Coveted for centuries in the East as the key to good health, happiness and wisdom, tea is gaining the attention of researchers in the West who are discovering the many health benefits of different types of teas.
Research studies have shown that tea can provide help with cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It can also assist in weight loss, lower cholesterol and provide mental alertness. Tea has been found to also contain antimicrobial qualities.
“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” said Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD, spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”
However, nutritionists agree that brewed premium, organic provides the maximum health benefits, with less calories, sweeteners and preservatives over bottled, instant or “name brand” tea.
Here are the basic tea blends and their respective health benefits:
Green, Black and White Tea
Most any beverage that is steeped is called tea, however, purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea to be actual tea. They are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India, and contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids.
The most potent of these flavonoids are known as ECGC which help fight free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries. These teas also contain caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain by heighten mental alertness.
The more processing applied to tea leaves, the more they lose their overall content of antioxidants. Oolong and black teas are oxidized, or fermented, so they have lower concentration of antioxidants than green teas. However, their antioxidizing power is still very high.
Here is what some research studies have found to be the potential health benefits of tea:
Several studies have shown that green tea leaves, which are steamed, are high in concentrations of EGCG. The antioxidants in green tea have been shown to interfere with the growth of cancer in the bladder, breasts, lungs, stomach, pancreas and colon.
They also prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, reduce risk of stroke and improve cholesterol levels.
Made with fermented leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown black tea to protect the lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also reduces the risk of stroke.
White tea is uncured and unfermented, studies have shown that it has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
Oolong tea has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels. There are also some claims that Wuyi, a variety of oolong tea, shows weight loss properties.
Pu-erh is made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. Studies have shown that pu-erh provides weight loss benefits and reduces LDL cholesterol.
Made from herbs, fruits, seeds or roots, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black and oolong teas. However, their nutritional benefits are based on their own specific properties. This makes it difficult to list all of the health benefits available in herbal teas without listing each ingredient separately.
For more information on the health benefits provided by our numerous blends of premium herbal tea please refer to the Herbal Tea category on our site.