Is tea the key to health and happiness? Here’s what research shows.
People in the East have been drinking tea for thousands of years. Those in the West are just now discovering how beneficial various types of tea are for health and wellness. From cancer prevention to weight loss to increased mental focus, drinking tea doesn’t seem to have a downside.
Intrigued? Then you’re probably wondering about the different types of tea and the various health benefits of each.
The Real Deal
Store shelves are lined with many kinds of “teas” but in truth, the only real teas are black, green, oolong, and white tea. These four teas all originate from Camellia sinensis, a plant native to India and China. The leaves of the Cemellia sinensis plant contain special polyphenols (part of the plant that gives it color and flavor) called flavonoids. The most powerful flavonoid found in tea is known as ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate). ECGC is a strong antioxidant against the free radicals that lead to heart disease, cancer, and clogged arteries.
While you may think there are tons of differences between the teas, the difference between the four teas is the way the tea leaves are processed and how mature they are, both of which affects their nutritional value and taste.
In addition to flavonoids, tea naturally contains caffeine and theanine, which work in the brain to increase mental alertness. Other so-called “teas” include herbal and instant teas, which do not contain the same health-promoting ingredients.
Tea by Tea
Now that you know a bit about the overall perks of tea, it’s time to learn the specific benefits of each type of tea.
Black Tea: The most common tea, black tea is made from dried leaves that are then oxidized (exposed to air which changes the chemical make-up). Black tea is high in caffeine and is used to make chai as well as many instant teas. This type of tea has been shown to protect the lungs from harm caused by cigarette smoke exposure. It also has the reputation for reducing your risk for stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Green Tea: A popular tea these days, green tea is made from steamed tealeaves that have been dried but not oxidized. Green tea has an especially high count of EGCG. Thanks to plenty of research, a number of remarkable health benefits come from the antioxidants in green tea. It helps reduce the risk of breast, bladder, lung, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, stomach, and colorectal cancers; lessen your risk for stroke and heart attack; lower cholesterol levels; burn fat; prevent clogged arteries; reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases; and protect the brain from oxidative stress.
Oolong Tea: Oolong tea is made from tealeaves that have been wilted (dried) and then partially oxidized. An animal study has shown that the antioxidants in oolong tea lowered bad cholesterol levels. A type of oolong tea called Wuyi claims to promote weight loss, but there is no scientific proof.
White Tea: Not having been dried or oxidized, white tea may have the most powerful anticancer properties.
Herbal and Instant “Teas”: Teas made from herbs, seeds, fruits, or roots that have been steeped in water are called herbal teas. Popular herbal teas include chamomile and peppermint. These teas have fewer antioxidants than black, green, white, and oolong teas, and despite any claims made on the package, many of the supposed health benefits of herbal teas aren’t backed by science.
That’s because most instant tea contains low amounts of actual tea and high amounts of sugar and sweeteners.
One Piece of the Puzzle
Tea is not a cure-all or a guarantee against cancer and disease. Drinking tea is just one piece of the overall puzzle when it comes to health. Healthy beverages, along with healthy foods and a healthy lifestyle contribute to one’s overall health. That said, go brew yourself a cup or five of real tea.
Two Power Players
You may have noticed a recurring theme for women’s nutritional needs: iron and calcium. They’re obviously two very important nutrients for a woman’s health. So are you getting enough?
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