Health Benefits of Tea

5 Most Surprising Reasons to Drink Tea
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Tea is hot: Americans downed more than 3 billion gallons of it in 2010. Worldwide, tea is the most widely consumed beverage after water. And a daily cup or two confers surprising health benefits, research shows.

"There's been a lot of research about tea's beneficial compounds," says integrative nutritionist Beth Reardon of Duke University. "For example, it's one of the richest sources of antioxidants you can consume."

Here are five tea benefits worth lifting your teacup to:

How Tea Can Help You Lose Weight

How it works: Compounds in the Camellia sinensis plant (from which comes all black, green, and white tea) provide a mild metabolic boost that amounts to the body burning an extra 45 to 50 calories a day, Reardon says. "It sounds small, but over just a year, that could easily add up to five or more pounds."

What's more, in 2011 Japanese researchers identified two tea compounds, theaflavins and thearubigins, that slow weight gain in rats fed a high-fat diet -- though only when there was no milk added (proteins in cow's milk interfered with weight control). Chinese researchers have identified another compound in tea called catechins, which also contribute to weight loss.

Here's one other way drinking tea contributes to weight loss: Without additives like dairy or sugar, tea is a zero-calorie substitute for sodas, juice, or sugared drinks. And the more tea you sip, the fuller you feel.

Tea note: Neither herbal teas -- which are made from infusions of fruits, leaves, roots, grains, and flavorings -- or green tea capsules have been shown to contribute to weight loss.

How Tea Can Keep You Calm and Focused

How it works: The caffeine in black and green teas can contribute to keeping you awake, although not as well as coffee. But another compound called L-theanine, a unique neurologically active amino acid that crosses the blood-brain barrier, can also have a direct effect on your ability to focus. By altering brain-wave activity, the substance has been shown to create a relaxed, alert state.

Green tea is an especially good source of L-theanine. Three to four cups of tea a day have been shown to have a calming effect while also enhancing attention, Reardon says. It's like having the jolt of joe but without the jittery side effect.

Regular tea drinkers have also been found to have lower levels of cortisol -- the "stress hormone."

Tea note: Worried that tea will dehydrate you? To the contrary: Researchers have found tea to be as hydrating as water -- and possibly even more beneficial, since it provides protective antioxidants while also replacing fluids. (Coffee tends to be more dehydrating, since it contains almost twice as much caffeine as even strongly brewed tea.)

How Tea Can Help Repair Cancerous Cell Damage

How it works: Tea is one of the richest sources of flavonoids, an antioxidant plant compound that can help fight cell damage. Flavonoids help regulate the normal cell cycle or reestablish a cell cycle gone awry. That means that flavonoids help repair DNA damage that can make cells become cancerous, or repair signals that encourage abnormal cells to self-destruct before they reproduce rampantly. "Flavonoids can act to put out the fires of oxidative damage," Reardon says.

Green tea has been linked in research studies to a reduced risk of breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and bladder cancer. Black tea has shown similar benefits in various cancer studies, but it contains lower concentrations of antioxidants. (Green tea has been the most studied in terms of cancer prevention and is a hotbed of ongoing research.)

Tea note: Let green tea steep for several minutes in order to get the maximum flavonoids. Green tea is the best food source of catechins, an antioxidant that may be more powerful than vitamin C and vitamin E in its ability to halt oxidative damage. Tea also has higher concentrations of polyphenols (a type of antioxidant that's even better at combating the free radicals that cause cell damage) than most fruit or vegetable sources.

How Tea May Ward Off Postmenopausal Bone Loss

How it works: Scientists aren't sure exactly how tea seems to protect the microarchitecture of bones. But there's growing evidence that women ages 65 to 76 who drink black tea have stronger bones than their counterparts who don't. In both women and men over age 50, drinking black tea has been associated with a lower risk of hip fracture in some studies. Other studies have found that those who drink the highest levels of green tea tend to have the lowest rate of osteoporosis.

The research about bone health and tea is still considered speculative, but some health experts recommend drinking tea as a preventive measure for those who are premenopausal or who are at risk of osteopenia (bone thinning that's a precursor to osteoporosis).

