By Alina Petre, MS, RD
In many parts of the world, "chai" is simply the word for tea.
However, in the Western world, the word chai has become synonymous with a type of fragrant, spicy Indian tea more accurately referred to as masala chai.
What's more, this beverage may have benefits for heart health, digestion, controlling blood sugar levels and more.
This article explains what you need to know about chai tea and its potential benefits.
What Is Chai Tea?
Chai tea is a sweet and spicy tea renowned for its fragrant aroma.
Depending on where you come from, you may recognize it as masala chai. However, for the purpose of clarity, this article will use the term "chai tea" throughout.
Chai tea is made from a combination of black tea, ginger and other spices. The most popular spices include cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper and cloves, although star anise, coriander seeds and peppercorns are other well-liked options.
Unlike regular tea, which is brewed with water, chai tea is traditionally brewed using both warm water and warm milk. It also tends to be sweetened to varying degrees.
Chai lattes are another popular way to consume the tea. People make these by adding a shot of chai tea concentrate to steamed milk, which produces a beverage containing more milk than you would find in a typical cup of chai tea.
Chai tea can be purchased in most cafés, but is also easy to make at home, either from scratch, premixed tea bags or a store-bought concentrate.
What's more, chai tea has been linked to a variety of health benefits.
Summary: Chai tea is traditional Indian milky tea made from a blend of black tea, ginger and other spices. It can be consumed in various forms and may provide a variety of health benefits.
It May Help Improve Heart Health
There's evidence that chai tea may be good for the health of your heart.
In some individuals, cinnamon has been shown to help reduce the levels of total cholesterol, "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by up to 30 percent (3).
Most studies used doses of 1–6 grams of cinnamon per day, which is generally more than you'd find in your typical cup of chai tea.
However, a recent review reported that doses of as little as 120 mg per day may be sufficient to offer these heart-healthy effects (2).
Most research has observed that drinking four or more cups of black tea per day may slightly reduce blood pressure levels. What's more, drinking three or more cups of black tea per day seems to be linked to an 11 percent lower risk of heart disease (6, 7).
However, not all studies are unanimous, and none have investigated the direct effect of chai tea on heart health. Thus, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made (8).
Summary: Chai tea contains cinnamon and black tea, both of which may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, studies that directly investigate the effects of chai tea are needed.
Chai Tea May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Chai tea may contribute to better blood sugar control.
That's because it contains ginger and cinnamon, both of which may have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels.
Lower insulin resistance makes it easier for your body to use insulin to escort sugar out of your blood and into your cells. This can help lower blood sugar levels.
A recent study gave two grams of ginger powder per day to people with type 2 diabetes, and found it helped lower their blood sugar levels by up to 12 percent (13).
Studies report that effective ginger and cinnamon doses tend to range from 1–6 grams per day. Such doses are more than what you can expect to get from store-bought chai tea bags, or a cup prepared by your local barista.
To get the most benefits, try preparing the tea yourself from scratch. That way, you can add slightly more cinnamon and ginger than most recipes call for.
It's also important to note that, unlike home-brewed chai tea, varieties prepared in cafés are often heavily sweetened, which would likely negate the blood-sugar-lowering benefits of the other ingredients in chai tea.
The American Heart Association recommends women keep their intake of added sugar under 25 grams per day, and men keep their intake under 38 grams per day. This latte alone could max out that limit (16).
For the best blood-sugar-lowering results, opt for an unsweetened version.
Summary: The cinnamon and ginger found in chai tea may help increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. However, it's best to steer clear of heavily sweetened, store-bought varieties.
It May Reduce Nausea and Improve Digestion
Ginger seems especially effective at reducing nausea during pregnancy. In fact, a review of studies conducted on a total of 1,278 pregnant women found that a daily dose of 1.1–1.5 grams of ginger significantly reduced nausea (19).
This is about the amount of ginger you'd expect to have in one cup of chai.
In addition, animal studies report that black pepper may increase levels of digestive enzymes needed to properly break down foods and support optimal digestion (25).
However, the amount of pepper used in these animal studies was up to five times higher than the average amount consumed by humans. Thus, more studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Summary: The chai tea ingredients ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves may help reduce nausea, prevent bacterial infections and support proper digestion.
It May Help You Lose Weight
Chai tea may help prevent weight gain and promote fat loss in several ways.
First, chai tea is generally prepared with cow's milk or soy milk, both of which are good sources of protein.
