Besides water, tea is by far the world’s most popular beverage. Tea drinking, a common ritual in many countries offering guests a welcome or an afternoon spot of relaxation, is also a good practice for your health. “Tea” tea (green, black, white and oolong—all from the same tropical Camellia sinensis plant) along with herbal teas come from plants, which contain powerful health boosting antioxidant compounds. Here’s a quick run down on tea types and benefits.
Thirty percent of a dried green tea leaf’s weight is a flavanol called EGCG (a type of catechin) that studies show helps block cancer cell growth and boost heart health in part by improving blood vessel function.
Fermented tea leaves which turn black in the process offer new catechins (besides being more concentrated in caffeine than green tea but still less than coffee cup for cup.) These powerful antioxidants also protect heart health by keeping LDL–cholesterol from damaging artery walls.
Unprocessed (not cut and fermented) leaves from the tea plant and very rich in “young” catechins know to block cancer causing agents.
Tea leaves that are slowly cured in the sun resulting in an in between version of green and black tea. Oolong tea also supplies the same health boosting catechins.
For best brewing of these teas use 200–degree water—very hot but not boiling as this lessens catechin content. Steeping longer brings out more flavanols into the brew.
The likes of echinacea, chamomile and hibiscus teas, to name a few, come from the
plants’ leaves as well as some being made from seeds, stems and even roots (like ginger tea.) While these brews don’t get as much “health” attention as traditional green or black tea, herbal teas still supply antioxidants but in lower amounts. Herbal teas often come with health claims of curing colds, aiding in weight loss and more. These claims are typically not backed by research and some herbal preps may contain laxative–like compounds that may cause gastro intestinal distress.