Water vs. Tea: How Do They Compare?
Caffeinated tea can have a slight diuretic effect, but the effect of this small amount of caffeine on the hydration you get from the tea is minimal at best. Research has shown that caffeine may not act as a diuretic until you drink 500 milligrams (mg) or more a day. Since that is the equivalent of about 11 to 18 cups of caffeinated tea, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit that level of intake. As a result, it would be fine to count your mug of tea toward your total fluid intake for the day.
Nutrition Facts of Tea
No matter what kind of brewed tea you choose, you’ll find they’re all incredibly low in calories. Green tea, black tea, and black decaffeinated tea all contain just 2 calories per cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Plus, tea contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants, according to research. Just keep in mind that what you add to your cup counts, too. So if you enjoy your tea with honey, sugar, or cream, keep an eye on how much you use. The calories, fat, and sugar from those additions will add up quickly.
It’s also important to note that while brewed tea is very low in calories, tea products like sweetened or bottled iced tea are often not. And if you’re thinking you’ll get the same health benefits from a chai latte with extra whip, think again. Those beverages are made from a sugared syrup that is flavored with tea but is incredibly high in sugar and calories.
For instance, a grande chai latte with extra whip from Starbucks will give you more than 240 calories and 42 grams (g) of sugar — not a good way to start your day. If you’re looking for the same spicy flavor without all of the calories and guilt, opt for a brewed chai tea instead: The same-sized drink at Starbucks rings in at precisely 0 calories and 0 sugar, which will warm you up without derailing your health goals.
Related: 8 Teas to Drink for a Healthier Body and Mind
What About Tea Makes It Hydrating?
Tea is brewed with water — the ultimate hydrator. In fact, decaffeinated tea can be counted cup for cup toward your hydration goal because it is considered just as hydrating as plain water.
Tea vs. Coffee: Which Is More Hydrating?
Tea wins this one over caffeinated coffee. Because tea is naturally lower in caffeine than regular coffee, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s more hydrating cup for cup as a result. Decaf coffee and tea are both almost completely free of caffeine and are considered equally hydrating.
Related: Does Coffee Count as Fluid?
Types of Tea: How Hydrating Are They?
There are so many types of tea to choose from when filling your cup. Each variety contains a different amount of caffeine, and the more caffeine, the less hydrating the tea. It’s also important to note that steeping time will affect the amount of caffeine in your cup, per research. So the longer you leave your tea to brew, the more caffeine will be in your cup. Here are the main types of tea you’re likely to find in your local coffee shop and their hydration levels:
Black Tea Black tea contains about 47 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a result, it’s more hydrating than a cup of caffeinated coffee (96 mg) but less hydrating than a cup of green, herbal, or decaffeinated tea (see below).
Green Tea Green tea naturally contains approximately half of the caffeine per cup as black tea at just 28 mg per 8 oz. As a result, it would be slightly more hydrating than black tea and slightly less so than herbal tea, decaf tea, or water.
White Tea According to research, white tea contains about 32 to 37 mg of caffeine per 8-oz cup. That puts it somewhere in between black and green tea for its hydration abilities.
Herbal Tea Herbal teas aren’t technically made from tea leaves but rather from dried flowers, leaves, seeds, or roots of other plants. As a result, they are naturally caffeine-free, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and can be counted the same as water cup for cup when it comes to hydration.
Decaffeinated Tea Decaf teas are made from tea leaves, but they have their caffeine removed. The resulting product is almost completely caffeine-free at a mere 2 mg per 8-oz cup, according to the Mayo Clinic. Therefore, decaf tea may also be counted the same as water.
Related: Genius Hacks That Help You Drink More Water
Health Benefits of Tea Beyond Hydration
Tea is linked to a long list of health benefits. Green tea is a rich source of flavonoids, and regular consumption has been linked to health benefits such as decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, according to Penn Medicine. One study reported that drinking green tea, especially in combination with coffee, may decrease the risk of death from all causes for people with type 2 diabetes. (More research is needed to see if the same is true in people without diabetes as well.) Additional research suggested that drinking black tea may help reduce blood pressure. What’s more, results from another study found that drinking tea may even help improve creativity. While more research is still needed, it can’t hurt to brew a cup before your next creative project.
Tips for Enjoying Tea to Maximize the Perks
If you start your morning or end your day with a warm cup of tea, it’s only natural to wonder if there’s anything you can do to make it even healthier. Plain brewed tea is a naturally healthy and low-calorie beverage. It’s what is commonly added to tea that can make it a less than ideal choice. If you’re adding spoonfuls of honey, sugar, or cream to your tea, it might be time to revisit your brewing routine. Because these ingredients add lots of calories, sugar, and fat with no nutritional value, it’s best to skip them or limit them as much as possible. Similarly, if you’re reaching for a bottled iced tea, check the nutrition facts first to be sure there isn’t any added sugar.
Should You Drink Tea to Stay Hydrated?
While caffeinated tea isn’t quite as good a hydrator as plain old water, it’s still a great choice. Tea can help to mix things up flavor-wise and may help keep you from feeling bored drinking only water. There’s also the opportunity to add natural flavors such as a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, fruit, or spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, without altering the nutritional benefits of tea. Plus, the potential health benefits of tea can’t be ignored. Hot or iced, tea is a great beverage to add to your repertoire.