Happy International Tea Day (December 15th)! Time to Drink Some Tea!
It’s the perfect time of year to cozy up with a good book and a warm cup of tea. We all know that drinking tea is supposed to be so good for us, but do you know why? Are some teas better than others? Should we avoid some types of teas? What are the specific health benefits of drinking tea?
Tea comes from a plant native to India and China (Camellia sinensis, for those who care). It contains specific phytonutrients (plant nutrients) called “flavonoids” that act as antioxidants in our bodies. This means they help our bodies handle the stress and toxicity from daily life. EGCG is one of the most abundant flavonoids, and it’s the main phytonutrient that gives tea its healthy street cred.
Types of tea:
Technically, there is only one tea (leaves from Camellia sinesis), and the type of tea (green, black, etc.) depends on the type and amount of processing. Thus, herbal “teas” like chamomile, mint, etc., aren’t technically even tea! True teas include: black, green, yellow, white and oolong.
Black tea is the most processed and white tea is the least processed, which means white tea maintains the highest amount of phytonutrients. Matcha tea is a very high quality, finely ground green tea that has a high antioxidant content. It’s also the best one for making yummy recipes. Yerba mate is another popular variety.
So, now that you know the types of teas, what are the benefits of drinking tea?
Benefits of drinking tea:
- Antioxidant and antimicrobial: Inactivate free radicals in our bodies that come from our toxic environment and from daily stress and metabolism (1).
- Weight loss: One study suggests drinking tea daily helps with fat loss (2).
- Heart healthy: People who drink black tea tend to have better cholesterol levels (3).
- Less caffeine: If caffeine is a problem for you, but you don’t have to completely avoid it, tea might be a better option than coffee.
Tips for tea drinking:
- Make your own. Bottled teas often contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which are not good for metabolism or our gut health.
- If you do buy bottled, make sure it’s unsweetened.
- Try to find organic teas to make sure you’re not diminishing the benefits with unwanted toxins.
- Watch out for poorly processed teas that may have hidden heavy metals.
- If you’re sensitive to caffeine, don’t drink past noon. You don’t want tea to keep you up at night.
- Chan EWC, Soh EY, Tie PP, Law YP. Antioxidant and antibacterial properties of green, black, and herbal teas of Camellia sinensis. Pharmacognosy Research. 2011;3(4):266-72.
- Nagao T, Komine Y, Soga S, Meguro S, Hase T, Tanaka Y, et al. Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2005;81(1):122-9.
- Samavat H, Newman AR, Wang R, Yuan JM, Wu AH, Kurzer MS. Effects of green tea catechin extract on serum lipids in postmenopausal women: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2016;104(6):1671-82.