The United States is finally catching up to what the rest of the world has known for years – tea CAN be good for you! Besides water, tea is the most consumed drink in the world and there are countless varieties such as herbal, black, oolong, green and white.
The question is, which ones offer the most health benefits?
Basic Health Benefits of Tea
Tea contains quite a few polyphenols, which are in the antioxidant category. These polyphenols has cancer-fighting properties and preliminary research shows that cases of esophageal and digestive cancers are greatly reduced or even prevented with the consumption of tea. Other research studies are looking into how effective tea is against other cancers like breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Certain teas like green tea are high in antioxidants which have been known to prevent or reduce the incidence of heart disease. The chemical properties of this tea present certain anticoagulant properties and have been known to aid in the reduction of cholesterol levels. The jury is still out on the how effective other teas are in different ailments.
Which Tea Do You Drink?
The leaves of oolong, black, green and white teas are obtained from the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen tree that grows in warm regions. In many cases, these teas have more of the restorative polyphenols in the leaves than could be obtained from eating fruits and vegetables. Each of these teas are processed different, which accounts for the difference in color and taste but regardless of the process, these antioxidant properties are still present, although in varying amounts.
White teas are obtained from these Camellia leaves while they are still young and very light (usually white) in color. Green tea is harvested similarly only there is some color to the leaves. The oolong and black teas are created from dark colored leaves that are then crushed, dried and fermented. This process accounts for their stronger flavors.
Teas with the “herbal” label are not derived from the Camellia plant and therefore are not truly teas. Rather they are originate from other plants and infused with the essences of herbs, flowers and spices. The proper terms for these “teas” is called tisane.
The red Rooibos tea blend and soothing chamomile teas also fall under the tisane category. Tisane beverages do not have the same healing compounds as the Camellia based teas do. While they cannot claim restorative properties such as cancer-fighting agents, they do provide other benefits.
There are some exceptions to these “herbal” tea brandings. If any of the oolong, green, black or white teas are infused with herbs or spices they will still have the beneficial properties of the polyphenols.
Other Facts About Tea
A cup of tea usually only contains half the caffeine that coffee does and retains all the restorative properties that the polyphenols provide. However, the research thus far does not have much to say in regards to decaffeinated teas. Tests are still being conducted to see if the decaf versions of these teas retain the antioxidant properties that the fully caffeinated versions have. Therefore, for now, stick with the caffeinated versions to take advantage of all the health benefits these teas provides.
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