Tea tip: You can vary the taste of tea by experimenting with different types: black, oolong, green, and white. Black has the most caffeine, while white has the most antioxidants (followed closely by green) and the least caffeine. The difference between the four types lies in their processing: White tea is picked and air-dried. Green tea is picked, heated (usually steamed), and then dried. Black tea goes through an added step of oxidation, and oolong is partly oxidized.

How Tea Protects Your Teeth and Gums

How it works: The antioxidant catechin found in tea may help reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of harmful plaque, protecting teeth and gums. Tea also contains some fluoride -- the enamel-protecting substance that dentists recommend.

A 2009 study in the Journal of Periodontology looked at 940 Japanese men ages 49 to 59 and found that those who drank green tea regularly had healthier gums than those who drank less green tea. For every cup of green tea consumed per day, there was a decrease in three key indicators of periodontal problems. (Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gums and bones.)

Other studies at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry have found similar benefits from black tea and oolong tea. These teas can affect the enzyme responsible for converting sugars into the sticky material that plaque uses to adhere to teeth. Black tea also destroys or suppresses growth and acid production of cavity-causing bacteria.

The same UI team found that rinsing with black tea for 30 seconds every three minutes, five times in a row, stops oral bacteria from growing and producing the acid that causes cavities.

Tea note: You can drink tea hot or cold, although be aware that iced tea tends to be more diluted. Some 85 percent of the tea drunk in the United States is iced tea, usually made with black tea, according to the Tea Association of the U.S. Be aware, too, of one potential downside for your pearly whites from black tea (whether cold or hot): It tends to stain enamel.


over 1 year ago, said...

Tea can prevent cancer, weight loss, help brain health and so on. Here's what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea, share with you: http://www.healthdoyen.com/health-benefits-of-tea.html


almost 2 years ago, said...

Thank you for the information about tea and weight loss. I had no idea about the different kinds of teas. I will now try to start drinking some.


about 2 years ago, said...

Keep in mind - Don't toss them out in the trash - THE WORMS LOVE LOOSE TEA AND COFFEE GROUNDS. We have a Green Market on Union Square, where Ric regularly brings brewed-out coffee grounds and tea leaves, adding them to the compost collection. So, after we enjoy our beverages - the Earth benefits, too!


about 2 years ago, said...

Very Useful!


about 2 years ago, said...

When tea tastes bitter, it has probably been over-brewed (coffee can have that same nasty side-bar). If it has been allowed to stand too long, or too many bags or too much tea was used in the original infusion. I know this from my catering days - we never let tea or coffee 'linger in the urn.' Try sampling a gentler brew - lighter Japanese teas might be better suited to one's taste. A green tea, rather than a black. I recently re-visited the Ceylon teas which I had purchased from an Indian shop. I usually like these, as a change of pace. But must have let it brew too long, because as one person points out - it was bitter and not at all pleasant. So, my suggestion: the softer brews. I also like Constant Comment, because it has actual orange flavor in it, which will help to offset any bitterness. The chai brews are now becoming popular; I have seen them in the larger supermarkets - can also give a lovely flavor, without that acrid aftertaste. But do experiment, ask, and look around. You may find something that piques your taste buds.


about 2 years ago, said...

I think I will start drinking tea regularly. I love the taste of coffee but I can throw a few cups of hot tea in for relaxation.


about 2 years ago, said...

Interesting and informative. As a Canadian I am a devoted tea drinker ( never had a cuppa coffee in my life!..Hate the taste of it!) Start the morning with a large cup of strong black tea and a few drops of milk. Maybe another around 1pm. And most definitely at 4pm! Could not get thru the day without that 4pm pick-me-up! Another cup around 8pm...do not think it keeps me awake..sometimes I like green tea...


about 2 years ago, said...

I like the article but I do not like the taste of tea. How does one acquire a taste for this bitter beverage?


about 2 years ago, said...

