As temperatures drop, hot drinks become even more tempting. Gingerbread lattes. Peppermint mochas. They’re delicious, and comforting, but come at a cost (monetary and caloric)! Tea, on the other hand, lands fiercely on the other end of the spectrum. This calorie-free, hydrating beverage boasts health promoting powers that rival even the most festive drink. Give it a chance and experience the amazing health benefits of tea over sugary drinks.
Tea is nothing new—people have been drinking it since about 2700 BC. Originally from China, the creation of tea seemed to be an accident rather than an intentional pursuit of a tasty beverage—though the story has never been confirmed. It quickly spread to Japan and became a staple of the traditional Tea Ceremony. Skip forward thousands of years and tea has gained in popularity not only because it tastes good, but because its high polyphenol content has been associated with many health advantages. In order to understand why we should drink more, we must first understand some key tea terms and our options.
- Antioxidant: Compounds that fight free radicals, which harm the body. Antioxidants are commonly found in vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables, and tea!
- Polyphenol: Compounds in tea that have antioxidative effects, meaning they have health-promoting properties.
- Oxidation: The breakdown of oxygen to form free radicals; this process damages cell membranes and other structures within the body.
- Black: Black teas, appropriately named for the dark color of their leaves after oxidation, are highest in caffeine and have lower concentrations of polyphenols. Expect black tea to have a strong flavor.
- Oolong: Unlike black tea, oolong tea undergoes only a partial oxidation, resulting in tea with a caffeine content below black tea, but above green tea. Fruity and/or floral notes are characteristic of oolong teas.
- Green: Little to no oxidation occurs in the making of green tea, where leaves are heated at high temperatures to stall the process. This produces a tea with high polyphenol content, low levels of caffeine, and a subtle, sometimes astringent taste.
- White: Much like green tea, white tea is subtle in flavor and low in caffeine. It has a natural sweetness, perfect for your inner sweet tooth, but comes without the sugar or calories.
Health Benefits of Tea
To truly reap the potential benefits of tea, it’s suggested to consume about three cups per day. Now we’re talking true tea leaves, not bottled, instant or chai tea beverages. Those are generally high in sugar and calories, thus negating the health benefits of brewed tea. How can it benefit you?
- Increase hydration
- Low calorie option
- Regulate blood sugar to reduce risk of diabetes
- Potentially reduce risk of:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
Three cups may be steep for some of us! That’s OK. Your key takeaway is no matter the amount of tea or color (black, green or white), drinking some tea is better than drinking none. Don’t forget to pair your tea with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
Sources: Tea Source – Types of Tea | New York Times – Health Benefits of Tea? | Harvard Health Publications – Health Benefits Linked To Drinking Tea | UK Tea & Infusions Association – Tea: A Brief History of the Nation’s Favourite Beverage