Whenever I hear people say they hate tea, I assume it’s because they haven’t experimented with tea enough. The variety of flavors and serving suggestions make it possibly for almost everyone to find a tea they will genuinely enjoy, at least every once in a while. But do you have to drink it to be a good, healthy person? No, of course not! Some people may not do well with caffeine, others may prefer coffee.
But for those of you who enjoy tea or want to incorporate a little more, there are some reasons to feel good about that choice. According to Harvard Health Publications:
“Tea is a good source of compounds known as catechins and epicatechins, which are thought to be responsible for tea’s beneficial health effects,” says Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. These compounds belong to a group of plant chemicals called flavonoids. Research suggests that flavonoids help quell inflammation, and that in turn may reduce plaque buildup inside arteries. Green tea has slightly higher amounts of these chemicals than black tea.
There is some initial research studies finding tea can improve how well your blood vessels respond to physical and emotional stress, lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels, and possibly even lower your blood pressure. Regular tea drinks are linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, but we don’t yet know if that is due to causation or correlation.
Since tea, on average, has half the caffeine as coffee, should you just start doubling your tea consumption? Depends. Researchers currently recommend 1-2 cups a day, which gives you the health benefits without running the risk of overdoing the oxalates in tea, which can cause problems for your kidneys. You should probably avoid green tea extracts or supplements, as they may give you a nice dose of beneficial flavonoids (plant chemicals), but the safety and efficacy of these supplements is not yet known. And be wary of bottled teas, as some can have surprisingly high levels of sugar and/or sodium.
Which tea to choose? This is probably more a question of your flavor preference, since all tea offers the benefits listed above. Black and green tea actually come from the same plant, and the difference of green versus black has to do with how they are processed after being picked. Green tea is quickly steamed to prevent browning, whereas black tea is crushed, torn, or rolled to allow it to oxidize before being dried. This is why black tea has slightly lower amounts of beneficial flavonoids, but many people prefer it’s flavor and slightly higher caffeine content. Herbal teas are made from a range of different plants, herbs, and spices, and we don’t yet have the research to know if herbal teas are as beneficial, but you may enjoy the variety of flavors offered by herbal teas, such as chamomile, citrus, mint, cinnamon, etc.
To learn more, check out Brewing evidence for tea’s heart benefits from Harvard Health Publications. You may also enjoy Groom+Style’s very in-depth article on The Effects and Uses of Green Tea.
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