A Cook's Diary

Does Drinking Hot Tea During Meals Help Digestion?

There is a popular belief that a hot drink first thing in the morning warms up the body and conditions it for physical activity. Others say a hot drink prevents the formation of unwanted acids. I don’t know how much of it is superstition and how much is fact. Personally, I drink a cup of coffee almost as soon as I wake up for the caffeine boost.

There are a lot of beliefs about the effects of drinks before, during and after meals. Depending on what drink you take, it can supposedly suppress hunger pangs, aid in the digestion of food or prevent the proper breakdown of food in the stomach.

The pros of drinking hot tea during meals

There are claims that drinking tea during meals aids digestion by relieving stomach gas and flatulence.

There are also claims that the catechins in green tea boosts metabolism that leads to weight loss. So does caffeine.

The cons of drinking hot tea during meals

Proponents of drinking tea during meals to help digestion and metabolism do not mention just how much tea during meals will result in maximum health benefits. The amount might be crucial because there are also claims that too much tea during meals can hinder the absorption of protein.

The same rule applies to drinking tea after a meal. Because the tannic acid in the tea will bind with protein and iron in the food…

Food for thought

Drinking tea is a Chinese tradition that has spread to many parts of Asia and the world (see How the British addiction to tea shaped Hong Kong). I’ve so often heard it said that it is this practice that has helped prevent obesity in Asia. Well, before Asia embraced the Western fast food culture and the habit of drinking cold soda and sugar-laden fruit juices during meals which don’t seem to contain any nutritive value.

In terms of overall culinary tradition, however, it is just as possible that overall diet may be the real key. The Japanese, for instance, may be less prone to obesity because they are largely seafood eaters. The Koreans observe balance in their food. The Chinese, on the other hand, have a lot of vegetables in their dishes and tofu often takes the place of expensive meat. So, tea-drinking may not be related to the obesity issue at all.

Green tea and herb infusion

Whether or not it’s something scientific or you simply like the idea of having a hot drink with your breakfast (or any meal for that matter), here’s an idea. This was what we had with the pancakes and bacon yesterday.

Take a bag of tea, place it in a pot then pour in hot water. Leave to steep for a few seconds then throw out the water. This practice supposedly gets rid of the bitterness of the tea. I tell you, it works for some reason.

Now add fresh herbs to the teabag. Mint, tarragon and crushed lemongrass are good choices but you can experiment with other herbs. To add a fruity aroma and flavor, throw in a quarter of a lemon, lime or orange. Then, fill the pot (or pitcher, in my case) with hot water. Allow to infuse for about two minutes then serve.

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