I’ve always been a tea drinker, with chai tea topping the list as my absolute favorite type to drink. Something about relaxing on the couch with a warm cup of masala chai latte is just so cozy and the perfect way to unwind. The mix of winter spices along with the creaminess of milk makes it the perfect beverage to enjoy on a cold, winter day. As a bonus, chai tea also boasts many health benefits because of the spices that are commonly included in the blend.
*Just a quick note to avoid the super-sugary chai tea lattes that are sold at most coffee shops though, as they can contain upwards of 40g of sugar per beverage. Right now, I’ve been making my chai tea lattes with Prana chai and almond milk, but I really love David’s Tea Chocolate Chili Chai blend as well!*
Although the spices can vary, most chai blends are a mix of black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, and ginger. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of each.
Cinnamon is probably the most familiar and commonly used spices found in chai tea. Because of this, it has been studied extensively for its health benefits and role in managing chronic diseases. The strongest evidence has been the role of cinnamon in controlling blood sugar in those with diabetes. Even if you don’t have diabetes, cinnamon has also been shown to be an antioxidant and to have anti-inflammatory properties, both of which prevent cell damage. Earlier research suggests this spice might even have anti-cancer and anti-microbial effects.
Cardamom, a spice commonly used in Indian cuisine, has been researched as a potential anti-carcinogen. Researchers have found that cardamom contains compounds that may kill cancer cells and turn off genes linked to cancer growth. Consumption is also strongly believed to boost the immune system.
Star anise is another spice that may not be so familiar to most, but it has been shown to be a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. Studies have also suggested that star anise may reduce damage from free radicals and have additional anti-carcinogenic properties.
Pepper- it’s arguably the best known spice in the world (or at least top 2). It contains an array of vitamins and minerals with a fair amount of fiber as well! Just like many of the spices above, it’s been praised as being an antioxidant and for having anti-bacterial properties. Other potential benefits include a role in lowering blood pressure and aiding in weight loss.
In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, cloves are one of the highest sources of the trace mineral manganese which is important for the formation of bones, connective tissues, and hormones as well as being involved with the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates.
Of all the spices, ginger is the one I’ve spent the most time personally studying. It is most commonly known as a remedy for upset stomach and motion sickness (hence why you drink ginger ale when you have a stomach ache). It is frequently noted as having anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial properties. Interestingly, ginger has been shown to be beneficial in reducing diabetes markers such as blood sugar, A1c, and markers of oxidative stress.