The best health hacks for winter wellness
We know it’s only October, but when effective self-care could be as simple as boiling a brew, it’s never too early to get the winter wellness facts.
As a new report finds that a cup of tea is the go-to stress buster for Brits, experts from the Tea Advisory Panel share other top tips for keeping us happy and healthy this winter.
As our lives become increasingly complex and fast-paced, it’s essential to keep focussed on our personal wellbeing.
Yet, with the myriad of studies, tips, facts, and wellness advice out there, how can we cut through to the lifestyle hacks that really work – and are simple to do?
“We’re bombarded with diet and exercise information, so it’s no wonder just people switch off,’ says dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Tea Advisory Panel. “Fewer than one in 100 adults in the UK follow all the government’s diet advice.
“Yet, having emerged from the worst of the pandemic, there’s an urgent need for everyone to get fitter and healthier.
“As a result, the Tea Advisory Panel has published a new report – TAKE 5 – How Actioning Just 5 Health Hacks Can Unlock Your Better Self – which distils all the science into five simple, effective lifestyle hacks that we can all do.
“TAKE 5 also includes new, real-world research data which confirms the nation’s love of the great British brew – with nearly six in 10 people polled saying that tea makes them feel relaxed (57%) while a fifth (21%) claim tea is like a superpower in a mug.”
PROVEN HEALTH BENEFITS OF TEA
It also seems most of us are well-aware of the proven health benefits of tea, with more than half (55%) knowing that tea is good for the heart, according to data reviewed in the New TAKE 5 report.
GP and a guest advisor to TAP, Dr Gill Jenkins, explains: “Tea works on the heart and vessels thanks to its rich content of polyphenols, beneficial plant compounds that help to lower blood pressure and fight oxidation – a process which damages our cells if we don’t eat enough antioxidant-rich foods.
“What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain, as studies show that drinking tea – especially black tea – can have a positive effect on cognitive function (attention, mind wandering, and focus), mental wellbeing (stress and mood), and brain blood flow.
“Even just one or two cups a day provided some benefits according to studies.”
THE DAILY TEA TARGET
Studies examining the associations between tea and heart health suggest that the sweet spot for tea drinking is around 4-5 cups a day.
“Encouragingly, the real-world research poll that we reviewed as part of the TAKE 5 report shows that 21% of the nation are hitting the target of 4-5 cups during their working day, but that leaves room for improvement,” says TAP member, health researcher and chemist, Dr Tim Bond.
“Ideally, when having our 4-5 daily cups, we should leave the tea bag to brew for at least three minutes to release the optimal number of polyphenols.”
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT TEA
The TAP TAKE 5 report also details a variety of knowledge gaps when it comes to tea and the many health and wellness benefits the cuppa has, including:
- A third of Brits not knowing that tea comes from the leaves of the tea plant – Camellia sinensis
- Two thirds of Brits polled were not aware that black (regular) and green teas come from the same plant, while a confused one in ten (9%) incorrectly believe that green tea contains green food colouring!
In addition, just one in ten knew that tea is a great source of polyphenols, fluoride and L-theanine.
“Tea is like nature’s pharmacy, with polyphenols for heart and brain health, fluoride for strong teeth, caffeine for alertness and L-theanine – a unique amino acid found in tea – for destressing and focus,’ says Carrie.
“Yet, most people are not aware of this, despite four in 10 of us choosing regular black tea as their go-to stress reliever.”
TAKE FIVE: TOP TIPS FOR WINTER WELLNESS
TAP’s wellbeing experts share the five simple, effective health hacks we can all try to get our health and fitness back on track this winter.
HACK 1: Hydrate with 5-a-day
“With extensive research on the benefits of tea drinking – from both observational studies and clinical trials – scientists have settled on 4-5 cups a day as the optimal intake to not only help keep us hydrated but also provide the right amounts of the natural polyphenol compounds,” Tim advises.
“Top this up with tap water, soup, herbal infusions, and fruits to reach the recommended 1-2 litres a day of fluid.”
HACK 2: Take 5 minutes to recharge
“Stress is a major driver of ill-health and disease, so it’s a false economy to ignore your own wellbeing by not taking a regular five minutes out of your day to rest and reset,” says Gill.
“Brewing a cuppa is a great way to stop doing or thinking and just be yourself for five full minutes. Plus, it’s great news for our brain and mind health, as well as providing that TLC time for our bodies, top to toe.”
HACK 3: Strengthen your core
‘Use it or lose it’ is a helpful phrase to remember when your motivation for exercise is waning.
“What we put in our bodies, how we rest and recharge, and how we move are the three key pillars to maintaining our health,” says Carrie, who recommends five simple exercises to get you going:
- Crunches for abdominals
- Twist ups for obliques
- Plank for stability
- Bridge for gluts
- Toe taps for core strength.
What’s more, a cup of tea can provide a gentle boost to help you maintain motivation – and don’t forget to rehydrate afterwards.
HACK 4: Flex it
“Healthy movement doesn’t only involve getting the heart pumping with cardio and building muscle through strength training.” says Tim.
“Stretching our muscles and supporting our joints are equally important aims – perhaps more so as we age.”
Tim advises these five exercises:
- Roll down and up
- Standing lateral flexion
- Spinal twists
- Hip flexor stretch
- Hamstring stretch
HACK 5: Balance your diet
Eating well doesn’t have to cost the earth or involve ultra-complicated recipes and starvation regimes.
Slowly build up to a more nourishing diet and a healthier you with these five steps from the experts at the Tea Advisory Panel:
- Boost your breakfast fibre – by choosing wholegrain bread or breakfast cereal to keep your gut happy and keep you feeling fuller till lunch.
- Just add fruit and veg – don’t get hung up on numbers, just eat more by adding veg or beans to recipes, snacking on fruit, or making a smoothie with frozen berries and banana.
- Decommission the sugar bowl – it’s just empty calories so junk the white stuff. Nearly a third (27%) of Brits still add sugar to their tea, according to the TAP reviewed research, so try a low-calorie sweetener or gradually reduce the amount you add.
- Friday is treat day – we all need a treat, but don’t let it take over. A whopping quarter of our daily calories come from nutrient-poor cakes, biscuits, sweets and sugary drinks, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
- Relieve the mid-afternoon slump with a cuppa – instead of reaching for the biscuit tin, have a warming cup of tea with a handful of nuts to keep cravings at bay.
For more information on the benefits of tea and the other health hacks that could protect your wellness this winter, visit the Tea Advisory Panel’s website