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Best Tea for Your Health

tea

When it comes to drinking tea, every culture in the world has its own opinion of what’s the healthiest. So among all the varieties out there – black, green, white, red, herbal, oolong – plus the mixes and blends at gourmet tea shops, which one TRULY offers the most health benefits?

Overall, studies have found that different types of tea offer similar and unique health benefits. Here’s why:

Polyphenols – Some studies have shown that the polyphenols present in tea may reduce the risk of certain cancers, prevent blood clotting, and lower cholesterol levels. There’s also been support that drinking tea improves our body’s immune system, helping us to fight off colds and viruses.

Did You Know?

Black, Green, White, and Oolong teas are all derived from the same tree known as Camellia sinensis. The difference between these four varieties is simply the amount of processing it goes through. The more processing, the darker the leaves, the darker the tea. Not surprisingly then, white tea is the least processed and it is derived from young leaves that are silvery white because they are too young to have developed chorophyll, the component of plants responsible for their signature green color. Don’t be mistaken though, just because black, green, and oolong teas go through more processing that results in a different taste profile and color, all of them contain polyphenols. This means you’ll experience the same health benefits no matter which type you choose!

What About Matcha?

Personally, I LOVE Japanese matcha because of the rich depth of flavor and it’s vibrant color. And while a hot cup of traditionally brewed matcha green tea is incredible in its own way, I have welcomed the addition of matcha in modern delights such as lattes, ice-creams, and baked goods too. The unique health benefit of matcha is that is contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (short name=EGCG). This EGCG compound is over 100 times greater in Japanese matcha than in brewed Chinese green tea because matcha powder is produced by grinding entire tea leaves from the Camellia sinesis plant. The EGCG compound not only performs as a free radical fighting antioxidant in our bodies, but it’s been shown in some studies to improve weight loss by increasing the body’s ability to metabolize fat.

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How About Rooibos and Herbal Tea?

Interestingly, rooibos tea and herbal teas are not technically teas. This is because they are brewed infusions made with herbs, flowers, roots, spices, or other plant parts that are not derived from the leaves of the Camellia plant. Therefore, these two types of “tea” (actual technical name would be “tisane”) do not have polyphenols and their associated health benefits. Having said this, rooibos and herbal “teas” are plant-based, which means they have their own naturally occurring antioxidants that protect themselves against extended sun exposure. This means rooibos and herbal teas are still a great choice, especially in comparison to juice or pop when it comes to quenching thirst.

Decaf or Regular?

When it comes to caffeine, a healthy rule of thumb is to have no more than about 2 cups of coffee or tea a day (1 cup = 250mL = 8 ounces). The reason for this is because caffeine can interrupt sleep, make us pee more frequently (which can make us lose important minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, chloride, potassium, and sodium).

A cup of tea can provide about 20 – 87mg caffeine.
A cup of coffee provides about 173mg caffeine.
The recommended daily limit for caffeine is 300mg per day.
Note: Don’t forget that caffeine is present in chocolate, soft drinks, and energy drinks too. So if you’ve been told by your physician that it’s really important to watch your caffeine intake, always read the ingredients label of your food product to make sure. This is especially important if you’re pregnant and have been told by your doctor to limit your caffeine intake. (Caffeine can interfere with the mother and the fetus’ sleep and high intake has been associated with higher rates of miscarriage even though there’s not enough evidence to know for sure at this time.)

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Iced Tea or Hot Tea?

Expert researchers have found that the healthful polyphenols in brewed tea are consistently many times higher than bottled tea beverages, which sometimes contain no polyphenols after processing. So whenever you can, choose to drink hot teas. And don’t wait until it cools too long because polyphenols degrade and disappear as it is steeped in hot water, so drink it while it’s hot (without burning your tongue, of course!) to enjoy the highest level of benefit.

This post is dedicated to Miss Iris Chau for her thoughtful question of “Which Tea is the Healthiest?” on our Facebook fanpage. Thanks Iris!

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