Tea has a rich history of being beloved for its many health benefits. From the time of ancient China when tea was first discovered to the present day, tea has been known and revered for its medicinal properties as well as its taste.
Tea is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that help improve many aspects of health including digestion, inflammation, and disease prevention. Different types of tea offer varying health benefits. If you are sensitive to caffeine, there can be some drawbacks to look out for.
In this article, we will explore what makes tea such a healthy drink, as well as the benefits different types of tea have to offer. We will also cover the health risks of certain artificial types, such as detox teas and artificially sweetened teas.
Why Tea Is Good For Health
When talking about tea, most often we are referring to true teas that come from the Camellia sinensis plant. These true teas include all the classic types such as green, white, black, and oolong.
True tea leaves are packed with contents such as antioxidants and minerals that promote health and well-being.
Antioxidants In Tea
Antioxidants are molecules that help to prevent cell damage from substances known as free radicals. Free radicals are uncharged and unstable molecules that can inhibit growth and survival of bodily cells.
While the human body is capable of creating its own to combat free radicals, foods, and drinks rich in antioxidants are useful in helping the body’s cells to stay healthy.
According to WebMD, there are approximately 10 times the amount of antioxidants estimated in tea compared to the amounts found in fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants include:
- Polyphenols and
- Epicatechins, and
Both polyphenols and flavonoids are key for regulating cell activity and helping rid the body of free radicals.
Nutrients in Tea
Aside from antioxidants, there are several other nutrients found in tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. Ito En, a Japanese tea production company, has compiled a major list of the nutrients found in tea and the purposes each serves. These include:
- Vitamins such as C, B2, Folic acid, beta-carotene, and E. These help with maintaining healthy skin, night time vision, and providing antioxidants.
- Theanine, an amino acid that helps in regulating and modulating neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopamine resulting in a calming effect. Other amino acids include glutamine, asparagine, arginine, and serine, but Ito En states that theanine makes up about 60 percent of the amino acids found in tea.
- Saponins are found in small amounts in tea leaves and provide anti-inflammation, anti-fungal, and anti-allergy effects. Saponins can also help in preventing cancer, tooth decay, and high blood pressure.
- Small amounts of minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Caffeine In Tea
All teas that come from the Camellia sinensis plant will have some level of caffeine. If you’re wondering how much caffeine is in your tea, the amount is dependent on a few factors:
- The type of tea: darker teas usually are higher in caffeine
- The time of year the leaves were picked
- What kind of processing the leaves underwent
- How long the brewed tea is steeped: longer = more caffeine
While too much caffeine poses health risks, many people prefer tea over coffee as the caffeine levels are often lower meaning more tea can be consumed.
Caffeine does have some benefits when consumed in moderation, such as heightening energy and stamina. It can also serve as a natural diuretic.
For those who are sensitive to caffeine or choose not to consume caffeine at all, herbal teas can be a great alternative. While some herbal teas still contain caffeine, most do not. Herbal teas are not considered true teas and are instead derived from flowers, roots, and other plant matter.
Which Tea Is Healthiest?
This is a trick question because different types of tea can have different health benefits.
Teas can be broken into two loose categories depending on the type of processing they require – light tea and dark tea. White, yellow, and green teas are light teas that have undergone less processing.
Oolong, black, and pu erh teas are much more heavily processed and darker.
There are several steps involved in processing tea leaves, but the main one that affects the resulting tea type and nutrients is the tea oxidation stage. Oxidizing tea leaves causes them to turn darker over time that can both create and breakdown different compounds.
The light teas are considered to be these varieties:
- White tea,
- Yellow tea, and
- Green tea
These teas require the least amount of processing, with white teas being processed the least of the three..
While white and green teas are fairly common, yellow teas can be hard to come by. This is because they require specific processing and stopping of oxidation that is not widely practiced. Therefore, yellow teas are rarer and generally only widely available in China.
The longer the oxidation process is allowed to take place, the fewer catechins will be present in the leaves. Thus, lighter teas are much higher in catechin levels.
Catechins are organic compounds that help with:
- Metabolic processes and
- Weight loss.
