In many parts of the world, simply the word “chai” is synonymous with tea. However, in the western world, the word chai tea has become synonymous with a type of fragrant, spicy Indian tea, specifically referred to as masala chai. Moreover, this drink can have benefits for heart health, digestion, control of blood sugar levels and much more. This article explains what you need to know about chai tea and its potential benefits.
What is Chai Tea?
Chai tea is a sweet and spicy tea, famous for its fragrant aroma. Depending on the place, it can be recognized as masala chai. However, for the purpose of clarity, this article will use the term “chai tea” in its entire content. Chai tea is made by a combination of black tea, ginger and other spices. The most popular spices include cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper and clove, although, star anise, coriander seeds and peppercorns are other options that many people like. Unlike regular tea, which is served with water, chai tea is traditionally served using both hot water and hot milk. It also tends to be sweetened to varying degrees. Chai latte tea (with plenty of milk) is another popular way to consume tea. People do so by adding a concentrated shot of chai tea to hot milk, resulting in a drink that contains more milk than would be found in a typical cup of chai tea. Chai tea can be bought in most coffee shops, but it is also easy to make at home, either through raw material (from scratch) and ready-mixed tea bags or bought a concentrate in the store.
Chai Tea Has Been Linked to a Variety of Health Benefits.
Summary: Chai tea is traditional Indian tea made from a mixture of black tea, ginger and other spices served with milk. It can be consumed in several ways and can provide a variety of health benefits.
It Can Help Improve Heart Health:
There is evidence that chai tea can be good for heart health.
“Animal studies have shown that cinnamon, one of the main ingredients in chai tea, can lower blood pressure”.
In some individuals, cinnamon has been shown to help reduce total cholesterol levels, LBD (low density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides by up to 30%. Most studies used doses of 1-6 grams of cinnamon per day, which is generally more than what would be found in a typical cup of chai tea. However, a recent review reported that doses as small as 120 mg per day may be sufficient to offer these heart-healthy effects. Several studies also suggest that black tea used to make chai tea can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Most research has observed that drinking four or more cups of black tea per day may slightly reduce blood pressure levels. What’s more, drinking three or more cups of black tea per day seems to be linked to an 11% lower risk of heart disease. However, not all studies are unanimous, and none have investigated the direct effect of chai tea on heart health. Therefore, more research is needed to draw strong conclusions.
Summary: Chai tea contains cinnamon and black tea, which can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, studies are needed to investigate the effects that chai tea provides directly.
Chai Tea Can Reduce Blood Sugar Levels:
Chai tea can contribute to better blood sugar control. That is because it contains ginger and cinnamon, which can have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels. For example, studies show that fasting cinnamon can reduce insulin resistance and blood sugar levels between 10-29%. The conditions of low insulin resistance make it easier for the body to use insulin to carry sugar through the blood to the cells. This can help lower blood sugar levels. A recent study supplied two grams of ginger powder per day to people with type 2 diabetes, and found that it helped lower their blood sugar levels by 12%. Studies report that effective doses of ginger and cinnamon tend to vary from 1-6 grams per day. Such doses are more than you would expect to get in the store bought chai tea bags, or in a cup prepared at a local coffee shop. To obtain the greatest benefits, you can try to prepare the tea by yourself from scratch. In this way, you could add a little more cinnamon and ginger than most recipes add. It is also important to keep in mind that, unlike homemade chai tea, varieties prepared in coffee shops are often heavily sweetened, which probably suppresses the benefits of the other ingredients in chai tea related to sugar reduction in blood.
For example, a 360 ml non-fat chai latte tea in Starbucks (an international coffee chain) contains more than 35 grams of sugar and about two thirds of that sugar come from refined sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women keep their consumption of refined sugar below 25 grams per day, and men maintain consumption of less than 38 grams per day. Only that latte could maximize that limit.
Summary: The cinnamon and ginger found in chai tea can help increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. However, it is best to avoid strongly sweetened varieties, bought in the store.
May Reduce Nausea and Improve Digestion:
Chai tea contains ginger, which is well known for its effects against nausea. Ginger seems to be particularly effective in reducing nausea during pregnancy. In fact, a review of studies conducted on a total of 1,278 pregnant women, found that a daily dose of 1.1-1.5 grams of ginger significantly reduced nausea. This approximates the amount of ginger expected in a cup of chai tea. Chai tea also contains cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, all of which have antibacterial properties that seem to help prevent digestive problems caused by bacterial infections. Black pepper, another ingredient found in chai tea, seems to have similar antibacterial properties. In addition, animal studies indicate that black pepper can increase the levels of digestive enzymes necessary to properly break down food and support optimal digestion. However, the amount of pepper used in these animal studies was up to five times greater than the average amount consumed by humans. Therefore, more studies are needed before reaching strong conclusions.
Summary: Chai tea ingredients, such as ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves, can help reduce nausea, prevent bacterial infections and promote proper digestion.
Can Help You Lose Weight?
