The Unique Beverage That Can Raise Your Good Cholesterol

When you reach a certain age, you might find yourself battling your cholesterol levels. Even if you've done your part to lower your cholesterol without medication through diet and exercise, your body becomes less efficient in clearing the unhealthy cholesterol from your body than it did when you were younger. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 17% of adults between the ages of 40 and 59 take a statin to help reduce their cholesterol. Statins give the body a boost in removing excess cholesterol from your blood.

Another way to reduce your total cholesterol is by raising your good cholesterol, known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). The HDL helps to clear artery-clogging cholesterol from your blood by sending it to the liver to process out of the body. Quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, choosing heart-healthy unsaturated fats, losing weight, and staying active are ways you can increase your HDL. 

You can also raise HDL by swapping out your sugary drinks or jitter-inducing coffee for tea. No, not black tea. No, not green tea, either — although drinking green tea daily can lower your LDL cholesterol. Rooibos tea, which is made from a South African shrub, could be your ally to increase your good cholesterol.

Rooibos tea raises your HDL

If your HDL needs a boost, you'll have to drink a lot of rooibos tea. A 2011 article in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology had 40 people drink six cups of fermented rooibos tea (that's the red tea you'll usually find) every day for six weeks. Drinking rooibos tea improved total cholesterol levels. On average, the LDL cholesterol was reduced by almost 27 points and HDL improved by almost 12 points. The HDL levels improved on average by 33.3%.

Rooibos tea also increases a substance called glutathione, which is important for protecting cells from damage. This suggests that rooibos tea might have antioxidant effects, helping to keep cells healthy. Drinking rooibos tea also lowers markers of damage in the body. Rooibos tea increases the levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols are typically found in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods, which shouldn't be too surprising after drinking so much rooibos tea every day. 

Other benefits of rooibos tea

Those polyphenols found in rooibos tea could also have other potential health benefits. According to a 2015 article in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, rooibos tea might help the body fight harmful molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) that contribute to cancer and diabetes. Although this study was conducted on cells in a lab, rooibos tea extract reduced ROS levels in cancer and diabetes disease models. Rooibos also boosts two enzymes that protect the cells from damage.

Rooibos tea might also be good for weight loss. A 2014 article in Phytomedicine looked at how rooibos tea extract interacts with fat cells grown in a lab. The rooibos extract reduced the stored fat by 22% and changed the genes and proteins connected to fat storage and metabolism.

If you're looking to raise your HDL cholesterol, drinking six cups of rooibos tea might sound like a lot. You won't have to worry about the jitters, however, because rooibos is caffeine-free. Red wine and other types of tea have tannins that can restrict how much iron your body can absorb. Rooibos tea is much lower in tannins compared to these other drinks.