Remember when your parents used to say that tea would stunt your growth? That couldn't be farther from the truth. Medicinal properties in tea are beneficial to your health and well-being. Tea contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A cup of tea has less than half the caffeine of coffee and is gentler on the body. While tea may not give you the fast kick that you get with a cup of coffee, it will certainly boost your energy levels and your immune system.
Tea is anything that comes from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) -- varieties include green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea. "As long as the tea leaf is present, then you're going to have the benefits," says Shabnam Weber, owner of The Tea Emporium in Toronto. Throw in your favourite herbal or spice blend, such as orange blossom or chai, and you're in for a treat. Consider also the added health benefits of herbal blends, such as peppermint for reducing hot flashes, ginger for aiding digestion, or Rooibos, which is caffeine-free and very high in antioxidants.
If you're not convinced that a soothing cup of hot tea may be just what the doctor orders for a clean bill of heath, Shabnam serves up 8 reasons to indulge in teatime.
1. Strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk of cancer
Tea contains catechins, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system. Vitamin H, also known as biotin, is present in teas and also assists with a healthy immune system. In addition, tea contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that assists in the prevention of cellular damage, cardiovascular disease, skin disease and UV-induced DNA damage.
2. Prevent tooth decay and fight bad breath
The fluoride in tea assists in preventing cavities. The catechins, or antioxidants, help to prevent halitosis. Catechins kill bacteria in the mouth. Tea contains calcium and magnesium, which work together to form healthy bones and teeth.
3. Build stronger bones
Tea contains vitamin D, which helps build bones. Also, the amino acids that are present in tea help form proteins in the body to build muscle, bone, skin and hair, as well as combat bacteria and viruses. Women who are experiencing menopause are usually told to eliminate caffeine because it causes bone loss; however, tea does not contain as much caffeine as coffee and may still be enjoyed. (Be sure to check with your doctor first.) Alternatively, try decaffeinated tea.
4. Protect your heart
The antioxidant in green tea, EGCg, speeds up the recovery of heart cells and minimizes cell death after a heart attack or stroke. Green tea is also associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease because its high quantity of antioxidants, namely flavonoids, may reduce the amount of cholesterol in the artery wall. Tea acts as an anti-inflammatory and improves blood vessel function.
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5. Prevent aging and cleanse your intestines
Tea helps with the antioxidation of cells because it contains vitamin E and antioxidants, and is therefore beneficial in slowing down the aging process. Catechins kill bacteria in the intestine while maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing illnesses such as gastric ulcers and arteriosclerosis. Tannins in tea help to calm the stomach and cleanse the intestinal tract.
6. Reduce your risk of ovarian cancer
A Swedish study published in December 2005 claims that drinking two or more cups of tea a day can reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer by 46 per cent. The 15-year study involved just over 60,000 Swedish women.
7. Eliminate body fat
Antioxidants called catechins are highest in green tea and found in low doses in black tea. Catechins act as "fat blockers," especially of abdominal fat. In the digestive tract, catechins reduce the absorption of dietary fats by inhibiting the body's ability to break them down. Catechins also act as "fat burners" by activating the enzymes in the body that metabolize stored fat.
8. Boost memory and reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease
An antioxidant in green tea called EGCg may help to protect the brain against developing Alzheimer's disease. EGCg decreases the production of a protein called beta amyloid, which can form into insoluble plaque and degrade nerve cells in the brain.
"There are studies that claim that the less processed the tea is, the less the caffeine and the greater the benefits," says Shabnam. "White teas are the least processed of the four teas. All teas come from the same plant. It is how they are processed that changes them."
White tea has less caffeine than green tea (15 mg per serving compared to green tea's 20 mg per serving) and it has a higher concentration of antioxidants to boost a healthy immune system. It even has a lighter, sweeter flavour than green tea.
How do you take your tea?
A new study out of Germany may have you think twice about adding milk. The study, which appears online in the European Heart Journal, says that adding milk to black tea may dilute the health benefits. It seems that certain proteins in milk adhere to the catechins, preventing them from carrying out the benefits.
Now you can add a cup of tea to your list of guilty pleasures, along with dark chocolate and a glass of red wine. To your health!
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