Tea Time? This Beverage May Provide Important Health Benefits

Dorian Martin Health Guide October 31, 2011
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    I’m a dedicated water drinker, but over the weekend, I was reminded of the joys of ice tea. I having lunch with Kaye, who had introduced me to a delicious pomegranate blackberry tea a couple of months ago. Now we were confronted with a whole section of the menu devoted to teas. Which one, which one to pick? Kaye opted for an iced tea with hints of pear, while I choose a tea that tasted of coconut and a trace of vanilla. As we sipped, Kaye and I started comparing notes on what we knew about the types of tea and their health benefits. Our discussion led me to want to learn more, which has resulted in this sharepost.

     

    First of all, there are several types of teas. “All true tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis,” said Dr. Andrew Weil, a clinical professor of medicine and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. “The differences between types of tea result from different methods of processing the leaves.” The good news is that, acccording to Calorie Count.com, tea has two calories per one-cup serving. The types you may have heard of include:

    • Black tea (also known as red tea in China) – These leaves go through an oxidation process that changes the color and flavor and reduces the content of polyphenols, which are antioxidant compounds that are behind the health benefits of tea.
    • Green tea – These tea leaves are steamed, rolled and dried, which preserves the content of polyphenols. Green tea is made from different catechin (tannin) profiles than white tea, according to ScienceDaily.com.
    • Oolong tea – This type of tea is in the middle between green tea and black tea as far as color, flavor and polyphenol content.
    • White tea – This type of tea is the least processed form of tea and produces a very pale infusion and a light taste. White tea exceeds green tea in antioxidant activity. According to ScienceDaily.com, white tea is made of little plant buds that are covered with silver hairs, which cause the young leaves to have a white appearance.
    • Herbal teas – ScienceDaily.com notes that herbal tea (also known as a tisane or ptisan) is an herbal infusion that are made of dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots. According to CNN.com, since herbal teas come from so many different sources, little research has been done on herbal tea’s benefits.
    • Rooibos tea – This tea is actually made from a different plant grown in South Africa.  People in South African have used this tea for medicinal purposes, including treating hay fever, asthma, eczema, heartburn, and nausea. This type of tea is free of caffeine and contains minimum amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Dr. Weil notes that although Rooibos has been advertised as a new health beverage, he has only found 17 scientific studies of this beverage as opposed to more than 1,000 on green tea.

    Some research has been published suggesting that tea has beneficial effects on health. For instance, ScienceDaily.com reported on one study suggested that tea may improve fat metabolism, thus increasing a person’s endurance while exercising. In a 2007 story, CNN.com interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg about the power of tea.  Blumberg, a Tufts University professor of nutrition, said that substantial data supports tea’s effectiveness in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. There also is strong, but mixed data of tea’s effectiveness in fighting cancer. (Tea has been shown to be effective in lab trials with rats that have cancer, but hasn’t had quite the same effect when used with humans with cancer.) ShareCare.com also reports that tea has been used to treat type 2 diabetes, tooth cavities, and high cholesterol. However, tea may have some downsides. “Ingestion of large amounts of tea may cause nutritional and other problems because of the strong binding activity of tea polyphenols and the caffeine content, although no solid date exist concerning harmful effects of tea consumption,” ScienceDaily.com noted.

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    If you do decide to drink black tea to get the health benefits, you should not add milk to it. That’s because one study found that milk dilutes that benefits associated with drinking tea. “Black tea significantly improved blood flow compared with drinking water but adding milk decreased the effect of the tea,” CNN.com reported. “So to get the full benefits, according to researchers, you have to take your tea black.”

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