Only water outpaces the popularity of this beverage around the world... And the number of U.S. folks drinking it is growing. The amount of tea imported into this country has increased 30% over the past 15 years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we're now importing close to 200,000 metric tons of tea per year. If you crunch the numbers, that's about 250 cups of tea per American. 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 covering the four most popular types, and one that's not a "true" tea...
Types of Tea
Not everyone enjoys the same type of tea. First, let's start with caffeine content. Keep in mind, even the most caffeinated tea, black tea, still only contains about half of what you'd get in a regular cup of coffee.
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1) Black tea. The most popular type of tea in the U.S., black tea involves crushing the tea leaves to release a fermentation enzyme. This process oxidizes the catechins, making the tea taste stronger and richer. Many black teas come with added flavors. For instance, chai, a type of tea that originated in India, combines black tea with spices and steamed milk. As for health benefits, not only does black tea have those inflammation-fighting catechins, but it helps with bone health. 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 per day. That's great news, considering the dangers of calcium supplements we've warned you about before.
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2) Oolong tea. Oolong tea falls in between black and green teas. The oolong-tea process is to take young tea leaves and oxidize them (like with black tea) for only a short period of time before steaming (like with green tea). Several studies point to the cholesterol-lowering powers of tea. Oolong, in particular, not only lowers cholesterol, but also helps the body burn fat. Oolong tea has catechin activity that regulates proteins responsible for fat transport in the body. For example, one study out of Osaka, Japan demonstrated that oolong's polyphenols (which are a certain shape due to the partial oxidation of the tea) suppress high triglyceride levels after meals. That means drinking oolong could help keep fat out of your bloodstream after eating. 3) Green tea. For green tea, pickers take fresh, young leaves and steam them immediately to keep their green color. That helps preserve the catechins and creates a crisp, sweet flavor. We've written before about all the benefits of green tea. One catechin found in tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), kills cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue unharmed. Most studies focus on green tea for its high levels of catechins. 4) White tea. Pickers harvest the tea leaves while they are still budding. Then they steam the buds to stop them from browning. White tea has the highest amount of catechins and the lightest flavor. Along with green tea, scientists study white tea for its powerful anti-cancer properties. For instance, a paper from the University of Malaya in Malaysia showed that white tea stopped the growth of colon cancer cells. 5) Red tea, or rooibos, isn't often discussed, as it's made from a different plant and therefore not a true "tea." However, like tea, it contains antioxidants and fights inflammation, though it does not contain catechins. We're mentioning it here because it's available as an "iced tea" in the U.S. under the Snapple brand. Plus, it's a good option if you love tea but need to cut caffeine out of your diet (red tea has no caffeine). Similar to red tea, herbal teas also provide some benefit. However, they do not contain the same plant leaves, so they will not have catechins. Chamomile tea, for instance, does not have catechins, but its other flavonols have added benefits. One small study last year found evidence that chamomile may help prevent blood-sugar spikes as seen in people with type 2 diabetes. Be wary of additives, however. Bottled teas often contain sugars and other preservatives. And ordering a chai latte comes with a lot of extra sugar – at Starbucks, a "grande" chai latte with 2% milk comes with 42 grams of sugar... Keep in mind, a single Hershey's chocolate bar only has 24 grams of sugar. Sipping tea can give you a great opportunity to sit quietly and meditate... even for just 10-15 minutes a day. The relaxation response triggered with meditation is great for longevity. And combining it with sipping tea could be a potent way to fight stress and disease. I prefer to drink about a cup of green tea a day. In the winter, I drink it hot with a little honey. And in the summer, I'll drink it room temperature or with a little ice. And if you like iced tea, brew your own. My assistant Laura likes to brew black iced tea using the "hot brew" method. You can learn more about brewing your own iced tea right here. How do you take your tea? Let us know at [email protected].
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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement, Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team November 10, 2016