A steaming cup of tea is a healthy way to relax with friends.
There's nothing like a hot cup of tea to warm and comfort you on a cold winter day. Did you know that tea is also good for you? That's right! With all the various health benefits of tea, it's no wonder it's the world's most popular drink after water. Whether you prefer black, green, or herbal, there are plenty of reasons to indulge in this brewed beverage.
Not only is tea a soothing, calorie-free drink, it can also be a healthful way to enjoy a small energy kick without the jitters you might get from coffee. While most herbal teas are usually caffeine free, an eight-ounce cup of green tea or black tea delivers about half as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Sipping a cup of tea can give you more get-up-and-go, and it can help you unwind and de-stress thanks to theanine, a substance in tea that stimulates brain chemicals to promote feelings of relaxation.
Both green and black teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What distinguishes the two is what happens after they're picked. While green tea leaves are steamed, black tea leaves are fermented. Because steaming is a slightly gentler process, it tends to preserve more of the tea's flavonoids, potent disease-preventing substances that protect cells and tissues from damage that can lead to chronic illnesses. Even though green tea may provide a slight disease-fighting edge, black tea is no slouch either. In fact, both brews may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some kinds of cancer. Watching your weight? Tea is a smart choice for that too, due to its metabolism-boosting duo of flavonoids and caffeine.
The health benefits of tea aren't limited to green and black tea. Herbal teas may also improve your well-being, especially chamomile and peppermint teas. Made from the flowers of the chamomile plant, chamomile tea is credited with reducing anxiety and may even help you fall asleep more quickly if you have trouble nodding off at night. It has also been used for centuries to calm an upset or queasy stomach. However, if you're allergic to ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums, or marigolds you may want to steer clear—people who are allergic to these plants often react to chamomile as well. Like chamomile, peppermint tea is also believed to soothe an upset stomach. Because it's rich in compounds that reduce inflammation and break up mucus it's also a natural remedy that may help to alleviate seasonal allergies or the sniffles.
To make sure your tea is always fresh and delicious, store tea bags in a tightly sealed container. The water you use to brew it can make a big difference too. Start with fresh, cold water and heat it to the perfect temperature, boiling for black tea and nearly boiling for green. Pour it into a cup with your favorite tea bag, steep for two to three minutes, and enjoy!
By Karen Ansel, RD
Linus Pauling Micronutrient Information Center, Tea
Tea Association of the USA, Tea Fact Sheet
WebMD, What is Chamomile?
University of Michigan Medicine, Peppermint
Medical News Today, Mint: Health Benefits, Uses and Risks
Twinings of London, The Perfect Cup
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.