Tea, especially green tea, is the second-most popular beverage in the world after water (take that, Coke and Pepsi!). You’ve probably heard that green tea has health benefits ranging from sharpening mental focus to helping to prevent cancer, but now it’s also been discovered to help prevent type 2 diabetes.
“People with diabetes have problems metabolizing sugar,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, a cardiologist and director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Through a complex biochemical reaction, tea — especially green tea — helps sensitize cells so they are better able to metabolize sugar. Green tea is good for people with diabetes because it helps the metabolic system function better.”
Research published in Diabetes and Metabolism Journal reviewed a Japanese study which found that people who drank six or more cups of green tea each day were 33 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than were people who drank less than one cup of green tea a week. The study authors also highlighted research from Taiwan which found that people who drank green tea regularly for more than a decade had smaller waists and a lower body fat composition than those who did not drink green tea frequently.
How green tea helps prevent type 2 diabetes
Tea contains substances called polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in many plants, and a magic bullet for good health. Polyphenols help regulate glucose, which helps to prevent or control diabetes. But polyphenols also help reduce oxidative stress and cause arteries to widen, which decreases blood pressure, prevents clotting, and reduces cholesterol. These actions reduce the risk for heart disease, which is a serious concern for diabetics.
All teas, black and green, contain polyphenols. But in green tea, the level of poyphenols is substantially higher. Look for bright colors in fruits and vegetables, and you’ll find high levels of polyphenols. Foods which pack a lot of polyphenols include pomegranates, berries, apples, grapes, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, spinach, red beans, and rhubarb. And oh yea, red wine. And cocoa (dark chocolate only).
Add brightly colored fruits and vegetables to your diet, along with nuts, fish, and green tea, and your diabetes management (and possibly prevention) will be much more successful. A little dark chocolate and red wine won’t hurt either.