Green tea in general is regarded as being the healthiest type of tea overall.
According to Healthline, green tea often contains higher levels of bioactive compounds, antioxidants, and nutrients. It is also considered good for:
- Improving brain function and
- Helping to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Compared to light teas, darker teas are oxidized for considerably longer. The dark varieties include:
- Oolong tea,
- Black tea, and
- Pu’erh tea
Oolong tea is the least oxidized of the dark teas. Black tea is oxidized for a long period of time, while pu’er requires fermentation over a period of several months.
When tea is processed this much, its levels of catechins greatly decreases. However, levels of xanthines increase the darker the tea, according to Eli Tea.
Xanthines are compounds that are commonly used as mild stimulants. Caffeine is one such xanthine. These compounds are often used to help treat asthma and influenza.
According to Mansa Tea Company, pu-erh tea is particularly good for:
- Regulating blood sugar
- Helping prevent diabetes
Healthy Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are not true teas because they are not grown from the Camellia sinensis plant, but many do have known health benefits.
Chamomile tea is derived from Chamomile flowers and contains nutrients and compounds that help with sleeping and relaxation. Chamomile teas are often used and recommended for people suffering from sleep problems, anxiety, or insomnia who wish to try natural, non-medicated treatments.
Peppermint and ginger teas are both known for their ability to boost the immune system and metabolism functions. Ginger in particular has been found to help with premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, especially cramping, pain, and bloating, according to studies reported by Healthline.
Steeping Affects Strength and Benefits
Steeping greatly affects how potent not only the flavor and aroma are, but how much of certain health benefits are present in the drink. Steeping is the process of soaking tea in water to extract the contents of the leaves.
Teas that are allowed to steep for longer periods of time are often much more potent and effective. However, when steeping in hot water, leaving the leaves for too long can result in bitterness.
Cold brewing tea overnight is one way to steep leaves for a longer period of time.
Tea is Great for Digestive Health
While there are a myriad of health benefits that different teas have to offer, digestive health is often among the top benefits provided by many types of tea. In fact, tea has been used specifically to aid in digestion since ancient times, when it was used in medicine in China.
As with all health aspects, tea type can determine varying levels of effectiveness and uses. True teas and herbal teas alike have the ability to treat digestive issues. Some teas may actually worsen indigestion due to levels of certain compounds and substances present.
Polyphenols Aid in Digestion
Polyphenols are largely to thank for the digestion aid teas provide. Polyphenols can help to promote the growth of bacteria necessary for gut health.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, polyphenols are linked to beneficial effects on cardiometabolic, neurodegenerative, and oncologic disorders. This is thanks to their anti-inflammatory and prebiotic properties.
Conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, and Crohn’s Disease have all found some success in treatments that include the addition of tea to the patient’s diet.
When added to a balanced diet, tea can help even those without digestive issues to maintain their gut health and prevent unwanted inflammation.
However, it is important to note that not all tea types are beneficial, and some darker types may even worsen digestive issues. We will cover different types of tea and how processing can greatly affect their effectiveness in treating digestive issues.
Which Teas Are Best for Digestion?
Green Tea: Of the true teas, green tea is regarded as being the best for aiding digestive issues. It is of the utmost importance to remember that caffeine can affect and worsen digestive issues depending on the person, and all true teas contain caffeine.
Luckily, there are green tea extracts that do not contain caffeine that can be purchased and used to supplement digestion.
According to Every Day Health, green tea can “increase fat oxidation and improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.” That being said, it is recommended to consume green tea in moderation.
The approximate amounts recommended for consumption are around two to three cups per day, with an average of 50 – 150 milligrams of polyphenols per cup.
Black tea: Black tea has been used to treat digestive issues, and for some, they have found it effective. However, black tea contains caffeine and tannins which both have the potential to cause stomach issues such as diarrhea and nausea. Tannins can also affect the uptake and absorption of iron, according to LiveStrong.
Which Herbal Teas Help Digestive Issues?
Interestingly, herbal teas may be better than true teas in treating digestive issues. Certain varieties of herbal tea have been found to be highly useful in treating and alleviating pain caused by ulcers, constipation, and indigestion.
