Drinking Just One Cup of This Beverage Daily Helps Ensure Your Bones and Brain Stay Strong As You Age

Photo: Stocksy/Trinette Reed
If you grew up in the '90s, you probably can't hear "bone health" and not think of those Got Milk? ads. And while it's true that the calcium found in milk is an important building block for bones, it's not the only thing that's important when it comes to bone health. Plus, milk isn't necessarily the optimal way to consume calcium; vegetables like kale, bok choy, and broccoli all have higher rates of calcium absorption. If you want to sip on something good for your bones, put the kettle on and brew yourself a cup (or four) of tea.

Tea for bone health

"The major bone benefits of drinking tea are due to its powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids," says Sue Xiao Yu, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, a clinical nutritionist and registered dietitian at the Hospital for Special Surgery. "The potent polyphenols found in tea have shown to help increase bone mineralization, delay bone mineral density reduction, and increase the levels of vitamin D in your body." (And vitamin D deficiency is pretty common, so that last one is extra important for many of us.) "Catechins also help to protect bone building cells in the body, while flavonoids have estrogen-like properties that help to prevent bone loss," Yu says.

Experts In This Article
  • Sue Xiao Yu, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, Sue Xiao Yu, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, is a clinical nutritionist at HSS. A graduate of New York University, Sue has more than 15 years of experience helping patients manage chronic diseases including diabetes, rheumatic diseases and bone health through individualized nutrition counseling. Additionally, Sue is a certified diabetes educator with specialty training in obesity interventions for adults. She strongly believes that, with proper nutrition, patients can achieve their target weight loss or blood glucose management. Sue is passionate about helping and guiding patients to achieve good health through better food choices and proper nutrition.

In order to reap these benefits, drink black, green, or oolong tea, as these are the types of teas most of the studies on tea and bone health looked at, according to Yu. "Black, green, and oolong teas are also recommend because they are the most commonly consumed in the world," she adds. And it doesn't really matter if you take your tea hot or iced; Yu says that while one study cited in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that drinking tea with a temperature of 122°F-140°F is effective because it helps preserve the catechins, none of the other studies mentioned the temperature of the tea.

Keep in mind that tea is excellent for maintaining many other bodily functions (beyond just bone health) as we age. It's good for your heart, brain, focus, and even your mood. "[Green and black tea are] high in flavanols, which is a type of antioxidant, and these flavanols have been linked to reducing LDL cholesterol, also known as 'bad' cholesterol," Neva Cochran, RD previously told Well+Good. This, she adds, means it can lower the risk of heart disease.

"The catechins found in tea also help protect the body from free radicals. This benefits the whole body and of course the brain as well," Cochran said. What's more, an article published in the journal Phytomedicine that took into account 21 separate studies on green tea found that tea consumption was linked to better attention and memory. The researchers say they believe this to be connected to the caffeine and L-theanine (an amino acid associated with calm and focus) in the tea. Between the catechins, caffeine, and L-theanine, there are so many components unique to tea that make it a superstar brain-boosting beverage.

As for how much tea to consume? Yu says that the research studies for bone health generally referenced consuming one to four cups of tea a day.

Just remember that drinking tea is just one component of healthy bones. "There are many other nutrients that are just as important for bone health. These include calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K, just to name a few," Yu says. "It is vital that you allow follow a well-balanced diet that incorporates a variety of different foods and food groups to get adequate nutrients to support bone health."

Learn more about the health-boosting benefits of green tea and matcha according to a dietitian in this video:

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