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Does Tea Count as Fluid?

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

This popular brew has many proven health benefits, but is meeting your hydration needs one of them? Read on to find out.

One of the difficulties with getting enough fluid each day is that many people aren’t sure just how much they should have. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that women get about 2.7 liters (L) of fluid per day and men get about 3.7 L per day. Of those figures, about 20 percent comes from the food we eat; the rest we should be drinking. That means women should aim for around 2.2 L, or nine 8-ounce (oz) cups of fluids a day, and men should aim for 3 L, or thirteen 8 oz cups. Using a hydration calculator can help you figure out if you're consuming enough fluid.

What counts toward your total? Calorie-free and all natural, water is still the best hydrator going and is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world. But right behind it is tea, according to National Geographic.

Hot or cold, tea has been enjoyed around the world for thousands of years, and for good reason. The supposed health benefits of regular tea consumption include decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes according to Harvard Health Publishing. Considering the fact that the CDC recognizes these as the first, second, and seventh leading causes of death, respectively, adding tea to your day could be a simple way to improve your health and longevity.

While tea is mostly water, many varieties also contain caffeine. Because caffeine is a mild diuretic (i.e., it makes you urinate more), it’s a common belief that caffeinated tea is dehydrating and can’t be counted toward fluid goals. Is this actually the case? Here are the most important things to know about tea and hydration.

Looking for a simple way to improve your health? It doesn’t get much simpler than staying well hydrated. Filling up on enough fluids can help your body maintain its proper temperature and cushion your joints, among other benefits cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While it sounds simple enough, past research indicates that many of us are chronically mildly dehydrated.

Water vs. Tea: How Do They Compare?

Caffeinated tea can have a slight diuretic effect, but the effect of this small amount of caffeine on the hydration you get from the tea is minimal at best. In fact, research indicates that caffeine may not act as a diuretic until 500 milligrams (mg) or more are consumed in a day. Since that is the equivalent of about 11 to 18 cups of caffeinated tea in a day, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit that level of intake. As a result, it would be fine to count your mug of tea toward your total fluid intake for the day.

Nutrition Facts of Tea

No matter what kind of brewed tea is, well, your cup of tea, you’ll find they’re all incredibly low in calories. For example, green tea, black tea, and black decaffeinated tea all contain just 2 calories per cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Plus, tea contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants, according to research published in June 2017 in the British Journal of Pharmacology. Just keep in mind that what you add to your cup counts, too. So if you enjoy your tea with honey, sugar, or cream, keep an eye on how much you use because the calories, fat, and sugar from those additions will add up quickly. It’s also important to note that while brewed tea is very low in calories, tea products like sweetened or bottled iced tea are often not. And if you’re thinking you’ll get the same health benefits from a chai latte with extra whip, think again. Those beverages are made from a sugared syrup that is flavored with tea but incredibly high in sugar and calories. For instance, a grande chai latte with extra whip from Starbucks will give you more than 240 calories and 42 grams (g) of sugar — not a good way to start your day. If you’re looking for the same spicy flavor without all of the calories and guilt, opt for a brewed chai tea instead. The same-sized drink at Starbucks rings in at precisely zero calories and zero sugar, which will warm you up without derailing your health goals.

What About Tea Makes It Hydrating?

Tea is brewed with water — the ultimate hydrator! While caffeine does have a slight diuretic effect, the relatively low levels in tea won’t have much of an impact on hydration levels. In fact, decaffeinated tea can be counted cup for cup toward your hydration goal because it is considered just as hydrating as plain water.

Tea vs. Coffee: Which Is More Hydrating?

Tea wins this one over caffeinated coffee! Because tea is naturally lower in caffeine than regular coffee, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s more hydrating cup for cup as a result. Decaf coffee and tea are both almost completely devoid of caffeine and are considered equally hydrating.

Types of Tea: How Hydrating Are They?

There are so many types of tea to choose from when filling your cup. Each variety contains a different amount of caffeine, and the more caffeine, the less hydrating the tea. It’s also important to note that steeping time will affect the amount of caffeine in your cup. So the longer you leave your tea to brew, the more caffeine will be in your cup. Here are the main types of tea you’re likely to find in your local coffee shop and how hydrating you can expect them to be.

Black Tea Black tea contains about 47 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a result, it’s more hydrating than a cup of caffeinated coffee (96 mg) but less hydrating than a cup of green, herbal, or decaffeinated tea (see below).

Green Tea Green tea naturally contains approximately half of the caffeine per cup as black tea at just 28 mg per 8 oz. As a result, it would be slightly more hydrating than black tea and slightly less so than herbal tea, decaf tea, or water.

White Tea According to past research, white tea contains about 32 to 37 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup. That puts it somewhere in between black and green tea for its hydration abilities.

Herbal Tea Herbal teas aren’t technically made from tea leaves but rather from dried flowers, leaves, seeds, or roots of other plants. As a result, they are naturally caffeine-free, per USDA data, and can be counted the same as water cup for cup when it comes to hydration.

Decaffeinated Tea Decaf teas are made from tea leaves, but they have their caffeine removed. The resulting product is almost completely caffeine-free at a mere 2 mg per 8 oz cup, according to the Mayo Clinic. Therefore, decaf tea may also be counted the same as water.

Health Benefits of Tea Beyond Hydration

The list of purported benefits of drinking tea is long. For example, green tea is a rich source of flavonoids and regular consumption has been linked to health benefits such as decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels according to Penn Medicine. In fact, the results of an October 2020 study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care suggest that drinking green tea, especially in combination with coffee, may decrease the risk of death from all causes in those with type 2 diabetes. (More research is needed to see if the same is true in those without diabetes as well.) Similarly, past research suggests that drinking black tea may help reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers), an important indicator of both heart and overall health. What’s more, results from a December 2017 study published in the journal Food Quality and Preference suggest that drinking tea may even help improve creativity. While more research is still needed, it can’t hurt to brew a cup before your next creative project!

Tips for Enjoying Tea to Maximize the Perks

If you start your morning or end your day with a warm cup of tea, it’s only natural to wonder if there’s anything you can do to make it even healthier. The truth is that plain brewed tea is a naturally healthy and low-calorie beverage. It’s what is commonly added to tea that can make it a less than ideal choice. If you’re adding spoonfuls of honey, sugar, or cream to your tea, it might be time to revisit your brewing routine. Because these ingredients add lots of calories, sugar, and fat with no nutritional value, it’s best to skip them or limit them as much as possible. Similarly, if you’re reaching for a bottled iced tea, check the nutrition facts first to be sure there isn’t any added sugar.

Should You Drink Tea to Stay Hydrated?

While caffeinated tea isn’t quite as good a hydrator as plain old water, it’s still a great choice. Tea can help to mix things up flavor-wise and may help keep you from feeling bored drinking only water day in and day out. There’s also the opportunity to add natural flavors such as a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, fruit, or spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, without altering the nutritional benefits of tea. Plus, the potential health benefits of tea can’t be ignored. Hot or iced, tea is a great beverage to add to your repertoire.

Source: By Kelly Kennedy, RDN, Medically Reviewed by Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES

Reviewed: October 8, 2021, Everyday Health, Diet and Nutrition.


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