The Health Benefits of Drinking Tea
Whether you’re warming up on the couch with a nice hot cup or cooling down lakeside with a glass of iced tea, it’s clear that this popular beverage offers comfort and hydration all year round.
The popularity of drinking tea has been growing on a continuous basis, with specialty tea stores for loose leaf tea cropping up left, right and center. There are so many flavors and tea types to try, the options seem almost endless.
Did you know, though, that different types of tea actually have different health benefits? When you’re drinking that comforting cup of freshly steeped tea, you may actually be giving your body a health boost.
We’ve broken down the benefits of each tea type, so you’ll know what nutrients are in your cup.
Green tea, which comes from the camellia sinensis plant, is often recognized for its antioxidant power.
One of green tea’s most powerful compounds, according to Authority Nutrition, “is the antioxidant Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), which has been studied to treat various diseases and may be one of the main reasons green tea has such powerful medicinal properties.”
Authority Nutrition also tells us that “green tea contains more than just caffeine. It also has the amino acid L-theanine, which is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. L-theanine increases the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which has anti-anxiety effects. It also increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain. Studies show that caffeine and L-theanine can have synergistic effects. The combination of the two is particularly potent at improving brain function.”
Often, green tea is connected with weight loss, as it has fewer calories than most blends but is also packed full of nutrients. Plus, as Livestrong notes, “Green tea, because it’s less processed, has a higher concentration of polyphenols, also called catechins, then any other types of tea… The catechins in the green tea are one of the active ingredients linked to weight loss. They might prevent the accumulation of body fat, as well as increase body temperature so you burn more calories.”
There are a number of different types of green tea: hojicha, sencha, kabusecha, gyokuro, shincha and matcha are all green tea varieties.
Matcha stands alone when it comes to additional nutrients, though, so we thought it deserved special recognition…
Matcha, a green tea traditionally grown and celebrated in Japanese culture, has become increasingly popular on the health front recently. For many, matcha rivals the health benefits of green tea.
Usually sold as a fine powder, matcha can be very particular to brew. It’s not like steeping a normal cup of tea. When making traditional matcha, you put about 1 to 2 teaspoons of the powder into a bowl, add 2 ounces of hot water (not quite boiling) and use a special bamboo whisk to froth the mixture using a zigzag motion, according to Matcha Source. You can add more water after the tea is properly whisked.
In terms of health benefits, matcha might be at the top of the tea list.
When you drink matcha, you’re drinking the entire tea leaf. This means you’re getting all of the nutrients the leaf has to offer. Matcha has similar benefits to green tea, but you get more of the benefits in this powdered form.
Matcha green tea is packed with antioxidants including EGCG, but that’s not all. According to Matcha Source, matcha also boosts your metabolism, naturally detoxifies your body, has a calming and relaxing effect, is rich in chlorophyll, enhances your mood, improves your concentration and provides your body with vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium.
One cup of matcha is comparable to ten cups of regular green tea, nutrient-wise. It has a grassier taste compared to most green tea, which can take some getting used to, though.
If you’re trying to shed some excess weight, this is the tea for you.
According to Organic Facts, “the polyphenol compound found in oolong tea is very effective in controlling the metabolism of fat in the body and reduce obesity. It activates certain enzymes, thereby enhancing the functions of fat cells in the body. It is commonly believed that daily consumption of this tea can reduce obesity.”
Unexpectedly, oolong can actually be great for your bones, too.
According to Tealyra, “research shows that long-term consumption of oolong tea prevents osteoporosis by increasing the mineral density in bones […] it can prevent heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases. Studies have shown that long-term oolong consumers have healthier bones. Oolong tea protects the teeth against decay, strengthens the skeletal structure and prevents osteoporosis.”
Pu’erh tea is more of a rarity in comparison to other tea types. It has been used for years to control weight and aid digestion. It’s made with the same leaf as most teas, camellia sinensis, but the leaves are actually aged and fermented for months or years in cellars or caves in the Yunnan Province of China.
Pu’erh is most popular as a digestive aid. Naked Me Tea says “the stomach and intestines break down food through a combination of acids and healthy bacteria. The micro-organisms that are present in pu-erh tea have shown to increase the healthy bacterial flora in the stomach and intestines, which may aid in proper digestion of foods. For this reason, it has been found beneficial to consume pu-erh tea after heavy meals to aid in better digestion.”
