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Tea - Health Benefits


Many of us have heard about some of the health benefits of tea drinking. Perhaps more of us will become tea drinkers once we understand just how profound those health benefits are. Below are some facts about a few varieties of tea produced - in particular, green tea, black tea, and red tea.


Maofeng green tea from the Anhui province in China. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedia


Health benefits of green tea

Green tea - often referred to as the "virgin of tea" - has been a popular drink and health curative in Asia for quite some time. In recent years, however, the West has come to realize that the benefits of green tea, as far as improving health, were underestimated.


In 1994, it was reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that the consumption of green tea could lead to the reduced risk of esophageal cancer . This report was based on the results of a study that indicated a reduction of almost 60% in Chinese men and women who consumed green tea. Further research conducted by the University of Purdue indicated that green tea could also prevent the growth of cancer cells.


Other health benefits of tea go beyond the reduction in the risk of cancer. Some studies have shown that green tea can lower total cholesterol levels while improving the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol.


Research further indicates that green tea may also be beneficial in assisting individuals who are trying to lose weight. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released the results of a study conducted at the University of Geneva in Switzerland in 1999, indicating that individuals who drank green tea were able to burn more calories than those who did not, due in part to the presence of EGCG. Furthermore, there is evidence to indicate that consumption of green tea can prevent gum disease and tooth decay, due to the presence of fluoride.


Do you want to know another health benefit of green tea? It has been linked to improving other medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, infections, impaired immune function and cardiovascular disease. It is now believed by researchers that substances known as polyphenols contained in green tea are known to be extremely powerful antioxidants, capable of eradicating cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy cells. Specifically the catechins, a category of polyphenols, contained within green tea are widely known to possess good antioxidant activity. In fact, research indicates that the catechins contained in green tea provide better health benefits than catechins contained in many popular fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and spinach.


Red Tea photo by Jubair Bin Iqbal, Wikimedia


In addition to the polyphenols, green tea also contains flavonoids and theanine, which are known to contribute to good health. Flavonoids are the plant pigments that are found in fresh fruits and vegetables and are very beneficial in helping to protect the body against infection. In addition, the theanine contained within green tea are known to prevent problems related to stress.


Health benefits of black tea
In contrast to green tea, which skips the oxidation process, black tea is produced using five steps - withering, rolling, oxidation, drying/firing, and sorting. The health benefits of black tea have been well known by cultures around the world for centuries. According to the USDA, health benefits of black tea include beneficial lowering of "bad" cholesterol levels which can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, the presence of flavonoids in black tea are similar to those found in green tea. Flavonoids are natural compounds, similar to vitamins that cause platelets to become less likely to clot. One study noted that flavonoids in black tea actually resulted in a lower risk of stroke in more than 500 men. Another study noted that during 15 years of follow up there was a 73% lower risk of stroke in men who consumed large doses black tea, compared to men who consumed little or no black tea.


Studies indicate that black tea can also be helpful in lowering the risk of cancer. Researchers in Australia have found that tea can be beneficial in fighting skin cancer. This study indicated that in clinical trials on mice there was a 54% reduction in skin cancer. The results of these studies have led researchers to theorize that the antioxidants in black tea might also be instrumental in fighting other forms of cancer, as well as in slowing down the aging process.


Other health benefits of black tea include stabilization of blood pressure. Furthermore, black tea has been shown to relieve respiratory problems, such as expanding the airways in asthmatics. Individuals who are considered to be light smokers might even be able to reduce their risk of lung cancer by drinking black tea.


Health benefits of red tea
Red tea, or Rooibos, is grown primarily in South Africa. It is during the ripening process that it attains its reddish brown color - hence the name Rooibos, or "red bush". Like green tea, rooibos is high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, whose benefits have been described above. Rooibos also contains an anti-spasmodic, which helps to relieve stomach upset. Rooibos is high in iron, is caffeine-free, and it can relieve heartburn and nausea. In Africa, babies are given Rooibos to relieve colic. It produces an aromatic, naturally sweet beverage.


What about decaffeinated tea?
There are a number of ways to decaffeinate tea when they are not naturally caffeine-free (like red tea). They are; steam distillation, ethyl acetate, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Each method impacts differently on the amount of caffeine (and antioxidants) removed. Check with your tea manufacturer to see which one they use; not all methods are created equal.


No doubt, the many benefits of tea drinking will continue to unfold. A recent study showed that when milk is added, the heart-healthy antioxidant effects are minimized. Therefore, those who wish to maximize the health benefits of tea may wish to drink it without milk.


Study Shows Tea Consumption Lowers Blood Cholesterol (Archived USDA page)





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