You read it right – masala chai, the traditional spiced Indian tea beverage, might be better at keeping you hydrated than water. A study by St. Andrew’s University in Scotland compared levels of hydration following the consumption of various drinks. Hydration was measured across a sample of 72 men through the levels of electrolytes and fluids present in their body. In this post, we’ll dive into the findings of this study and what it means for masala chai!
A Closer Look into the Study
The study involved the participants cycling in a warm and humid room until 1% of their body weight had been lost, through sweat. After this extreme dehydration, they were split into two groups – the first tried to rehydrate with water, and the second with skimmed milk.
Researchers found that second group of participants had a higher concentration of electrolytes and had absorbed more of the fluids from the milk than the first group. This is due to the fact that the body needs some level of help in effectively absorbing water and fluids to rehydrate. In the case of milk, this help comes in the form of protein, sodium, carbohydrates, fat, and electrolytes.
How Milk Helps in Hydration
The effectiveness of milk in better hydrating you can be broken down in two parts:
First, the protein, fat, and carbohydrates in milk(specifically lactose, which is a type of sugar) mean that your body doesn’t get rid of the milk as quickly as it would do so with water. The stomach holds onto milk for longer, which leads to more of the fluid being absorbed, for a larger amount of time.
Second, milk contains sodium, magnesium, and multiple electrolytes (not always present in water) that are extremely beneficial for hydration. Sodium, according to Harvard Health, is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and acts like a sponge, carrying water with it into the body. It essentially acts as a carrier for all water being consumed – and without it, the absorption of water is far lesser.
Masala Chai: The Best Hydrator?
Now let’s quickly look at the usual ingredients in a cup of masala chai:
- Black tea (Rich in anti-oxidants)
- Spices – cardamom, ginger, star anise, etc. (anti-inflammatory and immunity boosting)
Combine all these together, and you have yourself the perfect drink to boost your body’s hydration levels! While black tea which is the base in chai is in itself dehydrating, but a lighter chai made with a higher proportion of milk, might keep you hydrated for long. The spices in the chai aid in the better absorption of the fluid as well. What’s more, chai also brings with it the anti-oxidant and immunity-boosting effects of black tea and spices.
Of course, we won’t recommend replacing water with chai altogether (although we’d love to live off just chai!). Water has its own place in your diet, and chai can simply be an extra aid to keep your daily hydration and electrolyte levels up.