Chai tea can help prevent weight gain and promote fat loss in several ways. First of all, chai tea is usually prepared with cow’s milk or soy milk, which are good sources of protein. Protein is a known nutrient to help reduce hunger. Therefore, chai tea is probably the most effective tea among other types of tea to reduce hunger and avoid overeating during the day. It can even be useful as a snack. Research also shows that the compounds found in black tea, which are also used to make chai tea, can promote fat reduction and help reduce the number of calories the body absorbs from food. What’s more, a high-quality study reported that drinking three cups of black tea per day can help prevent unwanted weight gain or fat gain in the abdomen. However, it is worth noting that these effects remain small and seem to work only in the short term. Finally, animal studies show that the consumption of black pepper can help prevent the accumulation of body fat, although it is still unclear how these results can react in humans. However, if you are drinking chai tea, you should be careful that you do not have too much refined sugar. Some popular varieties of tea contain significant amounts of this sugar, which can probably counteract any of the small advantages described above.
For example, a 12-ounce (360 ml) chai tea served in skim milk contains about 60 calories, while a homemade chai latte can contain about 80 calories. By comparison, the same amount of non-fat chai latte at a local coffee shop can contain up to 180 calories. It is best to opt for homemade varieties of unsweetened tea.
Summary: Chai tea contains several ingredients that can work together to promote weight loss or prevent unwanted weight gain. To experience better results, you should avoid sugary tea varieties.
Dose and Safety:
Currently, there is no consensus on how much chai tea an average person would need to drink to get the health benefits listed above. Most studies focus on the benefits of individual ingredients, which makes it difficult to determine the actual amount of chai tea or the specific dose needed to maximize these benefits. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that chai tea contains caffeine, which some people may be sensitive. When consumed in excess, caffeine can cause a variety of unpleasant effects, including anxiety, migraines, high blood pressure and sleep deficiency. Too much caffeine can also increase the risk of miscarriage or influence the low weight of babies at birth. For these reasons, people should avoid consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine per day – and during pregnancy, no more than 200 mg. That said, the recommended consumption of chai tea probably does not exceed these recommendations. Each cup (240 ml) of tea is expected to contain about 25 mg of caffeine. That’s half the dose of caffeine provided by the same amount of black tea, and a quarter of the typical cup of coffee.
Due to the ginger content of chai tea, people prone to low blood pressure or low blood sugar, or who are taking anticoagulant medication, it is recommended to limit or maintain a minimum of tea consumption. Individuals who are lactose intolerant may want to opt for varieties of chai tea prepared with vegetable milk or just water.
Summary: Chai tea is generally considered safe, although it contains caffeine and ginger, which can cause negative effects in some people. The optimal dosage is not yet known.
How to Make Chai Tea at Home?
Chai tea is relatively easy to make at home. It only requires a few ingredients and you can follow a variety of recipes to do so. The recipe below is one of the most efficient preparation methods you could currently find. It requires that you make a concentrate of the tea in advance and store it in your refrigerator. This process only takes a little more time at the beginning, but significantly reduces the time it will take at the end, so you can enjoy a daily cup of normal chai tea or chai latte tea at home.
Chai Tea Concentrate:
Here is what you need to make 16 ounces (474 ml) of chai tea concentrate:
- 20 grains of whole black pepper.
- 5 whole nails.
- 5 green cardamom pods.
- 1 cinnamon stick.
- 1 star of anise.
- Cups (593 ml) of water.
- 5 tablespoons (38 ml) of loose leaf black tea.
- 4 inches (10 cm) of fresh ginger, sliced.
- Spray peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and star anise over low heat for about 2 minutes or until the fragrance begins to smell. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Using a coffee or spice mill, grind the cooled spices in a coarse powder.
- Using a large saucepan, mix the water, ginger and ground spices; prepare the mixture to place it over low heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Avoid letting the mixture boil, otherwise the spices will get a bitter taste.
- Add loose leaf black tea, turn off the heat and let it hold consistency for about 10 minutes, then strain.
- If you prefer sweet tea, reheat the mixture formed together with a healthy sweetener of your choice and simmer for 5-10 minutes, then cool and refrigerate.
- Strain the tea concentrate into a sterilized bottle and let it cool before cooling. The concentrate is kept in the fridge for up to a week.
To make a cup of tea, you only have to beat a part of the concentrate with a part of hot water and a part of hot cow’s milk or sugar-free vegetable milk. For the latte version, use one part concentrated in two parts of milk. Stir and enjoy. This tea is very simple to make. Simply follow the steps above to create your own version of the concentrate.
Chai tea is a fragrant and spicy tea that can help improve heart health, reduce blood sugar levels, aid digestion and lose weight. Although most of these health benefits are backed by science, it is worth noting that they are generally linked to the ingredients used to make chai tea instead of chai tea itself. However, you probably don’t have much to lose to give yourself a chance and try chai tea. Just keep in mind that you will get greater health benefits by opting for a variety of minimally sweetened chai tea.