The Secret Benefits of Tea

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The Secret Benefits of Tea

Popping up all over the country, teahouses and tea bars are responding to the demand for one of the world's oldest and most famous beverages. Tea is made from the Camellia sinensis bush, commonly called the tea bush. The leaves, buds, and twigs of the plant are fermented, heated, dried (and sometimes mixed with other herbs), then brewed by steeping in very hot water. The growing popularity of tea makes perfect sense. Scientific evidence has been mounting in recent years to support centuries-old claims that drinking tea is good for your health. Besides that, tea is tasty. If you haven't yet jumped on this ancient tradition turned trend, here are some reasons you should.

Drink it because it's a tradition.

Legend has it that thousands of years ago, a Chinese Emperor was passing through a rural village when he stopped to have some water. The villagers were boiling the water to purify it, as was required by the emperor, when some leaves from a nearby tea bush fell into the pot. The emperor drank it anyway, enjoyed it, and tea was born. Since then, tea has woven itself into nearly every Eastern culture and slowly migrated to the West.

Drink it for the variety.

True tea is made from the tea bush and is not to be confused with herbal tea, which is made from dried herbs or fruits, like chamomile, ginseng, or peppermint. There are four basic types of tea: Black tea is produced by allowing tea leaves to completely ferment before heating. Oolong tea is only partially fermented. Green tea is produced by steaming freshly-picked leaves before heat-drying. And white tea is only withered and dried by steaming. There are over 3,000 varieties of tea, each with its own unique character and name--which comes from the district in which it was cultivated.

Drink it because it's good for your heart.

According to a 1999 study of tea by the American Health Foundation, both green and black teas contain antioxidants that can help to decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol.

Drink it for its antioxidants.

According to that same study, green and black teas can also lower the risk of certain types of cancers due to their powerful antioxidant content.

Drink it for your gut.

The consumption of tea also may also improve intestinal health by reducing undesirable bacteria and increasing beneficial bacteria.

Drink it for your teeth.

Scientists at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry have found that compounds in black tea are capable of killing or suppressing the growth and acid production of cavity-causing bacteria found in dental plaque. And according to the Yale-New Haven hospital, green tea also inhibits the growth of oral bacteria, and can be used as a mouth rinse to reduce plaque and the incidence of periodontal disease.

Drink it because it's economical.

One pound of loose tea leaves can stretch far enough to brew over 200 cups of tea. So if you’re on a budget, skip the teahouse and brew your own tea at home. You can buy pre-made bags, which are simple and convenient, but the quality of your brew won’t be as high, since these teas are ground more finely and may taste bitter. For a better brew, buy tea leaves from the bulk bins at your natural foods market to get the best price and quality. Pour 6-8 ounces of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of tea leaves. Brew for 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice, and then strain out the leaves with a tea strainer, which is simply a tiny tightly woven kitchen strainer.

But don't drink it with milk.

A popular way to enjoy tea is to add milk and sugar to the mix. Unfortunately, adding milk to a cup of tea can destroy its ability to protect against heart disease, according to research. Casein, the protein in milk, is thought to be responsible for this effect. (This is also why milk chocolate doesn't offer health benefits like dark chocolate.)

And don't drink it before bed.

Tea contains naturally occurring caffeine, which can cause insomnia, anxiety, irritability, upset stomach, or nausea in some people. If you are sensitive to caffeine, look for naturally decaffeinated varieties or avoid it a few hours before bedtime.

Finally, drink it because it's delicious.

Although no scientific study can predict which variety will correlate with your enjoyment, chances are good that you'll find a tea that you love!

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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HAPPYLADY1953

11/1/2013 6:50:00 PM

HAPPYLADY1953's SparkPage
I absolutely love black tea. It's mild and has such a pleasant taste.

LEANMEAN2

10/19/2013 6:25:33 AM

LEANMEAN2's SparkPage
I drink green tea.

DEPSERV

10/14/2013 3:32:25 PM

DEPSERV's SparkPage
I remember years ago reading that tea was introduced to China by the Mongols, who used it to keep the water they boiled from tasting so bad. I'm sure they liked the mild buzz they got out of the caffeine too.

A good friend who grew up in China told me that when the Chinese brew tea they throw out the first brewing and drink the 2nd and 3rd brews because they're better. She was talking about herb tea at the time but it probably is the same with real tea. Over here we only make one brew and then throw it out. Might be worthwhile to try using a tea bag or tea leaves more than once and see how it works; might save a little money if nothing else.

I'd like to know whether there is any difference in health benefits between sun brewed tea and hot brewed tea, and what those differences are. These articles tend to be a little superficial, telling us what we already know and omitting what we don't.

OZIETWIN

10/14/2013 9:35:54 AM

OZIETWIN's SparkPage
As the weather cools down, I stop my iced coffee in the morning and drink my warm teas! What a great welcome for fall!

IRENE1955

10/13/2013 6:21:32 AM

l love tea but i can't drink tea or coffee because i have miniers disease which is triggered by caffiene

CHRIS3874

10/12/2013 9:49:31 PM

CHRIS3874's SparkPage
no I am not a HUGE fan if it either!! (and I come from an English family),.

BOOZEYFORD

10/12/2013 9:35:01 PM

BOOZEYFORD's SparkPage
I cannot abide tea. I find it very unpleasant. Apparently I'm the odd one out.

RAESUN54

10/12/2013 2:29:02 PM

RAESUN54's SparkPage
I like regular black tea, but ocassionally will try flavored teas. I didn't use to like Iced Tea but lately I drink it, instead of a soda. I mostly drink water otherwise.

MAZZYQ

10/12/2013 12:11:54 PM

lipton makes a great tea called ginger twist- hot or cold one of my favorites

GLORIAMAJDI

10/12/2013 12:06:12 PM

GLORIAMAJDI's SparkPage
I drink decaf tea, both black and green, and I like it a lot. But I wonder if the decaf stuff is as healthy and regular caffeinated tea.

ITSJUSTME_LINDA

10/12/2013 10:27:40 AM

ITSJUSTME_LINDA's SparkPage
I quit drinking coffee and started drinking tea 2 months ago. I really enjoy my morning and evening cup. So calming and relaxing! I use 2 tea bags, add 2 tsp Benefiber and 2 packets of Stevia sweetener. Just another healthy habit.

FABILOPEZ

10/12/2013 9:53:05 AM

I drink green tea more than any other type of tea. But, recently I herd that black tea is a lot better for health reasons. Is this true?

49ADAMS

9/24/2013 11:37:41 AM

49ADAMS's SparkPage
I drink herbal teas when the weather starts to dim down from summer

DELLMEL

9/24/2013 7:27:52 AM

DELLMEL's SparkPage
I am not that fun of tea. But I will try some once in a while.

WINNIE-POOH

8/22/2013 11:53:15 PM

WINNIE-POOH's SparkPage
I love herbal teas

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