SUPER FOODS, ANTIOXIDANTS & DETOXIFICATION...OH MY!
Tea is not a wonder cure-all like many health claims out there try to boast. It has been said to help everything from a cold to cancer. And while most studies are very promising about its benefits, you'll find conflicting studies as well. So I wanted to wade through all the information and get an understanding how tea can be a beneficial tonic, not a miracle cure, but a valuable drink to include in your daily diet.
"Camellia Sinensis." Sounds like a character from the Lord of the Rings, but this is the latin name of the tea plant which is primarily grown in the eastern regions of the world including China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka (known for it's Ceylon tea) and Taiwan. It's also grown in other locations, but these locations are called the "Big Five" because of their exceptional quality.
ALL ABOUT GREEN TEA
All forms of tea, black, green, oolong, yellow (not common in the U.S.) and white are all the same leaf. They are processed differently. Black tea is made by allowing the leaves to ferment which causes them to turn dark, while oolongs are partially fermented and greens are not fermented at all. White teas are generally leaves picked at earlier times in the season and therefore have a much lighter flavor and color. They are not fermented either.
1. All forms of tea are rich in flavonoids and the antioxidant, "polyphenols". They have been shown to have 10 times the amount of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. What do these antioxidants do? Basically, they look for cell-damaging free radicals and detoxify them.
What does this mean for our health? "These antioxidants block DNA damage associated with tobacco and other toxic chemicals."1 This means that tea can help prevent against certain cancers in our body!
What else does this mean? They also help protect against cardiovascular disease. "The detoxifying effect of these antioxidants protects cells from free radicals, the damage that can lead to blood clot formation and atherosclerosis."2
"The bulk of research shows that regular tea drinkers, people who drink two cups or more a day, have less heart disease and stroke, lower total and LDL (often called "bad") cholesterol, and that they recover from heart attacks faster." 3
This includes both black and green. This was news for me as green tea is always being touted as the better tea of the two. But according to an interview by WebMD with John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y., "In my lab, we found that green and black tea had identical amounts of polyphenols,"4 Which means drink whichever tea you like, they are all found to have lots of antioxidants.
2. Tea helps you to be in a state of "calm alertness."
Because the caffeine in tea is water soluble, the body is able to digest it easily and pass through your system quickly. This is unlike coffee where the caffeine is not water soluble and stays in your body much longer leading to sleeplessness at night if consumed late. Yes, there is less caffeine in tea as well so you can drink more of it without too much caffeine consumption if you're trying to avoid it. (Info from "A Guide To Tea" by Chris Cason)
A good strong cup of English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast black tea in the morning is a good pick-me up if you need to wake up but won't stay too long in your body if coffee gives you "the jitters."
3. Tea is also reputed to help with digestive complaints.
It seems tea is an old home remedy to help out with some of these mild digestive orders. It's supposed to be helpful in easing Irritable Bowel Syndrome because all teas contain some anti-inflammatory properties. So, if the digestive disorder has to do with inflammation, tea having some "calming" properties should be of help.
4. Green tea is found to contain fluoride and is helpful in preventing cavities.
"Green tea contains compounds that appear to control inflammation and fight bacterial infection." 5
"Green tea’s anti-inflammatory powers seem to help control periodontal (gum) disease. A Japanese survey of almost 1,000 men found that those who drank green tea regularly had healthier gums than those who didn’t. A German study found similar positive results in people who were asked to chew candies containing green-tea extracts." 6
So, have your kiddos brush their teeth AFTER they drink their favorite cup of tea...decaf of course!
Some Important Things to Consider:
1. The health studies for tea seem to be varied and sometimes contradictory. But all in all, tea has been consumed by the Chinese and Japanese for centuries and the civilizations have acknowledged the benefits of tea through their own usage. It sometimes takes science to catch up with such years of experience.
2. Tea is not meant to be a cure-all. When drinking it for your health, an overall healthful lifestyle needs to be lived. Think of it as a tonic instead of a cure but a great beverage that contains some vitamins and healthful properties that can be good for your body. All of teas benefits are not yet understood, so drinking it is a great alternative to the sugar and chemical filled drinks out there, especially when dining out.
3. Tea is a great beverage to introduce to your children. In the age of sugar laden sodas and energy drinks, tea is a great alternative. Our kids drank herbal teas out of the their bottles and sippy cups and soon were introduced to mild green teas as they grew older. This has helped them to stay away from these other harmful drinks. With so many different varieties of tea, they each have their own favorites and have introduced their friends to gourmet tea as well. (They will drink soda, but they do a great job in limiting how much they drink and they don't get it very often.)
4. Tea bags contain these aforementioned health benefits but are usually made from what they call "tea dust" in the industry. If you enjoy tea, you may want to explore the wonderful world of loose leaf tea as the flavors will have you coming back for more!
5. Tea sold in bottles is usually made from a concentrate and LOTS of syrup. I've tried them and basically they are (in my own opinion) not tea, but sugar water. They do NOT have the same health benefits as brewed tea. Our Subway restaurants carry brewed tea that is unsweetened as well. This way you can control how much sugar you put in your own tea.
This is just a little bit of information of the benefits of tea. New studies come out daily showing how helpful they can be. Tea may not be a wonder cure-all, but it's definitely a great beverage to drink on a daily basis. Served hot or cold, it's delicious and I know it's helping my body and not harming it.
What's your favorite tea to drink?