The Secret Benefits of Tea

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The Secret Benefits of Tea

Popping up all over the country, teahouses and tea bars are responding to the demand for one of the world's oldest and most famous beverages. Tea is made from the Camellia sinensis bush, commonly called the tea bush. The leaves, buds, and twigs of the plant are fermented, heated, dried (and sometimes mixed with other herbs), then brewed by steeping in very hot water. The growing popularity of tea makes perfect sense. Scientific evidence has been mounting in recent years to support centuries-old claims that drinking tea is good for your health. Besides that, tea is tasty. If you haven't yet jumped on this ancient tradition turned trend, here are some reasons you should.

Drink it because it's a tradition.

Legend has it that thousands of years ago, a Chinese Emperor was passing through a rural village when he stopped to have some water. The villagers were boiling the water to purify it, as was required by the emperor, when some leaves from a nearby tea bush fell into the pot. The emperor drank it anyway, enjoyed it, and tea was born. Since then, tea has woven itself into nearly every Eastern culture and slowly migrated to the West.

Drink it for the variety.

True tea is made from the tea bush and is not to be confused with herbal tea, which is made from dried herbs or fruits, like chamomile, ginseng, or peppermint. There are four basic types of tea: Black tea is produced by allowing tea leaves to completely ferment before heating. Oolong tea is only partially fermented. Green tea is produced by steaming freshly-picked leaves before heat-drying. And white tea is only withered and dried by steaming. There are over 3,000 varieties of tea, each with its own unique character and name--which comes from the district in which it was cultivated.

Drink it because it's good for your heart.

According to a 1999 study of tea by the American Health Foundation, both green and black teas contain antioxidants that can help to decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol.

Drink it for its antioxidants.

According to that same study, green and black teas can also lower the risk of certain types of cancers due to their powerful antioxidant content.

Drink it for your gut.

The consumption of tea also may also improve intestinal health by reducing undesirable bacteria and increasing beneficial bacteria.

Drink it for your teeth.

Scientists at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry have found that compounds in black tea are capable of killing or suppressing the growth and acid production of cavity-causing bacteria found in dental plaque. And according to the Yale-New Haven hospital, green tea also inhibits the growth of oral bacteria, and can be used as a mouth rinse to reduce plaque and the incidence of periodontal disease.

Drink it because it's economical.

One pound of loose tea leaves can stretch far enough to brew over 200 cups of tea. So if you’re on a budget, skip the teahouse and brew your own tea at home. You can buy pre-made bags, which are simple and convenient, but the quality of your brew won’t be as high, since these teas are ground more finely and may taste bitter. For a better brew, buy tea leaves from the bulk bins at your natural foods market to get the best price and quality. Pour 6-8 ounces of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of tea leaves. Brew for 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice, and then strain out the leaves with a tea strainer, which is simply a tiny tightly woven kitchen strainer.

But don't drink it with milk.

A popular way to enjoy tea is to add milk and sugar to the mix. Unfortunately, adding milk to a cup of tea can destroy its ability to protect against heart disease, according to research. Casein, the protein in milk, is thought to be responsible for this effect. (This is also why milk chocolate doesn't offer health benefits like dark chocolate.)

And don't drink it before bed.

Tea contains naturally occurring caffeine, which can cause insomnia, anxiety, irritability, upset stomach, or nausea in some people. If you are sensitive to caffeine, look for naturally decaffeinated varieties or avoid it a few hours before bedtime.

Finally, drink it because it's delicious.

Although no scientific study can predict which variety will correlate with your enjoyment, chances are good that you'll find a tea that you love!

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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5/25/2012 7:36:52 AM

Try iced tea, mixed with unsweetened fruit juice in the summer. It can be kept in the fridge in a covered jug. Just don't have more than the usual daily amount of fruit juice as fruit does contain natural sugars.


5/22/2012 7:45:45 PM

I only drink green teas but the summer is challenging. It is so hot in my neck of the woods. I forget to make sun tea gotta try harder.


5/22/2012 5:46:46 AM

I have been trying to drink tea in place of coffee. Now I find that coffee leaves me either queasy or jangly. Tea on the other hand, quenches my thirst and seems to put a pep in my step. I always take it black = preferably Earl Grey or Darjeeling - mmmmm


5/21/2012 1:56:46 AM

Tea I just love drinking it. I cannot begin my day without my tea in the morning


5/19/2012 10:00:10 PM

HOUK46's SparkPage
Tea, Hot or Cold, I love it. With Lemon or without. Green Tea, Black Tea, Etc. Etc. Love all of it.


5/19/2012 4:20:12 PM

I drink it daily! I even wrote an essay on it for my English Comp. class, and my teacher loved it!


5/19/2012 4:09:32 PM

I find tea to be very relaxing and the last couple of nights I have had a cup of tea and am able to get to sleep better, even if it is the caffeinated version. And yes, I put milk and sugar in my tea, unless its the herbal variety.


5/19/2012 7:56:29 AM

CLEOTINY's SparkPage
In Woman's World this week Dr Oz tells about 16 oz.of pu-erh and 16 oz of white tea a day for weight loss.
Has anyone found it to be true? I am not a tea drinker but willing to give it a try.


5/18/2012 11:47:21 PM

I am proud to say I AM a Teetotaler! I drink white in the morning my regular Red Rose in the afternoon and I'm getting ready to have some chocolate tea this evening! =)


5/18/2012 11:03:44 PM

Love my tea.


5/18/2012 9:50:11 PM

CAROLJ35's SparkPage
Love my tea and have several cups daily. My favorite, Chai, needs to be drunk with sweetener and creamer to be more authentic.
This was an especially nice article as well as informative. Only thing I question is drinking teas without milk because I understand the British do not have some physical ailments because they do use milk in their tea. Would like more info on that.


5/18/2012 4:34:19 PM

It is nice that the physical benefits of tea are finally being recognized along with the psychological ones. A cup of tea on a cold or cold hearted day has to be one of the most soothing things.


5/18/2012 3:09:38 PM

ROSIET3's SparkPage
My loving relationship with tea goes back a long time...right back to the bottle before even the sippy cup. On our immigration flight in 1957 the stewardess had warmed a bottle for my 9 mo old sister, taken an order for tea from my mum & dad and said "and milk for the little girl"(I was 4 yr 8 mo)? I replied for them "milk is for wee babes, I will have tea". What a snotty little brat, eh? I'll tell you though, I even have business card sized little notes that say Boil Water, Pour Boiling Water Over Tea, Pause, Serve. In spite of this in the US I still get people who will bring warm water from the coffee machine in a cup with a teabag in the saucer. LOL all over the third world tea is one of the safest drinks, but in the Excited States and to a lessor extent, here in Canada, they don't know how to boil water.


5/18/2012 3:07:03 PM

Growing up in a Chinese-American household, tea was always around but I have only come to love tea as an adult (as a child, I preferred water over tea). Now, I have about 20 different varieties in my "tea cabinet". Whenever my family dines out at a Chinese restaurant, we always drink plenty of tea along with dinner as it's supposed to aid in digestion. I don't know how true this is but I certainly feel much better when I drink my tea and eat a heavy meal then when I eat the meal without tea.


5/18/2012 1:24:09 PM

I love green tea with honey!!!

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