tea’s antioxidants help lower your risk for heart disease by reducing the impact of oxidative stress. It’s believed that the antioxidants also play a role in lowering high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two of the biggest factors that determine your risk for heart disease.
Additionally, another study found that the cinnamon that’s included in chai tea also plays a role. Cinnamon can help lower high cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, which both contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Drinking chai regularly may have a more significant impact than just your occasional cup.
Chai isn’t the only blend that has healthy perks. Discover what other types of tea can do for your health and wellness – and learn how to brew the perfect cup: