- Unsweetened tea is a healthier alternative to sodas and other sugary drinks for people with diabetes.
- Some teas may even help to manage blood sugar, insulin, and HbA1C levels in people with diabetes.
- More research is needed to determine what types of tea may benefit people with diabetes.
Tea is a popular drink worldwide that has been studied for its potential health benefits for a wide variety of ailments and conditions, including heart health, gut health, and even cancer prevention.
Research suggests that some types of tea, including chamomile and green teas, may help people with diabetes better manage their insulin, blood sugar, and HbA1C levels. But more research is needed to determine the beneficial impact that different types of tea may have on people with diabetes.
Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling to help you customize your diet to meet your diabetes needs. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Registered Dietitian.
Benefits of Drinking Tea for Diabetes
Choosing unsweetened teas over other higher-calorie and sweetened beverages like soda, energy drinks, and sugary coffees can help people with diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels. Drinking uncaffeinated, herbal teas may also help people with diabetes avoid dehydration, which research shows can lead to higher blood sugar levels.
Additional research suggests that certain types of tea may have additional benefits for people with diabetes, including lowering blood sugar, insulin, and HbA1c levels.
Types of Teas to Choose From
When browsing the tea aisle in any grocery or corner store, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of tea types available. These different tea types can have different flavor profiles, caffeine amounts, and plant compounds. But most types can be divided into one of two categories: non-herbal tea and herbal tea. All types of non-herbal tea are produced from the same plant: the Camellia sinensis plant. These include:
- Black tea.
- Oolong tea.
- White tea.
- Green tea.
The differences between these teas comes down to fermentation. Black tea is fully fermented while oolong tea is semi-fermented, white tea is slightly fermented, and green tea is unfermented. There are also scores of herbal tea varieties available. A few examples include:
- Ginger tea.
- Chamomile tea.
- Red bush or rooibos tea.
- Hibiscus tea.
- Mint tea.
- Red raspberry leaf tea.
Herbal teas will contain different plant compounds based on the plant or plants used to make each tea type. Most herbal teas will also be caffeine-free (unless they are mixed with a green, white, oolong, or black tea) while all non-herbal teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant will contain some amount of caffeine (with black tea containing the highest amount of caffeine per serving).
Teas for Diabetes
Research on the benefits of tea for people with diabetes is mixed. If you’re interested in drinking tea for its benefits on blood sugar, insulin levels, or other diabetes-related benefits, it’s important to understand for which teas the research shows promise and for which teas the evidence is inconclusive, mixed, or nonexistent.
Unfortunately, the evidence of black tea’s benefit for people with diabetes is thin. Many of the studies investigating the relationship have been conducted using rodents rather than humans.
One meta-analysis of nine cohort studies found that drinking four or more cups of black tea may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, more research in humans is needed to determine whether or not the consumption of black tea could benefit people already living with diabetes.
Epidemiological studies suggest that drinking green tea may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as the risk of developing certain type 2 diabetes complications. Specifically, some cohort studies and case control studies show that green tea may reduce proteinuria (a condition marked by high levels of protein in the urine which can be caused by diabetes) and help prevent diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes that damages the eyes).
Though some studies suggest that green tea may help to manage blood sugar and insulin levels, the results from one meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials show that the data supporting green tea’s benefit on blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity are inconsistent. Therefore, additional clinical trials are needed to verify the protective effects of green tea on type 2 diabetes and its complications.
The results of one single-blind randomized controlled clinical trial conducted on 64 participants found that people with type 2 diabetes who drank chamomile tea three times a day after each meal had lower insulin and HbA1C levels—the amount of glucose attached to the proteins that carry oxygen in the blood— than people who drank water after meals.
The participants who drank chamomile tea also showed signs of better blood sugar management and antioxidant status. Still, larger studies are needed to demonstrate significant clinical benefits, but the results from this trial indicate that drinking chamomile tea after each meal may be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
Like black tea, the evidence supporting oolong tea’s benefits for people with diabetes is inconclusive. One retrospective cohort study found that long-term consumption of oolong tea may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while another study found that oolong tea may help to protect against diabetic nephropathy (a common complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes) in rats. More research is needed to determine whether or not drinking oolong tea is beneficial for people with diabetes.
Ginger has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years, particularly for the ailment of digestive issues. But one systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 studies found that ginger may help to manage blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes. However, some of these studies analyzed the effects of ginger root or ginger powder supplement rather than ginger tea. More research is needed to determine whether ginger tea can have a similarly beneficial impact on people with diabetes.
How Much Tea is Safe?
How much tea is safe to drink will depend on what type of tea you’re drinking (including whether or not it contains caffeine) and your health history. Consulting with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian can help you understand how much tea is safe for you to drink according to your personalized health goals.
Risks and Warnings
Consuming too much of any beverage or food can pose certain health risks. Depending on your health and lifestyle, drinking too much tea may increase the risk of:
- Iron deficiency (especially if you are vegan or vegetarian).
- Increased stress, depression or anxiety (if drinking caffeinated tea).
- Difficulty sleeping or poor sleep (if drinking caffeinated tea).
Additionally, there are some types of herbal teas that may interfere with common diabetes medications. If you’re on medication, consider asking your provider about which teas are safe to drink.
If you’re interested in incorporating more tea into your diet in a safe and manageable way, Nourish can connect you with a Registered Dietitian specialized in diabetes management. If you need help optimizing your diet, consider booking a virtual appointment today.
Though the results of some studies show that drinking chamomile or green tea may have a beneficial impact on people with diabetes, more research is needed to understand whether or not tea can help to manage common diabetes conditions, like high blood sugar.
If you enjoy the taste of certain teas, consider opting for unsweetened or low-calorie versions to help keep your blood sugar in check. If you’re on medication, you can consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to ensure that you avoid certain herbal teas that may interfere with your medication.
Managing Diabetes with an RD
Understanding which foods may help or harm your health when you have diabetes can seem overwhelming. Working with a diabetes nutritionist can help you to incorporate tea and other foods that may be beneficial to your health into your diet with ease.
Book an appointment with Nourish and see a registered dietitian through your insurance.
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