Much ado has been made about drinking tea after meals to aid digestion, melt fat, and speed up metabolism. Tea, we are told, is high in anti-oxidants that bind with free radicals and help slow down aging. Tea, it seems, can transform you into a lean, mean calorie-busting machine!

Which begs the question: is it true? Fear not, I have scoured the Internet and waded through the medical journals to come up with the answer for you. And the answer is: erm, not really.

Tea can be a great pick-me-up. The caffeine in tea will certainly help make you feel alert after a heavy meal. The fluoride in tea helps to prevent tooth decay and the flavonoids in the tea can help to prevent certain bacterial infections.But, will it really speed up your metabolism? If it’s just plain ole tea, probably not. Fat is not soluble in water or milk, so that theory is out.

In fact, the literature indicates that drinking tea right before or directly after a meal is actually fairly harmful, especially if you’re a vegetarian. The biggest reason to avoid tea for at least a half hour before and a full hour after eating is that the tannic acid in the tea binds with protein and iron in the food and prevents their absorption in the body. The type of meal you eat matters. If you’ve consumed protein from an animal source, including eggs, you’ll absorb about 70 percent of the protein, but if you’ve had vegetable-based protein in your meal, you’ll only absorb 30 percent. That’s scary stuff since vegetarians find it particularly hard to get enough protein in their diet at all.

Additionally, the Chinese, to whom we bow for all tea wisdom, also have a saying that “Tea makes medicine fail”. Tannic acid interferes with absorbing medicines, so it’s best not to take medicines with tea. And since caffeine isn’t the cause, even decaf and green tea have this effect.

Caffeine, by the way, is a stimulant and can cause anxiety and heart flutters if consumed in large quantities. I, in my impending old age, can no longer drink tea after 5pm. If I do, I spend my night tossing and turning and thinking all night instead of falling asleep.

Now, I’m going to leave you with a factoid that you can use to your own advantage: tea suppresses the secretions of gastric juices and can reduce acid and bile in the stomach.So, drinking tea when you are hungry stimulates your gastric mucosa, which in turn causes you to lose your appetite.

So, what can you do? If you’re dying for a cuppa after a meal, which, I confess, I often am, try reaching for herbal tea. Personally, I’m allergic to the ragweed family of which chamomile is a proud member. Instead of calming me down, chamomile makes me itch like a flea-infested monkey. I go for rooibus or licorice root tea, and sometimes tulsi or ginger infusions that have no actual tea in them. And then as soon as an hour has passed after my dal-roti-sabzi lunch, I zoom to the kitchen and make myself a cup of real tea! Whew!

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