If you want to live longer brew yourself a cup of tea...
Tea is one of the most-consumed beverages in the world, second only to water. And that consumption continues to grow each year. Last year, U.S. tea imports grew 8%, and more than half of Americans drink tea every day.
That's an awful lot of tea. It's a trend I support. Not only is tea one of my favorite drinks, but it has tremendous health benefits.
Today, we're giving you a breakdown of why you should brew yourself a cup today, which teas you should drink, and which teas to avoid...
The benefits of drinking tea aren't exactly new to us. Just look at one of the countries most associated with tea... China.
A 2020 cohort study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology compared the health outcomes of more than 100,000 Chinese adults over a seven-year period, based on the frequency of their tea drinking. The participants were divided into two groups: folks who drank three or more cups of tea each week, and those who either drank less than that or didn't drink tea at all.
The researchers found that the habitual tea drinkers had a 20% lower risk of having heart disease or a stroke, a 22% lower risk of dying from heart disease or a stroke, and a 15% decreased risk of dying from any cause during the length of the study, when compared with their non-habitual tea drinking counterparts.
So if you want to increase your healthspan and enjoy more of your life free from disease and dysfunction, start sipping some tea. But before you head off to your local grocery store, you should know a bit about the different types of tea and their unique benefits.
With all the different blends and varieties of tea, it would be impossible to share the intricacies of each with you today. So we've broken them down into five general categories: black, green, oolong, white, and herbal...
Black, green, oolong, and white teas are all made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant and go through a similar process called oxidation. Tea oxidation involves rolling or tumbling the leaf to damage it ever so slightly before exposing it to the air. Then once the desired level of oxidation is reached, heat (like steam, for instance) is added to stop the chemical reaction process.
Oxidation plays a big role in what a tea ultimately looks and tastes like. Generally speaking, more oxidation produces a darker tea.
Black tea is the most consumed tea in the U.S. It has three primary beneficial nutrients: catechins, theaflavins, and thearubigins. Catechins help protect your body from harmful inflammation. Theaflavins help the body manage blood sugar and body fat. Thearubigins are anti-inflammatory and help with bone formation.
A Japanese study followed women post-menopause and found that those who drank black tea had higher bone-mineral density, with the highest benefit being in those who had two or more cups a day.
Black tea is considered fully oxidized, so its flavor may include smoky, malty, or metallic notes. These often taste stronger than other teas, so sometimes they're blended with other flavors to enhance the taste profile. If the taste strikes you as very astringent or bitter, adding a little milk and/or honey will help mellow it out.
Some popular black tea varieties include Earl Grey, English Breakfast, and Darjeeling. You can also find more flavorful teas like chai, a type of tea originating in India that combines black tea with spices and steamed milk.
Green tea is part of a recent fad, at least in its supplement form. Last week, I warned folks against taking dangerous green tea supplements. But the drink is safe and packed with health benefits.
Studies show that drinking five to seven cups of green tea a week can provide incredible health benefits. Green tea is particularly high in the inflammation-fighting catechins. It also helps protect against cardiovascular diseases – like a heart attack or stroke.
A Japanese cohort study looked at the effects of drinking green tea on more than 40,000 adults. They found that just drinking one or two cups of green tea a day reduced a person's risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by as much as 17%.
Green tea is minimally oxidized so it maintains a bittersweet, grassy-like flavor and typically has a light green or yellow color.
A few different green teas to try are Sencha, Tencha, and Matcha, which is the powdered form of Tencha. I enjoy green tea most when it's infused with a bit of jasmine.
Like black tea, oolong tea contains catechins, theaflavins, and theasinensins. It's especially good for fighting harmful inflammation and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
A small study looked at the effects of oolong tea on 20 Taiwanese adults with type-2 diabetes. The researchers found that drinking 1,500 milliliters (a little over 6 cups) of oolong tea a day for a period of four weeks – when added to the normal diabetic drug regiment – decreased folks' blood sugar levels by about 70 milligrams per deciliter. In contrast, the participants drinking only water did not experience a decrease in their blood sugar levels.
Oolong tea may seem like a black tea because of its caramel color and bold flavor. But it's actually its own category of tea that falls somewhere between a black tea and a green tea, in that it's partially oxidized. Oolong often has floral and fruity flavor notes as well.
Some popular oolong teas to try are Iron Goddess of Mercy (Ti Kuan Yin), Phoenix tea (Dancong), and Wuyi Oolong tea (Da Hong Pao).
White tea is also high in anti-inflammatory catechin levels. And studies show drinking white tea may help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight when combined with eating well and moving regularly.
White tea is minimally oxidized – although according to some sources, it's not oxidized at all. Like green tea, it has a very light and refreshing flavor. It often tastes very earthy or floral and maintains a light color when brewed.
Some popular varieties to try are Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen), White Peony (Bai Mu Dan), and Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei).
While we know them as teas, some folks say herbal teas aren't really "true teas."
That's because – as I mentioned before – black, green, oolong, and white teas are all made with leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. But herbal teas are not.
Instead, they are made with hot water and other plants, herbs, and/or spices. As such, they are sometimes called tisanes – but for simplicity's sake, we'll just keep calling them teas.
Herbal teas make up a wide variety of colors and flavors. They may be spicy, minty, or floral. Some popular ones include ginger and chamomile. Unlike "true teas," you'll see a wider range in terms of health benefits due to the different ingredients. We can't cover all the herbal teas here, but here are a few examples...
Studies show that ginger tea is great for calming an upset stomach and alleviating nausea.
A 2021 study looked at the effects of ginger tea on women who were receiving chemotherapy treatment for gynecological cancers. Researchers found that the participants who drank ginger tea and also received the standard anti-nausea treatment reported less nausea and vomiting – and less of the distress associated with nausea and vomiting – than those who only received the standard treatment.
And chamomile tea is helpful for relaxation. A 2015 study found drinking chamomile tea for two weeks (when combined with postnatal care) helped postpartum women who were sleep disturbed and depressed find relief faster than the women who received postpartum care alone.
A few things to note...
Black, green, oolong, and white teas generally contain caffeine, so it's best to avoid them in the evening before bed or if you are very sensitive to caffeine. When buying any kind of boxed tea, check the box to see how much caffeine the tea contains. Don't assume it's caffeine-free unless it's labeled as such.
And calling a beverage "tea" doesn't automatically make it good for you. You should avoid teas that are sweetened with lots of added sugar – like a green tea latte or a bubble tea, for example. If you're in the mood for something sweet, do what I do and put a little bit of honey or some berries in your tea.
Also avoid "detox teas" making fast weight-loss claims. These are junk made for fad diets and likely contain harmful ingredients, like laxatives. Stick with brands you know and read the ingredients – especially if you have food allergies. I really like buying Bigelow Tea brand tea bags.
What kind of tea do you enjoy? Let us know with an email to [email protected].
What We're Reading...
- In case you missed it: Beware the latest supplement headlines.
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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 23, 2022