Health benefits of tea. A growing body of research supports the health benefits of tea.
It may be easy for some to assume coffee is the world’s favourite non-alcoholic drink, however it is fact tea.
So the all important question, which teas offer health benefits?
Tea comes in many forms and flavours
Tea comes from a plant. It is a complex mix of many different substances that work together to create its flavour and provide its health benefits. And as we know tea comes in many forms and flavours. It is this variety allows tea to offer a wide range of potential health benefits including:
- Being a source of age fighting and health promoting antioxidant flavonoids.
- Offering options that contain substances that support and promote immunity.
- Being a thirst quenching drink that can also be soothing, cooling and/or restorative.
- Offering low kilojoule drink option when drunk without sugar and milk.
Black, green and oolong teas are the three main categories of tea drunk. They are made from the processing of the leaves and the buds of the Camellia sinensis plant. The type of processing varies by category:
- Black tea is fermented, allowing oxidation of the leaves.
- Green tea is lightly steamed from fresh cut leaves, preventing oxidation of the leaves.
- Oolong is partially fermented, so the level of oxidation is somewhere between black and green tea.
Oxidation not only changes the colour and flavour of tea, it is impacts the level of antioxidants in the tea. Black tea which has been oxidised has less antioxidants than green tea which is not oxidised.
Health substances in tea
There are a number of substances in tea that give rise to its health benefits including:
- Flavonoids, in particularly a type known as polyphenols. Research indicates polyphenols are a potentially powerful antioxidant that may play a role in reducing cardiovascular risk (including heart disease and stroke). Catechins a type of polyphenol found in green tea may offer some protection against tumour cells which may give rise to some cancers.
- L-Theanine, an amino acid found in black and green tea. Research suggests it increases brain activity supporting attention and it may also be able to promote a relaxed but alert state.
- Caffeine, however the amount of caffeine varies significantly and there are many herbal non-caffeinated options available. The amount of caffeine in black tea generally varies from 10-55mg per 250mL cup.
Having given you the good news, you should also be aware that tea does have some potential adverse health impacts including:
- Some flavonoids in tea may inhibit iron absorption. If you are at risk of low iron levels, I recommend you drink your tea between meals and not with meals.
- It may undermine carbohydrate digestion. If you have any issues confirmed with carbohydrate digestion, again I recommend you drink your tea between meals.
Six teas to try
1. Black tea
As Black tea is what the world prefers to drink I feel I should include it. Black tea contains flavonoids known as theaflavins. As with green and oolong tea it also contains L-Theanine which is broken down by the liver to ethylamine, a molecule that supports the activity of gamma-delta T celss that are a first line defence against bacteria, viral and parasites. If you can try and drink it black without sugar.
2. Green tea.
Well known for being an antioxidant power packed tea, it contains the flavonoids called catechins which in test tubes have been shown to be powerful inhibitors of cancer growth. Whether they have the same effect in the human body is unknown. However the antioxidant power packed green tea has been attributed with a number of health benefits which include an ability to promote weight loss and immunity, help improve cholesterol levels and potentially lower the risk of type-2-diabetes. I recommend you drink one cup of green tea each day. Caffeine content varies, it generally contains 25-50mg per 250mL cup.
Fennel and liquorice have a similar taste. Fennel is believed to soothe an upset stomach. Another calming option is chamomile which can calm digestion as well as menstrual cramps.
This is one of my favourites. Peppermint is well known for its ability to soothe digestive upset, particularly that following a meal. However it is considered a stimulate of digestion. As such it may promote not relieve reflux. I believe it may best suit those who digestion is a little sluggish and I recommend you wait for 10-15minutes after your meal to drink it.
5. Rose hip
Another of my favourites. It is rich in Vitamin C. As a result I recommend my clients replace any orange juice they drink with rose hip. You can drink it hot or cold. As a cold drink, you simply make a hot batch, let it cool and then keep it in the fridge.
I will admit this is not a tea I can drink, I find the flavour over-whelming. However many love it. And herbalists believe it promotes liver activity and often recommend it for those who have a diet and lifestyle that undermines liver function (western diet high in refined, processed fatty foods accompanied with medium-high intake of alcohol).
There are many more teas. I encourage you to create a ritual around your tea. See it as a treat, a reason for some down time.
Like food, you can drink your exploration of tea as a journey of discovery into taste, smell, sight and texture.