Drinking tea — especially green tea — is often said to be good for your health. For thousands of years, Eastern cultures have regarded tea as a key to good health, but what are the real health benefits of drinking tea?
Tea contains antioxidants: Tea is a great source of antioxidants, which help protect the body from free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries. Antioxidants found in tea may help also prevent complications from diabetes, such as loss of vision and kidney damage.
May reduce risk of heart attack and stroke: There have been plenty of studies on the benefits drinking tea can have on heart health. One study published earlier this year found that those who drink one to three cups of green tea a day have a nearly 20 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack and a 35 percent reduced risk of stroke. One of the ways tea may reduce risk of heart attack and stroke is by lowering levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Tea is calorie-free: When consumed without sugar, tea contains very few calories and is a great alternative to water.
Tea contains less caffeine than coffee: If drinking coffee makes you jittery, try tea instead. It still contains caffeine to help heighten your mental alertness, but it contains about half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. Black tea contains the highest amounts of caffeine.
Types of teas
There are a variety of different kinds of tea, each with different strengths and flavors. Green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea are considered by some to be the only “real” teas. These are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant native to China and India, and all contain antioxidants called flavonoids which help protect against free radicals. Each of these teas also contains caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain.
Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, some types of green tea taste bold, while others are milder.
Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea contains the highest caffeine content and is the basis for flavored teas like chai tea, as well as some instant teas. Black teas tend to have bolder, fuller flavors than green teas and oolong teas.
White tea: White tea is uncured and unfermented. White teas often have a generally mild, subtle and delicate flavor.
Oolong tea: Made from partially fermented tea leaves, oolong teas have a more complex flavor.
Pu-erh tea: Made from aged and fermented tea leaves, pu-erh tea is considered a type of black tea and tends to have a deep, rich and intense flavor profile.
Herbal teas: Herbal teas are made from herbs, fruits, seeds or roots steeped in hot water and have lower concentrations of antioxidants than the previously mentioned teas. Herbal teas have a wide variety of flavors, depending on the herb, fruit or seed from which they originate.
While there is some conflicting evidence on the health benefits of drinking tea, there are no real negative effects of tea consumption. At the very least, drinking tea allows you to stay hydrated while enjoying a variety of flavors. For more information on healthy eating choices, consult a registered dietician at Goshen Health Nutrition Therapy.