Protein is a nutrient known to help reduce hunger and promote feelings of fullness.
Research also shows that compounds found in the type of black tea used to make chai may promote fat breakdown and help reduce the number of calories your body absorbs from foods (30).
What's more, one high-quality study reported that drinking three cups of black tea per day may help prevent unwanted weight gain or gain of belly fat (8).
However, it's worth noting that these effects remain small and appear to only work over the short term.
Finally, animal studies show that consuming black pepper may help prevent the accumulation of body fat, though it's not yet clear how these results relate to humans (31).
However, if you're drinking chai tea, be careful not to consume too much added sugar. Some popular varieties of chai tea contain significant amounts, which would likely counter any of the small benefits outlined above.
For instance, a 12-ounce (360-ml) chai tea made with skim milk contains around 60 calories, while a homemade chai latte may contain around 80 calories.
In comparison, the same quantity of nonfat chai latte at your local café may contain up to 180 calories. It's best to stick to unsweetened, homemade varieties (14).
Summary: Chai tea contains several ingredients that may work together to promote weight loss or prevent unwanted weight gain. To experience the best results, steer clear of sweetened chai teas.
Dosage and Safety
Currently, there's no consensus on how much chai tea the average person would need to drink to reap the health benefits listed above.
Most studies focus on the benefits of individual ingredients, which makes it difficult to determine the actual amount of chai tea or the specific recipe you would need to maximize these benefits.
When consumed in excess, caffeine may cause a variety of unpleasant effects, including anxiety, migraines, high blood pressure and poor sleep. Too much caffeine may also increase the risk of miscarriage or low birth weight (34, 35, 36, 37).
That said, typical intakes of chai tea are unlikely to exceed these recommendations.
Each cup (240 ml) of chai tea is expected to contain around 25 mg of caffeine. That's half the caffeine dose provided by the same quantity of black tea, and one-quarter that of the typical cup of coffee (32).
Due to chai tea's ginger content, individuals prone to low blood pressure or low blood sugar, or who are taking blood-thinning medication, may want to limit their intake or keep it in the lower end of the range.
Individuals who are lactose intolerant may want to opt for chai teas made from plant-based milks or only water.
Summary: Chai tea is generally considered safe, although it does contain caffeine and ginger, which may cause negative effects in some people. The optimal dosage is not yet known.
How to Make Chai Tea at Home
Chai tea is relatively simple to make at home. It only requires a few ingredients and you can follow a variety of recipes to make it.
The recipe below is one of the most time-efficient preparation methods you'll find.
It requires you to make a chai concentrate in advance and store it in your refrigerator.
This process only takes a little more time up front, but significantly reduces the time it will take for you to enjoy a daily cup of chai tea or chai latte at home.
Chai Tea Concentrate
Here is what you'll need to make 16 ounces (474 ml) of the concentrate:
- 20 whole black peppercorns
- 5 whole cloves
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 2.5 cups (593 ml) water
- 2.5 tablespoons (38 ml) loose-leaf black tea
- 4 inches (10 cm) of fresh ginger, sliced
1. Roast peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and star anise on low heat for around 2 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Using a coffee or spice grinder, grind cooled spices into a coarse powder.
3. Using a large saucepan, combine the water, ginger and ground spices and bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Avoid letting your mixture reach a boil, which will cause the spices to become bitter.
4. Stir in the loose-leaf black tea, turn the heat off and allow to steep for around 10 minutes, then strain.
5. If you prefer your tea sweet, reheat the strained mixture together with a healthy sweetener of choice and simmer for 5–10 minutes, then cool and refrigerate.
6. Strain the chai tea concentrate into a sterilized bottle and let cool prior to refrigeration. The concentrate keeps in the fridge for up to one week.
To make a cup of chai tea, simply stir one part concentrate with one part hot water and one part hot cow's milk or unsweetened plant milk. For the latte version, use one part concentrate to two parts milk. Stir and enjoy.
Summary: Chai tea is very simple to make. Simply follow the steps above to make your own version of the concentrate.
The Bottom Line
Chai tea is a fragrant, spicy tea that may help boost heart health, reduce blood sugar levels, aid digestion and help with weight loss.
Although most of these health benefits are backed by science, it's worth noting that they are generally linked to the ingredients used in chai tea rather than chai tea itself.
Nevertheless, you probably don't have much to lose by giving chai tea a try.
Just note that you'll get the most health benefits from your tea by opting for a minimally sweetened version.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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