Reason To Reach For Rooibos

Naturally sweet and fragrant, caffeine-free, low in tannins combined with its potential health benefits make rooibos tea, an endemic South African fynbos species, a popular choice for both young and old.  Rooibos is even becoming a big deal in Japan – one of the largest tea-drinking nations in the world – with exports of our indigenous tea hitting record highs in 2018 (Rooibos Council, 2019). Surely if the uber health-conscious Japanese are opting for a cup of rooibos there’s something to it?

The health benefits of rooibos are attributed to its high polyphenol (a kind of chemical that may, at least in theory, protect against certain diseases) and antioxidant (a substance that prevents damage to cells by free radicals). Numerous studies done in animals and some done in humans have shown that rooibos tea may benefit heart health by positively affecting blood pressure. It may also lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol in those at risk of heart disease. Additionally, studies suggest that some of the antioxidants that are found in rooibos tea can help balance blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance. Although no human studies have been able to confirm it, some animal studies have shown that certain antioxidants found in Rooibos, may kill cancer cells. While a study demonstrating how rooibos tea can aid weight loss and fat oxidation is currently underway (Rooibos Council, 2019)

In a recent study, Piek and colleagues set out how the optimal cup of rooibos tea should be made. Meaning the cup with highest polyphenol content and the highest antioxidant capacity, in other words the cup with the most health benefits. The researchers found that to maximize the health benefits of rooibos tea, a cup should be steeped for at least 10 minutes and comment that 4-6 cups of Rooibos tea should be taken daily to reap the health benefits of this beverage (Piek et al., 2019)

Packed with polyphenols and antioxidants why not go brew yourself a cup of homegrown goodness which is actually “big in Japan”, or opt for a refreshing rooibos iced tea in these scorching summer days, just remember to allow ample time for steeping.

References

Piek, H., Venter, I., Rautenbach, F., and Marnewick, J.L (2019) ‘Rooibos herbal tea: an optimal cup and its consumers’, Health SA Gesondheid, 24(0), pp.1-9 [Online]. Available at: https://hsag.co.za/index.php/hsag/article/view/1090/html (Accessed:13 Nov. 19)

Rooibos Council (2019) ‘Study investigating rooibos weight-loss effect currently underway’ [Online]. Available at: https://sarooibos.co.za/study-investigating-rooibos-weight-loss-effect-currently-underway/ (Accessed: 13 Nov. 19)

Windvogel, S. (2019) ‘Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia spp.): from bush teas to potential therapy for cardiovascular disease’, Nutraceuticals-past, present and future [Online]. Available at: http://scholar.sun.ac.za/handle/10019.1/106308 (Accessed:13 Nov. 19)

About the author:

Tanya has been providing dietary guidance since 2009 as a registered dietician licensed in South Africa. Her goal is to help patients understand the connection between diet and diagnosis for improved nutritional well being.

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