While it seems like there’s a Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee, or boutique coffee shop on every corner, Americans are starting to wake up and smell the health benefits of drinking tea, as well. In fact, the US is the third largest importer of tea in the world (behind only Russia and Pakistan,) with almost 20,000,000 pounds of tea consumed in 2015 and steady 5% projected growth every year.
“Teas contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids, known to help fight against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries,” says Mike Shaldone, “Tea Ambassador” for Sacramento’s Classy Hippie Tea Company.
“Teas also have caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain and seem to heighten mental alertness.”
But drinking tea for its health benefits (as well as the fact that it tastes great) is nothing new, as different cultures around the world – especially in the Far East – have consumed tea for thousands of years to promote health, happiness, and wellness.
Here are 15 ways drinking tea can improve your health:
- Tea contains high levels of antioxidants, which help the body fight off toxins and keep us healthy and young. In particular, tea contains high levels of polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) and phytochemicals that aid our systems. Regular tea drinking also boosts your immune system, helping immune cells reach their target and function faster.
- Tea does contain caffeine, but in fact has about 50% less caffeine than our favorite coffee drinks, giving you a boost without disturbing your nervous system or sleep patter. The important thing to know is that tea contains caffeine and theanine, which affects the brain by naturally heightening mental alertness.
- Research points to the benefit of tea in reducing the instances of heart attacks and strokes. Recent studies show that people who drank one to three cups of green tea every day showed a 20% reduction heart attacks and a 35% reduction in the instance of strokes. Once people drank four cups of tea or more, they were 32% less likely to suffer a heart attack!
- There is evidence that regular tea consumption may help with weight loss, though more research is needed to see if this is just a correlation or a direct cause. But one study showed that tea drinkers had lower waist circumferences and lower BMI’s than non-tea drinkers. By the way, did we mention that tea is calorie free? Even if tea drinking signals a healthier lifestyle – but doesn’t actually reduce weight – switching out higher-calorie coffee drinks (once you add milk, flavorings and all the sugar) can knock off hundreds of calories every day.
- According to data from recent animal studies, green tea helps prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.
- Drinking tea actually helps tooth decay and cavities, Japanese researchers found, by lowering the pH levels in your mouth and protecting tooth enamel.
- Tea may also help to fight cancer, although more medical research needs to be done. But what is factual is that the antioxidants in tea help combat various forms of cancer, including breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, prostate and oral cancers.
- Drinking herbal teas, and especially chamomile, helps soothe the digestive system because it is an antispasmodic, and ginger tea can ease nausea.
- Green tea can actually increase your endurance when you’re exercising, since the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea boost the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, aiding muscle endurance.
- Tea also helps fight free radicals that damage our DNA and have been linked to cancer, heart disease and neurological degeneration, since it’s high in oxygen radical absorbance capacity.
- Unlike coffee and other drinks that leave your body dehydrated, tea is actually just as hydrating as drinking water – but with the extra bonus of a little natural caffeine.
- Studies have shown that there’s a link between drinking tea and a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, even when they accounted for other health and lifestyle factors like diet, smoking, physical activity, age and body mass index.
- Green tea might actually provide some protection from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun, acting as a natural low-level sunscreen (but still but on sun block!).
- If you smoke (and don’t plan on quitting anytime soon,) make sure you drink a lot of tea since it’s been found to counteract some of the negative effects of smoke, including reducing the risk of lung cancer.
- Research shows that some of the compounds in green tea help diabetics process sugars better, offering a great benefit to people with Type 2 diabetes.
What kinds of teas should you drink? Which teas will help specific health issues? And are there are some things to watch out for when choosing and drinking the right tea? We’ll go into depth to answer all of these questions and more in part two of this blog!