The month of February is recognised as National Healthy Lifestyles Awareness Month.
The aim is to educate South Africans about how healthy living could avert the growing number of diseases of lifestyle, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, which collectively claims the lives of more than 276 142 people (or 60% of all deaths) annually in our country.
In addition to regular physical activity and a healthy diet, scientists are recognising the importance of certain food chemicals called phenolic compounds that can reduce one’s risk of developing these diseases. Rooibos tea is a good source of these health-promoting phenolic compounds.
Proffesor Christo Muller, Chief Specialist Scientist at the SA Medical Research Council says rooibos alone isn’t a silver bullet, but has the potential to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which is the root cause of many of these diseases.
Oxidative stress occurs when our bodies uses the oxygen that we breathe in to produce energy. Through this process, free radicals are produced which can cause damage to cells and ultimately disease. Antioxidants interact with free radicals before they can cause any harm. The more antioxidant-rich our diet, the less susceptible we are to disease and premature aging.
“Rooibos contains polyphenols, which are considered an important source of antioxidants in a diet. Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory properties that are good for your brain, heart and gut health and are commonly found in plants and herbs. Polyphenols are further divided into sub-groups that include flavonoids. Research has confirmed that rooibos contains an abundance of these potent free radical scavengers that help protect the body from oxidative stress and thus disease.
“To date, aspalathin has only been found in rooibos and isn’t present in any other food or beverage, which makes the tea so unique. Aspalathin has been found to help protect against cardiovascular disease, often as a result of diabetes – a condition which affects one in 14 South Africans between the ages of 21 and 79”, says Muller.
For optimal health benefits, Muller recommends drinking between five and six cups of rooibos tea staggered throughout the day. Alternatively, put a jug of freshly made cooled rooibos tea in the fridge, or pour the iced tea into a sports bottle to ensure you get your daily dose.
Here’s how rooibos tea can benefit you:
Keeps high blood pressure in check
Rooibos tea is known as a bronchodilator, which not only relieves respiratory conditions, but generally reduces high blood pressure, which can cause dangerous cardiovascular diseases.
Improves heart health
Quercetin, another powerful antioxidant found in rooibos tea, has been linked to the prevention of a wide variety of heart conditions. It promotes HDL – good cholesterol and inhibits LDL – bad cholesterol from adhering to the walls of arteries and blood vessels. This means added protection against various heart conditions, including arteriosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
Reduces risk of diabetes
Preclinical research demonstrates that aspalathin in rooibos helps to balance blood sugar, reduce insulin resistance and increase glucose absorption by the muscles. Aspalathin also boosts the insulin production in the pancreas. This acts as a defensive shield against the development of type 2 diabetes – one of the most widespread and dangerous medical conditions in the world.
Lowers your risk of cancer
Research at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), found that both green (unfermented) and traditional (fermented) rooibos, significantly inhibits the growth of cancer cells, (green more so than red). The flavonoids found in rooibos tea are known for fighting and preventing cancer.
Another rare antioxidant found in rooibos is nothofagin, which helps to improve the immune system and is said to reduce Alzheimer’s disease as well.
Builds and repairs muscle tissue
Not only does rooibos’ free-radical fighting antioxidants help you look and feel younger by slowing down the aging process, but these also assist with improved recovery after exercise, which means more lean muscle and less fat on your body in the long run.
Improves gut health
Rooibos tea also acts as an anti-spasmodic agent, which reduces stomach cramps and diarrhoea.