Peppermint tea especially is known for its ability to aid in digestive issues thanks to the compound menthol found in the herb. According to Fowler’s Digestive Health, menthol promotes the flow of bile that eventually helps to breakdown fats at a faster rate, as well as providing an antispasmodic effect that calms the muscles in the digestive tract and allows easier passing of gas.
Ginger tea has also been praised for being a helpful aid in stomach and digestive issues. According to Healthline, the daily intake of ginger has been proven to help with nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy, chemotherapy, and motion sickness.
Tea Can Help Boost Your Weight Loss
Tea is largely regarded as being a healthy addition to your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. This is for a number of reasons. On a molecular level, the presence of catechins in lighter teas can boost metabolism and can help both with weight loss and weight maintenance thanks to its regulation of metabolic processes.
Any weight loss program should be based on balanced nutrition and exercise, so you shouldn’t think of tea as a magic fix for weight loss, but rather a useful addition that can help to boost functions that aid in weight loss.
It is important to always keep your consumption to moderate levels and speak with medical professionals before making any drastic dietary changes.
Fewer Calories Than Sugary Drinks
Tea is a great replacement for drinks such as flavored coffee, soda, and energy drinks when trying to lose weight. All three of these can be high in both calories and sugar and can greatly inhibit metabolic processes.
While black coffee may have health benefits of its own, many people do not drink it plain due to the bitterness of the flavor. Plus, the high caffeine levels of coffee can make it difficult to drink more than one cup.
Comparatively, tea comes in a wide variety of flavors and is much lower in sugar and calories than these other drinks, while still providing caffeine for the stamina and energy boost. Tea is also easily sweetened, meaning that only minor amounts of additional sweeteners need to be added in order to adjust the flavor for one’s personal preference.
Replacing high calorie, high sugar drinks with tea is a great step towards creating a more balanced and nutritional diet, both for those trying to lose weight and those just trying to live healthier lifestyles. Plus, drinking multiple cups per day is not only acceptable but is recommended in some cases.
Tea Can Boost Your Metabolism
As we have covered, tea contains catechins that are responsible for boosting metabolism and aiding in weight loss. It is important to note that the lighter white and green teas will have much higher levels of catechins, while darker teas will not.
Therefore, white and green teas are often recommended more for those looking to use tea to supplement their weight loss journey.
According to Teabox, green tea can also help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and the catechins present within it can aid in stabilizing blood sugar levels. This can be vastly helpful for those struggling with diabetes and concurrent weight gain or loss problems.
Green tea has also been reported to help regulate appetite and hunger, keeping those trying to lose weight from overeating.
Tea Can Keep Your Energy Up
All true teas will contain caffeine, which can help in providing energy and stamina before and after exercise. However, green tea is recommended above the other teas in this department as well. This is thanks to higher levels of certain antioxidants in green tea that boost energy and stimulate metabolism.
One such antioxidant is Epigallocatechin Gallate, also known as EGCG. This compound works best alongside caffeine to help stimulate the central nervous system and help the body to use fat in the bloodstream as a source of extra fuel.
Tea Can Help Prevent Disease
There is still much research to be done on how effective tea is in helping to treat and prevent disease. However, there have been several studies that show a correlation between tea consumption and lessened effects or the prevalence of certain diseases.
Tea is regarded as being helpful in the maintenance and prevention of conditions related to heart health, diabetes, and cancer. More people are choosing to go the natural route when treating these conditions, but due to more conclusive research being needed, it is imperative that you always consult with a doctor about any sort of treatment or dietary change.
Always Consult A Medical Professional Before Making Changes That Impact Your Health
Heart Health and Tea
According to the American Heart Association, recent research suggests that daily consumption of tea can help regulate cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease. It has been generally found that the polyphenols and catechins found in tea have anti-inflammatory properties that assist in lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Additionally, some research has found that tea has the capability to lower low-density lipoprotein or LDL. LDL is responsible for the build-up of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. However, there is no conclusive research as of yet on how tea affects high-density lipoprotein, which is considered the good cholesterol that combats LDL.
