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Add Lemon, Not Milk, to Tea

Q. I grew up adding milk to my tea, and prefer to drink it like that. Does milk in tea reduce the beneficial effects of the tea? What about soy milk?

A. Both green and black tea stimulate the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels. This helps blood vessels relax and lowers blood pressure; tea drinkers are also less likely to develop atherosclerosis (Basic Research in Cardiology, Jan., 2009).

Although your question has not been studied extensively, a few intriguing experiments have shown that adding milk to black tea can interfere with the cardiovascular benefits (European Heart Journal, Jan., 2007). Skimmed milk added to black tea reduces its antioxidant activity much more than whole or part-skim milk (Nutrition Research, Jan., 2010). Soy milk also suppresses the activity of tea compounds (Atherosclerosis, Sept., 2009).

To maximize the health benefits you get from tea, you’ll need to drink it without milk. Adding lemon appears to boost its antioxidant activity (Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, Apr., 2000).

To learn more about the health benefits of tea you may wish to look at our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. In it you will find a section on green tea (page 4) where we discuss the differences between green and black tea. On page 92 you will discover why Oolong tea is one of our favorite foods and why the antioxidants in Oolong tea are different from other teas.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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