Hi, I’m Melanie, and I’m addicted to tea!!! Yeah, yeah, I know… don’t judge!!!!
On an average day I drink at least eight cups, and in truth, no day feels quite right without it.
Once you get to know me, you’ll quickly learn that offering me a cuppa is a stupid question, the answer is always yes! Even if I say something like, “Oh no, I don’t want to trouble you,” what I really mean “YES, give me all the tea!!”
It’s hardly surprising really, given my place of birth. Apparently, in Ireland we drink more tea per capita than any other place in the world, bar Turkey.
As a side-note, Canadians drink an average of 6.1 cups a week… 6.1 CUPS!! What??!!? It’s time to have a serious chat with my fellow Canadians I think, now that I’m living in Canada and all! Perhaps I’ll start an appreciate society for tea drinkers right here in Calgary 🙂
On a serious note, and getting to the reason for my article, what are the health benefits of tea? Let’s go ahead and take a lot at that question…
When you browse the supermarket shelves the sheer extent of variety you are faced with can feel overwhelming, so here’s a quick overview to start us off…
Different types of tea
Now, when I talk about tea I’m talking about proper tea, not fruit tea or any of that ‘alternative’ stuff, I mean real tea, containing all the good stuff.
Whether it’s black, white, green or red (oolong) the tea comes from the same plant, called the Camellia sinenses to the scientists amongst us.
The tea leaves undergo a different process, and it is this process which makes one tea vary in taste from another:
- White tea is made from the young plant leaves, these are then steamed and dried.
- Green tea is made from the older leaf, and undergoes the least amount of processing, they are simply steamed quickly.
- Black and red teas are also made from the older leaf, they are then partially dried, crushed and lastly fermented.
In terms of antioxidant content, white tea comes out on top, closely by green tea, red and then black tea.
Health benefits of tea
For many of us, the health benefits of tea are an added bonus because we drink it out of sheer love, but there are actually a lot of really great benefits, so let’s look at some of them now.
1. Tea reduces cortisol levels
Cortisol is the stress hormone that contributes to belly fat, as well as making us age more quickly. But, tea is thought to have a beneficial effect on tea our cortisol levels.
In one study, when volunteers were given a stressful task, the cortisol levels of the black-tea drinkers were considerably lower than those of the non-tea drinkers. The researchers concluded that black tea may have health benefits in part by aiding stress recovery. These calming effects noted were likely the result of the naturally occurring chemicals within tea, such as polyphenols and flavonoids. <study>
2. Tea is rich in antioxidants
As I’ve just said, tea is rich in polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, and these function as antioxidants, helping to reduce the formation of free radicals within the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. This is a vital step in disease prevention and anti-aging.
One of the most powerful catechins is EGCG (or epigallocatechin-3-gallate), and may be one of the main reasons green tea has such powerful medicinal properties. Researchers have shown it to have a very positive impact on a number of illnesses and conditions – you can find out more here.
3. Tea improves brain function
Information presented at the 2015 International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, showed that those who drank green tea one to six days each week had less mental decline than those who didn’t drink it at all, which shows promise that drinking tea may protect brain health through into old age.
We all know that tea and coffee contain caffeine, which is a stimulant which keeps us awake and can actually make your brain sharper.
Tea is extremely effective at this, as it doesn’t contain as much caffeine as coffee, and therefore you get the response the “jitters.”
In the brain, caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called Adenosine, and this increases the firing of neurons and the concentration of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine.
4. Tea helps with weight loss
Promising evidence also suggests that long-term consumption of green tea catechins may be beneficial for burning fat and may work with other chemicals to increase levels of fat oxidation and thermogenesis. In one research study, a mixture of catechin resulted in more fat break down than a placebo or caffeine only.
In one study, fat oxidation was 17 percent higher than placebo, which shows a very promising result.
“We conclude that green tea can reduce body weight in obese Thai subjects by increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation.”
In the studies showing a positive effect, green tea boosted metabolic rate and increased fat burning in the short term, indicating it may be useful when taken on a daily basis, at regular intervals.
5. Tea improves diabetes risk factors
Drinking both coffee and tea have been attributed to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some studies suggest that green tea can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels (43), which will have an obviously positive effect on those with diabetes, or pre-diabetes.
6. Tea is beneficial for heart health
Here again the research is positive as to the benefits of tea, with research showing that tea can improve both blood flow and the ability of arteries to relax, a few cups of green tea each day may actually be preventative in terms of heart disease.
Green tea also dramatically increases the antioxidant capability of the blood, which protects the LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation, which is one part of the pathway towards heart disease (48, 49, 50).
Given the beneficial effects on risk factors, it is not surprising to see that green tea drinkers have up to a 31% lower risk of cardiovascular disease (51, 52, 53).
See here for more on the research findings.
There really are a ton of benefits I could have talked about in this article, but I’m sure you get the idea. If you have any specific queries do let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page.
Green tea vs black tea
All tea made from the Camellia sinensis leaves contain many health benefits. But, the amino acid L-theanine, is found in higher percentages in green tea.
L-theanine is an exciting amino acid, in that it passes through the blood-brain barrier quickly, and is effective for stress relief, the treatment of anxiety, as well as improving concentration and focus.
For me, the greatest benefit of tea over coffee, is that is improves performance without the agitation or ‘buzz’ caused by caffeine in many people.
L-theanine is found in black tea in concentrations ranging from 0.6 percent to 2.1 percent. And, in green tea — which, unlike black tea in generally higher concentrations, from 0.8 percent to 2.7 percent.
The fact that many people feel enhanced productivity and have more stable energy levels after drinking tea over coffee, may be a result of how L-theanine works synergistically with caffeine to improve brain function, that, paired with a lower caffeine buzz leads to a more favorable result in terms of our energy levels.
But, isn’t tea dehydrating?
Many are indeed concerned about the so-called “dehydrating” effect of drinking caffeinated drinks, and it has been something that health professionals have told us for years. However, one review concluded:
The available studies on hydration found that caffeine intakes up to 400 mg per day did not produce dehydration, even in subjects undergoing exercise testing. It was concluded that the range of caffeine intake that appeared to maximise benefit and minimise risk is 38 to 400 mg per day, equating to 1 to 8 cups of tea per day, or 0.3 to 4 cups of brewed coffee per day.
Perhaps my tea addiction isn’t so bad after all!
Tips for the best brew
You will want to brew your chosen tea for 3-5 minutes to bring out all of those lovely health components we’ve been talking about.
For the perfect tasting cup, I recommend brewing in a porcelain teapot, and always skipping the sugar… that’s perfection in a cup right there!!
What about milk?
This is one area I may have to mend my ways in. A 2010 study found that
addition of whole milk, semi-skimmed, and skimmed milk decreased the total antioxidant capacity of all the brands of tea. Interestingly,
skimmed milk decreased the total antioxidant capacity of the tea significantly more than the other milks added.
So, if you want to get the highest level of antioxidants from your cuppa, sans milk is the way to go.
In my research for the health benefits of tea, I came across the wonderful Thrive Market, and I wanted to share with you their organic green tea. If it’s something you’d like to try, you can find out more here.