Basically, it’s a natural probiotic tea.
The term ‘herbal tea’ covers a wide variety of different things. Herbal teas can be made from fruits, spices, herbs and other plant materials, like roots or flowers. Sometimes, even non-plant foods, like chocolate, are added to an herbal tea blend for additional flavor.
You can buy herbal tea loose or in bags as you would any other tea. Many people buy specific medicinal herbs in bulk from health food stores and then make infusions, which are steeped for several hours, rather than just a few minutes. Unlike most other types of teas, herbal teas won’t become bitter or overly tannic if steeped for a long time. You can also make herbal tea from fresh herbs that you grow in your garden, like mint or that you get from the market, like ginger root.
It’s hard to break down the benefits of herbal tea, because there are so many types and there isn’t a single common ingredient, but there are some popular herbal teas that have notable health benefits that we’ll cover here.
Peppermint teas are great for digestion, soothing stomach cramps and acid reflux. Red raspberry leaf tea can really help prevent pms and menstrual pain when used regularly. Chamomile is a soothing herb to add to your day if you’re feeling stressed, as it helps you relax and can even help you sleep. Milk thistle and dandelion leaf teas are often used as liver detoxifiers. Finally, rosehip tea is a great source of vitamin C, which is good for your immune system.
Those are just a few popular herbal teas — there are plenty more on the market, all with their own sets of benefits. Blending herbs yourself or buying teas that contain a blend of herbs is a great way to enhance flavor while combining benefits.
Mate, or yerba mate, is made from the leaves of the holly tree which grows in the South American rainforest. The mate leaf is a natural stimulant that also contains caffeine, giving you nearly as much energy as a coffee would without the jitters or the crash.
This feature makes yerba mate a great tea for mental stimulation and energy.
According to Be Brain Fit, mate is a nutritional powerhouse full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It also has a number of medicinal benefits and is used “as a stimulant, as an overall tonic and digestive aid, as part of a weight loss regime, as a general nerve tonic for pain, fatigue, depression and for allergies and sinusitis.”
Like many other teas, white tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant but is made from the leaves when they are young. The leaves also go through very minimal processing.
A unique feature of white tea, according to The Tea Talk, is that it is antibacterial and antiviral.
The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine says “the polyphenols in white tea have also been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and fight fatigue. For all the white tea health benefits, it is a great addition to anyone’s preventative health routine.”
The tea comes from the aspalathus linearis or red bush found in South Africa. This tea is caffeine free and self-sweetening. For those who are watching their health or weight, this is a great option to go for for that reason.
According to Wellness Mama, “It is especially high in two unique polyphenols, including one that is only found in Rooibos called Aspalathin. It was also recently identified as a source of superoxide dismutase, a very powerful antioxidant. Research shows that these antioxidants may protect against the effects of free radicals. In fact, the South African Cancer Association has named Rooibos Tea as a leading source of anti-cancer compounds.”
Black tea is probably the most well-known type of tea. The biggest and most well-known benefit of black tea is the stimulating effect it has on the body.
Livestrong says “black tea also contains enough fluoride to possibly help prevent dental carries, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Black tea can help prevent orthostatic hypertension — dizziness caused by standing too quickly — and is possibly effective for reducing the risk of heart attacks, atherosclerosis, kidney stones, Parkinson’s disease and ovarian cancer.”
If you needed a reason to steep more tea, now you’ve got lots. With all of these different types, there’s a tea packed with nutritional value for every taste.
As with anything you put into your body, you should always make sure your tea is made with only the best ingredients. Read tea blend ingredients carefully before taking them home to steep and check up on different brands before you buy. Pesticide use can be an issue in the tea-growing industry — you don’t want to be soaking toxic chemicals into your morning cup along with your tea.
You can even try making your own blend with a variety of herbs and tea leaves. Here at Activation, a lot of us steep tea on a regular basis. Some of us even make our own blends. Want to give it a try? We’ve come up with a delicious and easy iced tea recipe you can try this summer; get it free below!
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