Tea and Diabetes
As mentioned, catechins found in tea can greatly help with regulating blood sugar levels, which can be highly helpful to those suffering from diabetes. Catechins are found in the highest levels in lighter teas, such as white or green tea.
According to Healthline, herbal teas such as turmeric, chamomile, cinnamon, hibiscus, and lemon balm tea may also provide useful in combating the negative effects of diabetes. These teas can aid in lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and insulin resistance. They may also help in stimulating glucose intake.
When using tea to help aid in combating diabetes, it is important to watch out for artificial ingredients and added sugars. Many commercially sold herbal teas may contain such added ingredients depending on what type of infusion they are and who produced them.
It is important to check the ingredients of an herbal tea before consuming it to ensure it has not been mixed with something you might be sensitive to.
Tea and Cancer Research Continues
There is a decent amount of debate surrounding whether tea can help prevent cancer. Research and testing are still very much ongoing, with conclusive results yet to be discovered. Nonetheless, many fans of tea believe the drink has cancer-preventive properties. According to the National Cancer Institute:
“More than 50 epidemiologic studies of the association between tea consumption and cancer risk have been published since 2006. The results of these studies have often been inconsistent, but some have linked tea consumption to reduced risks of cancers of the colon, breast, ovary, prostate, and lung.”
There is also debate on whether tea may actually heighten the risk of esophageal cancer. However, this has more to do with the temperature at which tea is drunk rather than the contents of the tea itself. According to WebMD:
“Researchers found that people who preferred tea above 140 degrees Fahrenheit and drank more than 24 ounces of tea a day (about two large cups) had a 90 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer than those who drank less tea and at cooler temperatures, CNN reported.”
Any serious medical condition should not be taken lightly. While many wish to seek out natural treatments other than chemotherapy, it is crucial to consult with medical professionals before beginning any type of cancer treatment.
Disadvantages of Tea
As with most things, you can have too much of a good thing. Additionally, with the ongoing rise in the popularity of tea drinking, several teas have appeared in the market that have unnatural and artificial ingredients that compromise the health benefits of tea.
It is important to always read the ingredients and know the risks of what you are consuming.
Detox teas have risen in popularity thanks largely to celebrities and weight-loss culture. While some may have base ingredients, such as true tea leaves or herbal tea plant matter, many contain ingredients that can pose significant risks to your health.
The most common ingredients that should be watched out for are variations of laxatives. According to Lifespan.org, these laxative stimulants can ultimately cause your body to stop performing natural bowel regulation on its own.
Many popular tea drinks like lattes and bubble teas are loaded with sugar. While these teas may contain actual tea that is healthy for you, they often have heavy doses of added and artificial sugar that negate the positive effects of tea. Bottled iced teas are also notoriously high in sugar, so always read the labels
Many herbal teas contain no caffeine, but all true teas have some level of it. Too much caffeine can cause over-stimulation of the central nervous system and can ultimately cause jitters, insomnia, anxiety, and diarrhea, or other stomach issues.
Luckily, lighter teas are lower in caffeine content than darker teas such as black and pu erh teas. It is important to know how much caffeine you are consuming per cup of tea. According to Mayo Clinic, approximately 400 milligrams is the maximum dosage of caffeine a person should consume per day.
Tea And Iron Deficiency
There has been some research to suggest that overconsumption of tea can actually inhibit the body’s absorption of iron and lead to an iron deficiency over time. The New York Times reports that this is thanks to the levels of tannins present in tea.
However, to achieve this deficiency, a person has to consistently over-consume tea over a significant period of time. Nonetheless, for tea fanatics, this is still an issue to be cautious of.
There are many antioxidants and nutrients present in tea leaves that make the drink a healthy choice. Research has shown that tea can be highly helpful in regulating digestion and assisting in weight loss, and some research suggests tea is also helpful in preventing disease.
Different tea types have different benefits, making it highly customizable for each individual person. Tea is widely considered as a healthy addition to a balanced diet.
Do you have a favorite type of tea that rejuvenates you?