Why is Tea Healthy?
Tea contains antioxidants, the most important of which is EGCG, a potent catechin that neutralizes harmful free radicals in the cells. It also has a high concentration of flavonoids when compared to other foods or beverages. Finally, tea contains fluoride and caffeine, both of which are beneficial in small amounts.
How Much Tea Should I Drink?
I’ve seen recommendations ranging from 2 cups per day to 10 cups per day; the only thing I can say for sure is that no one really knows how many cups is ideal. I would say, if you’re drinking at least 4 cups a day, you will probably be getting most of the benefits.
Which Tea is the Healthiest?
A common question with a simple answer: Matcha is the healthiest. This recently very popular Japanese tea comes in powder form and since the whole leaves are consumed and not just the extract, the health benefits are multiplied. Only the highest grade is usually drunk as tea; lower grades can be sprinkled on food or added to drinks (as is the case with Starbucks’ Matcha Green Tea Latte).
When it comes to teas that are steeped and the leaves discarded, those varieties that undergo the least oxidation retain the most nutrients and catechins and are thus the healthiest.
Here is a list of the most common tea varieties beginning with the healthiest and ending with the variety that offers the least health benefits:
Scented or flavored teas retain the same health benefits as the variety of tea they were made with. Thus, a White Jasmine tea will be healthier than an Oolong Jasmine Tea; or an Orange Green Tea is healthier than an Orange Black Tea.
Herbal teas that are not actually made from the tea plant, but from another plant offer, none of the health benefits of tea. They may, however, have other benefits, depending on the herb or herbs they contain.
What Are the Health Benefits of Drinking Tea?
Drinking a certain amount of tea every day has been linked to numerous health benefits:
Studies have suggested that the antioxidants contained in tea might help protect against various types of cancers including: stomach, prostate, breast, pancreas, skin, colorectal, lung, esophagus, small intestine, liver, colon, ovarian and oral cancers. Current research is mixed and more study is needed. For more information, check out this report by the National Cancer Institute.
Drinking tea is thought to protect the circulatory system and the heart by lowering the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood, lowering blood pressure and thinning the blood.
The catechins in tea have been found to lower levels of bad cholesterol and increase the ratio of good to bad cholesterol in the blood.
Tea is said to help regulate glucose levels which slows the rise of blood sugar after eating. This can prevent high insulin spikes and the fat storage that would result.
Protect Against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Tea is thought to slow the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Studies on mice showed that tea protected brain cells from dying and restored damaged brain cells.
Prevent Tooth Decay
Both the Fluoride and the Catechin contained in tea have been shown to kill bacteria and viruses that cause throat infections, plaque and other dental conditions.
Antioxidants in tea eliminate free radicals that accrue from a poor diet, being in the sun too long or stress. These free radicals can damage the skin and age it prematurely.
Antibacterial & Antiviral
Catechins in tea are strong antibacterial and antiviral agents; in some studies tea has been shown to inhibit the spread of many diseases, from influenza to cancer.
Theanine, an amino acid found in tea leaves, is thought to provide a relaxing and tranquilizing effect.
Tea may increase the metabolism; the polyphenol found in tea is said to increase levels of fat oxidation and the rate at which your body turns food into calories.
Studies have shown that people who regularly drink tea have greater bone strength and density than those who don’t; it may also be beneficial for sufferers of arthritis and osteoporosis.