Spill the tea: can this drink help diabetes?

No magic potion can solve all your health problems. But if you have diabetes, there is a beverage that may boost your ability to manage your condition.

What’s more, it comes in many colors and flavors, and it’s simple to find on your grocery store shelf. It’s tea – and whether you prefer green, black or oolong, research suggests sipping a cup, or a few, has big benefits.

If you have diabetes already, adding tea to your routine could improve your blood glucose control and delay complications, such as heart disease and nerve damage. And if you don’t, drinking tea fits into a healthy lifestyle that wards off the disease.

Sip Your Way to Blood Sugar Control

Tea is popular worldwide. Green, black, oolong and white teas are all made from a single plant: Camellia sinensis.

The way they’re processed determines the color. Green tea is unfermented, while black tea is fully fermented. White and oolong fall in between.

Warm or iced, each cup brims with a wide variety of good-for-you compounds. This includes compounds called polyphenols, amino acids, caffeine and minerals. These plant-based substances may help control diabetes by:

•         Increasing your body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin

•         Improving your liver’s ability to turn sugar into energy

•         Reducing inflammation

Studies have shown drinking tea – especially green tea – regularly over time may:

•         Reduce the risk for diabetes

•         Ward off complications and death in people who already have the disease

•         Keep blood sugar more stable

Create a Diabetes Management Plan

Of course, tea can’t stand on its own as a diabetes treatment. Fit your daily brew into a healthy lifestyle that includes:

•         Asking your treatment team for blood glucose targets. Then check your blood sugar and A1C regularly to make sure you’re reaching them.

•         Taking medication, if needed. Your health care provider may prescribe you insulin or other drugs. Always take them as directed.

•         Aiming for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. This could be walking, dancing, swimming, or even doing housework.

•         Following a healthy diet. Load up on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Meanwhile, cut back on processed foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol. Along with tea, drink plenty of water.

•         Managing stress. Easing tension can improve your mental and physical health. Start a daily meditation or other mindfulness practice. Reach out for help when you need it—from friends, family, or a mental health care provider.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Diabetes Association, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nutrition & Metabolism, Antioxidants (Basel).

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