Health Benefits of Tea: Better Than a Morning Cup of Joe?
by Edna Cox
No matter the season, iced or hot, a tall glass or soothing cup of tea is a flavorful beverage and it might be good for you! Tea has been lauded for an array of potential health benefits – from reducing cancer and risk of heart disease to improving dental health and boosting weight loss. These health benefits are attributed to the unique antioxidants found in tea called flavonoids. Although many questions remain about how long tea needs to be steeped for the most benefit, and how much you need to drink, nutritionists agree any tea is good tea. Brewed tea is preferred over bottled to avoid extra calories and sweeteners.
Your Heart on Tea
The strongest evidence is on the side of heart health, attributed to the antioxidant effects in tea. Studies show a relationship between drinking black tea and a decreased incidence of heart attack. Green tea intake was associated with lower total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, and higher HDL levels. A 2013 review of several studies found green tea helped a range of heart-related issues, from high blood pressure to congestive heart failure. Oolong tea has also been associated with lowering LDL cholesterol levels.
What’s good for your heart is usually good for your brain; your brain needs healthy blood vessels for optimal function. Green tea has also been shown to help block formation of plaque that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Tea and Cancer Prevention
Studies in this area are mixed, but more research than not suggests that tea has cancer-fighting benefits. Tea may help protect against breast, colon, skin, lung, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Damage from free radicals has been linked to cancer. The antioxidants in tea help to fight free radicals and protect against certain cancers.
Tea, the Fountain of Youth
White tea has a very high polyphenol count. A recent study demonstrated that extracts in white tea inhibited wrinkle production by strengthening elastin and collagen- two important factors in developing fine lines and wrinkles. This study also found white tea can keep your joints young.
Tea for Weight Loss
Tea could keep waist circumference in check. Findings of a 2011 study suggest that green tea extracts may actually interfere with fat formation in the body. (Green tea extracts should not be confused with bottled green tea drinks that may be full of added sugar). For green tea extracts, opt for the real deal- boil water with a good old-fashioned teabag or loose tea. A cup of tea only contains a couple of calories. Iced or hot tea is a smart swap for sugary drinks. If you sub 1-2 cups of tea for one can of soda, over the next year you would save over 50,000 calories. That’s more than 15 pounds a year.
Herbal teas have no caffeine, while traditional teas have less than 50 percent of what is found in coffee. Herbal teas, such as chamomile, can be good for the digestive system and conditions like irritable bowel syndrome because it is an antispasmodic. Ginger tea can calm nausea. There are many flavorful and soothing variations of herbal teas available.
Carolina Sweet Tea
In 1795, South Carolina was the only colony in America producing tea plants. The plant was brought to Charleston planters by a French explorer and botanist, Andre Michaux. Summerville was home of the first big U.S. tea plantation. Accounts of the first versions of iced tea used green tea, not black as iced tea is made today. The green tea was used in cold punches, heavily spiked with alcohol. Versions of iced tea as we know it today were not printed until 1879. Recipes called for green tea to be boiled and steeped throughout the day, poured over a goblet of ice and add two teaspoonfuls granulated sugar.
Many historians believe iced tea was invented in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Richard Blechynden realized that an iced version of his free hot tea would be more refreshing on a summer day. The popularity of iced tea skyrocketed and iced tea was a hit and popular throughout the country.
Sweet tea is primarily a southern tradition. In many states, you’ll get iced tea when you ask for “tea” any month of the year. Sweetened tea can be loaded with extra calories, adding 200 calories or more per cup. The health benefits of tea consumption can be completely offset by adding sugar.
Good for You
Tea has a long and rich history. For centuries, the health benefits of tea have been recognized. Tea consumption, especially green tea, is not a magic bullet, but it can be incorporated in an overall healthy diet. It’s a healthy alternative. Move over Joe!