Regarded for thousands of years in the East as a key to good health, happiness, and wisdom, tea has caught the attention of researchers in the West, who are discovering the many health benefits of different types of teas. Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol; and bring about mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.
“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman KatherineTallmadge, MA, RD, LD. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”
All these teas also have caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain and seem to heighten mental alertness.
The more processed the tea leaves, usually the less polyphenol content. Polyphenols include flavonoids. Oolong and black teas are oxidized or fermented, so they have lower concentrations of polyphenols than green tea; but their antioxidizing power is still high.
Here’s what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea:
A 2011 study in the Journal Obesity found that mice fed a high fat diet and given compounds found in green tea gained weight at a slower rate than mice that were not fed the same compounds. The findings from this study suggest that green tea extracts may actually interfere with fat formation in the body. As a side note: green tea extracts should not be confused with bottled green tea drinks that may be full of added sugar. To get green tea extracts, opt for the real deal — boiling water with a good old-fashioned teabag or loose tea!
The eye, like any part of the body, can suffer oxidative stress — making it more prone to disease. What if you could just add some green tea to your daily diet regimen to combat this? A 2010 study found that components in green tea positively affected the tissues of the eyes, especially tissue related to the retina. Drink on green tea lovers and protect your precious eyeballs!
White tea has a very high polyphenol count (that means it’s really good for you), which deliver fabulously gorgeous benefits! A recent studydemonstrated that tea drinkers may have already found their fountain of youth — in their mug! In the study, extracts in white tea inhibited wrinkle production by strengthening elastin and collagen — two important factors in your chances of developing what both men and women fear the most — fine lines and wrinkles. White tea can keep your joints younger too according to this 2011 study.
Stressed out? A cup of black tea may be just what you need. One study found that black tea actually helped in reducing levels of the stress hormones in study participants. The fun does not stop there — black tea showed yet another benefit related to stress: blood pressure. As stress goes up, blood pressure does too, putting us at risk for developing a heart attack or stroke. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that six months of black tea consumption lowered systolic blood pressure.
A 2010 study reviewing a variety of caffeinated teas found that the caffeine in tea may help in reducing the overall risk of diabetes.
According to a study conducted in the Netherlands and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, drinking tea was associated with a more than 50 percent reduction in severe atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) in women who drank 1 to 2 cups a day.
The women who drank more than 5 cups of tea a day had the lowest risk of atherosclerosis. The study showed a similar trend in men. Another study, published in the journal Stroke, found that long-term consumption of black, green, oolong or white tea can cut the risk of strokes by as much as 60 percent.
Researchers say the antioxidants, found abundantly in tea, may play a critical role in preventing heart diseases.
Tea might be an effective agent in the prevention and treatment of neurological diseases, especially degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Research shows the polyphenols in green tea may help prevent neurotransmitters involved in brain function, like dopamine and epinephrine, from degrading. It may also inhibit senile plaques from depositing in the brain, which impairs cognition. Overall, one to two cups of green tea a day may boost your learning and memory.
White tea has been found to be effective at fighting infections caused by staph and streptococcus bacteria, pneumonia and tooth decay. Unlike other types of tea, white tea undergoes very little processing and is not fermented, so it does not contain the high levels of tannins found in black and green tea. Researchers think the natural chemicals contained in white tea might provide many benefits to the immune system and overall health.
Green tea has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength. Studies have shown that elderly women who drank tea had higher bone density in their hips and less bone loss than women who didn’t drink tea. Researchers also say that these results confirm previous studies that have suggested drinking tea may protect against bone loss and osteoporosis.
You can use tea bags or go loose, drink it hot or drink it cold. Either way, tea is fabulous — and so are all of its benefits. For all the tea veterans, keep drinking your way to good health! For those that have not yet embraced a tea-drinking habit, it’s never too late to start brewing a batch! Explore the various types, flavors, and brands to find your tea-mate.