A few weeks ago, I came across an article from The Atlantic called “New Reasons to Drink More Tea.” Though I didn’t really think I needed more reasons to enjoy my daily green tea, I read on just to see how science was catching up to what us tea devotees already know: A cup or two of tea a day not only keeps the doctor away, but it also keeps us in tune with the joyous rhythms of life.
The article says that scientific studies are, in fact, starting to show all kinds of health benefits from drinking a few cups of green tea—and in some cases black tea—a day. Benefits range from weight loss to heart health to increases in bone and muscle strength. Plus, as Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science at Tufts University, points out in the article, “It’s really important to remember that tea is a plant.” He explains that the flavonoids extracted from tea leaves are similar to the beneficial phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. So if we can’t eat the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables, he suggests, why not count tea as one or two servings?
When I read this, I instantly thought of my 16-year-old daughter. Though she eats a basically sound diet thanks to the fact that we only have quality foods in the house, I have to say that she isn’t exactly a huge fan of kale. However, she loves starting her day with a cup of green tea.
I’ve never been one to “make” my kids eat anything. I’ve always just offered them healthful foods, and then they eat from it as they will. (Making multiple meals on a given night does not happen in my house!) Since greens (except for arugula and broccoli) are usually not on my daughter’s list of things she has large helpings of, I’ve wondered where her body gets that special nourishment I know comes from plants. Since her health and level of vibrancy have always been great, I’ve never worried that she wasn’t getting what she needed, but I was more in awe of her body’s ability to find what it needs from any source possible. Perhaps our morning tea has something to do with it?
By the looks of this article’s findings, the answer is yes … and I love that. Yet I wonder, is it only the chemical makeup of our shared green tea ritual that is the most important part of the benefits we feel?
As a lifelong student of the multifaceted power of food, as well as a current student in Kripalu’s online certificate program in Positive Psychology led by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar (side note: I highly recommend this course!), I never stop at just looking at the physical aspect of anything to determine what effect it may have on my life.
After reading the tea article and thinking of my daughter, I remembered one of the first lessons in the Positive Psychology course, which explored the connection between gratitude and well-being. It turns out that in numerous studies there’s a connection between feeling gratitude (even for small things) and a sense of well-being (which, in turn, correlates to actual physical well-being).
This makes me think about the daily ritual my daughter and I share. Every morning, right before we leave the house to take her to school and then me to work, we make two mugs of green tea: one for her and one for me. She likes a little raw honey in hers; I take mine straight up. We have a variety of green and also white tea (a milder-tasting, lower-caffeine variety) that we enjoy. After we hurry ourselves and gather all our necessary paraphernalia for the day’s adventures into the car, we reach for the warm mugs of tea, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy a sip. We usually drive that first mile in silence, until one of us makes a comment about how grateful we are for the tea (and if it’s a cold day, the heated car seats get a shout-out as well) and we then officially start our day.
I’ve never thought much of it, and I know it’s just a little thing, really. But maybe it’s these small moments of gratitude, these silent acknowledgments that life is full of pleasure, that really are the secret, health-giving nutrients that we take in. Wouldn’t it be something if science were someday able to measure that? Measure a food or an experience’s level of gratitude, love, and joy? What if on the package of food, alongside the calories, fat, carb, vitamin and mineral content, was another number? A number that represented the amount of positive energy that went into the making of the food and appreciating it. What if the FDA listed, in addition to the amount of recommend vitamin C, a recommend MG a day—moment of gratitude? What if there were a warning label on food that said, “Must be ingested with a bit of gratitude and love”?
I’m thrilled that some scientists are telling me that my green tea is healthful. I’m even more excited to be reminded to cherish that daily moment of gratitude my daughter and I share.
I’m curious: What’s your MG/day number? Perhaps a nice cup of green tea in the morning will not only give you more flavonoids but provide a moment of gratitude to start your day!