For over 5,000 years tea has been enjoyed across the globe…even before science and technology could prove tea was beneficial! One thing is for sure… high tea consumption leads to a healthier body and heart! Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide - in other words, every one of us needs to be aware of how to protect our heart. Since tea is the least expensive beverage humans consume after water, tea is a very affordable and practical staple beverage.
Research shows it’s the combination of nutrients and phytochemicals in tea, such as phytochemicals, caffeine, and l-theanine that provide tea’s health benefits, not from an isolated ingredient. So a supplement just won’t suffice!
Health benefits of daily tea consumption:
Enhanced fat burning
Reduced body weight
Reduced risk of dying from heart disease and stroke
Reduced complications from diabetes
Lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Lowered risk of some cancers
Reduced tooth decay and loss
Prevented and reduced diabetes-induced neural tube defects in pregnancy
There are 4 main kinds of teas (not counting herbal teas which can be made from a wide variety of plants): black, green, oolong and white, all of which are made from the leaves of the evergreen shrub, Camellia sinensis (pictured below). The difference is in how the leaves are processed.
White tea is the least processed form of tea from the the Camellia sinensis plant, providing a more delicate flavor and often lower amounts of caffeine (though caffeine varies among brands). For white tea, the leaves are harvested when they still are covered in silvery white hairs. For those concerned about dental health and/or tooth decay, white tea has been shown to improve bacterial imbalance in the mouth, reduce incidence of cavities, and provides fluoride, all of which helps to protect the teeth and gums.
THE RESEARCH: White tea given to male prediabetic rats for 2 months improved glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity and restored sperm health. More research is needed in humans to identify the recommended dose for these potential benefits, but other studies suggest daily intake of white tea provides multiple benefits.
Fresh green tea leaves are steamed, which preserves its polyphenols, a class of phytochemicals with strong antioxidant benefits. The majority of polyphenols in green tea are flavonoids. The type of flavonoids that confer the most heart health benefits are catechins and green tea is full of them! Epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG is the most prominent catechin which exerts anti-inflammatory effects that help prevent arteriosclerosis and ultimately prevent heart disease and stroke. These catechins improve plaque buildup in the bloodstream and arterial walls and lower total and LDL cholesterol. Green tea can also help prevent Alzheimers because ECGC reduces production of beta-amyloid plaque which leads to the destruction of brain cells.
THE RESEARCH: 3-6 cups of green tea per day reduces your risk of not only developing cardiovascular disease but also from dying from heart disease and stroke! The drop in dying risk ranges from 12 to 76%! Research also shows green tea is associated with reduced mortality from all causes, not just heart disease. The more the better!
Oolong tea is derived from partially fermented tea leaves. THE RESEARCH: More than 10 ounces (280g) of Oolong tea a week has been linked with reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels in humans. In a mouse study, there was less abdominal fat accumulation in mice on a high fat, high carb (obesogenic) diet supplemented with oolong tea. Like other teas in this group, oolong tea is a source of flouride, which works to protect dental health.
Black tea is the most processed of the tea leaves, but this allows the polyphenols to offer unique benefits, especially in regard to obesity prevention and treatment. Research shows black tea’s polyphenols are more effective than those from green tea in their ability to inhibit absorption of fat and carbohydrate, reduce fat formation, and reduce oxidative stress. Black tea also contains the most caffeine of any tea, 40-50mg per 1 cup. For reference, 1 cup of black coffee provides about 90-165mg caffeine, depending on how strong you brew it. One espresso provides about 45-65 mg caffeine.
THE RESEARCH: 3 cups of black tea per day for more than 6 weeks reduces blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and increases HDL and blood levels of antioxidants. Longer consumption over 6 months results in lowered blood pressure. All of these markers combine to lower your risk of heart disease.
The healthful properties of herbal teas vary widely due to the range of antioxidant levels in the different herbs, flowers, roots, leaves, or fruit it is derived from. However, Hibiscus tea and Rooibos (or red tea) have also been shown to have cardio and neuro-protective benefits, just not as concentrated as green or black tea. Examples of herbal teas include hibiscus, chamomile, ginger, dandelion, peppermint, echinacea, rooibos, sage and lemon balm tea.
Tea for Kids
Unsweet tea is an excellent beverage choice for kids and a nice way to offer something other than water! I also regularly buy (or brew! - thanks to my sister for my awesome kombucha kit!) kombucha - a low sugar fermented tea full of healthy bacteria. GTs is my favorite brand!
Both my kids love tea, but especially my 9 year old son! His favorite teas are hibiscus (a tart tea), green and peppermint. Make sure to go for the low-caffeine choices.
How To Use Tea
Stumped on how to consume tea? Here are some ideas:
Brew a pitcher of tea and store in the refrigerator for the week to try these options:
As a liquid base for your smoothies
As a liquid base to cook rice, soup, pasta or legumes
As a liquid base to soak and/or sprout grains, legumes, and nuts
As a cold beverage with fresh lemon
As a warming hot beverage
Or freeze into ice cubes (with or without other ingredients) for future use in any option above. Pictured below is green tea ice cubes with chopped green onions for easy additions to soups, beans and stir-fries.
Contamination - Contamination from chemicals, phthalates, pesticides and even GMO ingredients may be found in the tea leaves themselves or the tea bags. For more detailed information on what may be hidden in your tea and how to shop for a safe brand, read this. To save you time in researching though, here are 3 I recommend: Numi, Traditional Medicinals and Rishi Tea (loose leaf). So many flavor options to choose from, as pictured below.
Caffeine - White, green and oolong contain similar amounts of low caffeine and are often suitable for those sensitive to caffeine intake, who are poor or slow caffeine metabolizers and those who want to enjoy tea in the evening. Many herbal teas are also non-caffeinated while black tea contains the most caffeine (40-50mg per 8 oz. cup, not mug!).
Anemia - If you have iron-deficiency anemia, you may need to limit tea (and coffee) intake as the tannins and caffeine can further reduce iron absorption.
Drink at least 3 cups of white, green, oolong, black or herbal tea throughout your day, as a way to stay warm in the cold months, cool off during the hot months and certainly to enjoy a healthier heart, brain, and body!
I REST MY CASE. Now go drink some tea!!
White tea: A contributor to oral health.
White tea consumption restores sperm quality in prediabetic rats preventing testicular oxidative damage.
Daily consumption of white tea (Camellia sinensis (L.)) improves the cerebral cortex metabolic and oxidative profile in prediabetic Wistar rats.
Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea polyphenols reduce visceral fat and inflammation in mice fed high-fat, high-sucrose obesogenic diets.
Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review.
Mechanisms of body weight reduction by black tea polyphenols.
Heart disease and stroke statistics - at a glance.
Association of green tea consumption with risk of coronary heart disease in Chinese population.
Green tea consumption and cause-specific mortality: Results from two prospective cohort studies in China.
Green tea consumption and mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes in Japan: the Ohsaki study.
The green tea polyphenol EGCG alleviates maternal diabetes-induced neural tube defects by inhibiting DNA hypermethylation.
Reduced risk of dyslipidaemia with oolong tea consumption: a population-based study in southern China.
Mechanisms of body weight reduction and metabolic syndrome alleviation by tea.
Do you know what’s really in your tea?
Enjoy your tea!