If you’re not already one of the billions who sips tea on the regular, you might want to start. That’s because tea, far beyond coffee and other beverages, has been shown to impact health in incredible ways. In fact, the benefits of drinking tea may include everything from weight management to heart health to the jolt of caffeine you need first thing in the morning.
What Makes Tea So Good for Your Health?
Tea-drinking cultures have believed in the power of the leaves for centuries. More recently, researchers have begun to test those claims, studying tea’s effects on the human body. These studies have linked tea to several health benefits. Some teas may help to fight heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. They may also lower cholesterol and aid in weight loss. Many teas also provide a mental boost, thanks in part to the caffeine they contain.
Scientists attribute many of these benefits to flavonoids, natural compounds in the leaves. Flavonoids are also found in many fruits and vegetables (not to mention wine). These compounds not only give these plants their colors, but they act as antioxidants, reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system, among other things.
A Disclaimer Before You Start the Kettle
As you consider the benefits of drinking tea, there are a couple of things to note. First, while there’s a lot of research on the benefits of drinking tea, with promising results, many studies are not yet definitive. Second, we are not scientists or medical professionals. As with any matters related to your health, it’s important to do your research, talk to your doctor, and take the reported studies with a grain of salt (or, in this case, a drop of honey).
The Benefits of Different Types of Tea
It turns out that you can’t soak just anything in water and call it tea. Technically, tea only includes black, green, white, oolong, and pu-erh tea. All five come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, native to parts of Asia and India (in contrast, herbal “teas” like chamomile are made from other plants). But because the teas are processed differently, they each have their own unique properties and advantages.
Benefits of Drinking Black Tea
If you need a jolt of caffeine, you’ll want to reach for the black tea. Made by fermenting the tea leaves, it has the highest caffeine content. Black tea may also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, increase heart and gut health, reduce the risk of stroke, and even defend the lungs from the damage caused by cigarette smoke.
Pu-erh is a form of black tea. Its leaves are not only fermented but also aged and then pressed into cakes. Drinking pu-erh tea could help lower cholesterol and help prevent weight gain.
The Power of Green Tea
Tea leaves are steamed to make green tea, which is a powerhouse for good health. Long used in traditional medicine in China and India, green tea has the highest levels of EGCG. This compound is believed to fight inflammation, help with weight loss, and ward off chronic disease. Studies have suggested that green tea could lower the risk of certain cancers, keep arteries from clogging, improve some skin conditions, amp up the metabolism, lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, and give the brain a boost, possibly even warding off degenerative diseases.
Good News About White Tea
White tea undergoes barely any processing before it reaches your cup. Of all the teas, it may offer the best defense against cancer. Recent studies also suggest that white tea extract is particularly potent in activating the immune system to stop infections in the body.
Drinking Oolong Tea for Good Health
To make oolong tea, the leaves are partially oxidized, meaning that they’re exposed to air. The antioxidants in oolong have been shown to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance, improve heart health, and support brain health.
The good news is that there are no rules on how you take your tea, as long as you’re not loading it up with sugar. While that may rule out sweet tea and most bottled options, you still can enjoy your tea almost any way you like it to get the benefits. Add a splash of milk or a drop of honey. Serve it hot or iced or somewhere in the middle.