When we were younger, both Ric's family and mine made something called SUN TEA. You put the tea bags, (or the loose tea which will create a stronger brew), into a large, clear glass pitcher. Fill it with cool water, set it in a sunny spot: maybe a kitchen windowsill for a few hours, covered lightly. Let the rays create the mix. The 'sunny brew' as it was called, was a great basis for iced tea, with light lemon, and sweetener (now we don't use sugar). Moreover, there's the whole ritual of doing it - kind of a special thing, too. When we read about the tea ceremony in Japan, you can understand how the act of making the tea, preparing the implements and, then sharing with others is additionally -social, as well as healthy. We are lucky to live in New York, with a large Chinatown where we can go and shop for all the wonderful kinds of tea. But at different times I have enjoyed loose oolong leaves, mint for refreshment, camomile for relaxing rest at night..and a British colleague recommended PG Tips, which has a charming little triangular bag! All great. Experiment and see which ones appeal to you. For healthy benefits, no argument there, either! If you have to watch calories, sliced fruit and sugarless wafers are a fine accompaniment. Sip and savor and, be healthier!!


about 2 years ago, said...

Excellent article. Very informative and helpful that it explained what tea does and why it is helpful.


over 3 years ago, said...

I drink teas, however this is the first time reading how the different color teas may help with cancer, teeth/cavities, gums and osteoporosis, which is the one I have, and my m.d. will not treat he states "you are already in a wheelchair and it is useless to treat osteoporosis for a non-weight bearing patient". I really feel I want to try!


over 3 years ago, said...

I am a tea drinker and a high streesed person, when I do drink tea I honestly feel more calm, stress relieved. My favorite tea is green tea hot with honey. It really does work miracles. My only downer when it comes to tea is the yellowing of my teeth.


over 3 years ago, said...

I don't drink coffee, but I love tea. I'm trying to live healthy, so now I know which teas would be most beneficial for me.


over 3 years ago, said...

tea is one of my favorite drinks and i have found it to be very soothing and relaxing after a long day


over 3 years ago, said...

This is one of your many soooo informative articles. It overflows with just what one needs to make an informed decision. New information for me is that white tea has the most antioxidants ... Thank you for this 4**** research and writing


over 3 years ago, said...

Excellent information on teas in general. I've just started drinking green tea instead of coffee, so it's helpful to know that green tea can be a positive influence to the body overall.


over 3 years ago, said...

Tea is in the herbal type range, isn't it? Such plants & their products have been known literally forages, but it is good to have the values, their methodology spelt out. Wet end to forget all the good things, almost natural things, there are around us! This part of the world we have the rooibos: unique plant to this part, but also of considerable value.Thank you for the reminding tap on the shoulder!


over 3 years ago, said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the entire article. Been a tea drinker since "forever" and, if I needed it, I have even more reasons to keep it up. Re the tea stains on our teeth, drinking it through a straw can help.


over 3 years ago, said...

i was unaware of the many claimed benefits.


over 3 years ago, said...

There are so many brands....Lipton, Celestial...the list goes on, so what would be the better brand to purchase in order to get all the health benefits?


over 3 years ago, said...

Made me realize what was beneficial about my craving when I was a teen and why I need more now.


over 3 years ago, said...

one becomes active after taking tea inthe morning. after mealsone donot feel sleepj.green tea benefits as mentioned in the article are great,thanks


over 4 years ago, said...

this was very helpful to me I'm just learning about gluten free diet because my oldest daughter and I have problems with these types of items. Plus I am just a little over 40 and have had a partial hysterectomy. thank you ,


over 4 years ago, said...

Think i will trade drinking coffee for tea, more pros than cons.


over 4 years ago, said...

Very factual... learned so much


over 4 years ago, said...

good to have comments from others, even if they include lessons in English Grammar.


over 4 years ago, said...

perhaps we as a family of two aging seniors should " drink more tea" to make us pee" P & H 73, 71 from W.B. Canada


over 4 years ago, said...

There is another word that I would like to mention regarding tea. People should pay attention and do not drink tea 20 min after eating, especially food contains iron - so that the body will absorb the iron (and not the tea). thank you.