Nothing should come in the way of the romance brewing between an Indian and their morning cuppa of tea.Talk adversely about the morning tea and most Indians get seriously offended. How can one imagine mornings without a chai? Tea-drinkers are so addicted to it that unless they get a satisfactory dose, they are irritable and groggy throughout the day.
India is the largest tea drinking country in the world (837,000 tonnes of it every year) even though the average consumption per person is less than half a cup because of the low income level. Not just at home, piping hot tea is sold at every galli and nukkad in the mornings and there is a great demand for these chaiwallahs who use a careful blend of spices and condiments (e.g. ginger, elaichi /cardamom, etc) to lure their patrons. Even though there seem to be some easy steps in making of tea, there are often carefully guarded trade secrets within each family or clan that go into the preparation of the perfect cup.
Why not the best drink as you wake up?
As soon as we wake up, the first thing that goes into the stomach should be such that it allows the cells to get a fresh start, boost the metabolism and create a favourable environment for the digestion and absorption of nutrients throughout the day.
Increased acid production : Stomach produces acid (HCl) to digest food and even at rest or in the fasting state, the pH of the stomach is between 1-2 i.e. acidic. Once the last meal of the day is digested and absorbed, the pH returns to the fasting state. The first thing consumed in the morning after the overnight fast should be such that it helps to neutralize the acidic environment of the stomach rather than increase acid production. If more acid is produced then it will cause irritation of the stomach lining often precipitating hyperacidity and bloating in most individuals.
Drinking tea or coffee first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is one of the primary causes of the increased incidence of gastric problems such as hyperacidity, bloating and constipation among the Indian men and women. Instead of consuming alkaline foods that can neutralize the acid already present, we consume foods that further increase acidity.
Cause dehydration: Tea and coffee are diuretic which means that they cause more water to be flushed out of the body. These beverages result in water to be drawn out from the tissues causing dehydration. After an overnight fast wherein we are already dehydrated, drinking a beverage that causes further loss of water is counter-productive to good health.
Cause indigestion : While we sleep, our digestive processes also slow down. As we wake up, we need to give the system also some time to wake up and start working to its full capacity. In such a situation, eating or drinking something that can be easily digested and absorbed is better than loading the body with foods that will take more time and effort for digestion. Tea contains milk which requires longer time for digestion and is not the ideal first food for the stomach.
What about biscuit?
We have discussed enough about the harmful constitution of the healthiest of the biscuits in our previous blogs (https://blog.ekincare.com/2016/01/05/are-biscuits-good-for-your-childs-health/). But, as for an accompaniment with the morning cup of tea, biscuits can further contribute to acidity and indigestion due to its refined wheat flour and saturated fat content.
Ideal start to the day !
Water, water and more water– Water is the best tonic for the body in every way. Its alkaline nature due to presence of minerals makes it most suitable as the first food. At least 1-2 glasses is recommended before eating or drinking anything else in order to flush out the toxins, waste products and defog the brain.
If you add some lemon slices or lemon juice to the water then you will help increase the alkalinity. Yes, lemons are alkaline ash which means that although the taste acidic, inside the stomach they have an alkaline effect.
Fruits / fresh or dried– Fruits are digested within 20-30 minutes of consumption because they contain upto 60-80% water. Also, they are a powerhouse of nutrients and antioxidants which can help kickstart the day with freshness and vigour. The high mineral content of fruits makes them alkaline in nature. Fresh fruit consumed as a whole will give the added advantage of fiber to help smooth bowel movement, however even home-made fresh juices such as amla juice, tomato juice, orange juice etc are fine for individuals who do not have diabetes. Dried fruits such as dried apricots, anjeer/figs, dates or raisins/currants can also be consumed first thing in the morning despite having lower water content than fresh ones. Their high fiber content will facilitate bowel cleaning and being energy dense they can satisfy hunger after an overnight fast.
The easy digestibility of fruits provides some more resting time to the digestive system before the vigorous functioning for the day starts.
Herbal tea: Herbal teas are different from green tea or regular tea as they are prepared from different kinds of leaves like lemongrass or condiments such as cardamom, clove, cinnamon, or spices such as ginger, black pepper, etc in a water base. These are warm liquids that can be soothing for the fasted stomach and are devoid of the caffeine.
The typical tea consumed across India is prepared with milk and not as black tea. Tea without milk is more beneficial for health as the antioxidants present in tea leaves are better absorbed. We are not condemning the whole idea of consuming tea because it is an endless debate but we insist that starting the day with tea is very detrimental to health. Changing this one habit can make a huge difference in your overall health and wellness quotient!
Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.