Enjoying The Healthy Benefits of Tea

Recently, I saw a headline that made my heart sing. It read “Americans Cut Back on Soda” and I say hooray to that! Its headlines like these that we in the wellness community have been waiting to see for far too long. Granted soda consumption’s downward slide has been a slow one, but it’s fantastic that rising awareness of sugary drink dangers has spread far beyond the wellness community and deep into the consciousness of the everyday consumer.

This newfound awareness is helping to turn millions off of the sugar-laden drinks that have helped make so many of them chronically sick. Better yet, instead of filling the liquid gap with diabetes-triggering, carcinogenic diet versions, more Americans are turning to one of the oldest and healthiest beverages on the planet: tea.  So what about you? Isn’t it time you joined the revolution and put the kettle on? Your answer should be a resounding “yes!” and here’s why:

Tea Gets Your Body’s Long-term Health on Track, Pleasantly and Virtually Effortlessly.

Tea gets its health-enhancing power from flavonoids, the natural chemical compounds that help neutralize free-radicals, limiting their ability to inflame and damage the body. Though the actual mechanisms are still being worked out, the positive effects of tea flavonoids are well documented and worth keeping in mind as you steep your next cup. For starters, many studies have shown that all those delicious flavonoids play a role in fighting off cancer, heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes and stroke. Tea also is believed to combat fat accumulation, boost good cholesterol, support immunity and vascular health, prevent clogged arteries, encourage better blood flow and it may offer some protection from dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Think of it as a natural miracle in a cup.

Meet the Holy “Trinit-Tea”

When it comes to tea, the sheer volume of choices can be a bit overwhelming, but you can narrow the field by choosing from the most popular, well-studied teas-with-benefits, which include White, Green and Black. Here’s a quick topline on what’s in them for you:

  • White:
Research indicates that this minimally-processed, pale golden brew, packs a powerful dose of cancer-disrupting properties as well as a light dose of caffeine, clocking in at about 25 mgs for an average cup (vs. coffee’s 140 – 300 mgs).
  • Green:
Its pale yellow-green color belies green tea’s high concentration of EGGG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), which researchers believe gives green tea much of its power to inhibit the growth of breast, lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers. At roughly 25 – 35 mgs of caffeine a cup, the green tea buzz will be minimal for most people.
  • Black:
The darkest and the most-caffeinated, this reddish brown-hued brew comes in at approximately 50 – 100 mgs per cup (depending on the leaves and how long they steep), but that’s still a good bit less than a cup of coffee. Better yet, each cup comes with brain-protecting compounds that may help interfere with the formation of plaques implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Make Your Tea Count

As with most things, you get what you pay for, so buy the highest quality tea possible. Look for teas that are minimally processed, and preferably organic and non-GMO certified to keep the bad stuff out of your cup. For connoisseur types, the ultimate tea treats come from Marriage Frères, the centuries-old Parisian tea purveyors who sell some of the most exquisite and expensive artisanal teas in the world (some organic, some not). For everyday tea drinking, Choice Teas (available at Whole Foods) make great-tasting organic brews. If cost is a consideration, try mixing higher-end teas with more moderately priced ones, but always steer clear of super-cheap, heavily processed supermarket teas which tend to be loaded with pesticides and contain considerably less of the healthy flavonoids and compounds that make tea worth drinking.

Manage Your Dose

With the exception of herbals teas, most teas will have some caffeine, so if you’re thinking of drinking more tea you’ll need to manage your dose. While it won’t pack the perk-up punch of a cup of Starbucks coffee, tea does have the power to disrupt sleep if you drink it too late in the day or are caffeine-sensitive. As a cup of black tea has roughly 50 – 100 milligrams of caffeine (vs. coffee’s 140 – 300 mgs), reserve the richer, more robust teas for the morning, then transition to lighter, weaker brews or herbals in the afternoon, to minimize sleep disruption. Also, no matter when you drink your tea, consider skipping the milk as it can block the body’s ability to absorb some of tea’s healthy compounds. Instead, take your tea straight-up or with lemon.

Look Ma, No Jitters

Another option is to go the all-decaf route, much of or even all the time. If you do, look for teas that have been decaffeinated with CO2 as this method helps keep the healthy compounds in the tea intact. Also, keep in mind that there will be a small amount of caffeine left behind even in the decaf versions, so if any caffeine is too much for you, then herbals are probably your best bet, provided you’re not pregnant, nursing or allergic to herbs or flowers.

Avoid Hitting the Bottle, Can or Box

Most teas that come in bottles, cans, boxes or powdered in cardboard tubes pack as much sugar as a typical soda, so don’t be fooled by these virtually flavonoid-free, tea-like substances. Though the best option by far from a health perspective is to brew your own, when you can’t, look for unsweetened, fresh-brewed organic or bottled tea. When buying bottled brews, look for ones marked with the Certified Organic seal. If it also carries the Fair Trade Certified, Non-GMO Project and Green America seals, even better – you’ve got yourself a bottle of tea almost as good as the stuff you brew yourself.

To find out more about my favorite caffeine-free rooibos tea, check out Why We Love Rooibos Tea.

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