Today, half of us will sip tea. Do you know what’s in your cup?
If you enjoy wrapping your hands around a warm cup of tea, you may want to make it a habit. And grab a second and third cup as well, because the evidence continues to mount that the brew is good for you.
heart health is the most notable benefit, says Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the Antioxidant Research Laboratory at Tufts U. “People who drink more tea do appear to have less risk of heart disease, and for those who have developed some cardiac event like a heart attack, tea drinkers seem to have a lower incidence of a second event.
Green tea vs. black tea
The protective effects of tea, the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, has been the focus of thousands of scientific studies, says Joseph Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA, a trade group.
Much of that research has focused on green tea, but “the data from green and black are really ,” Blumberg says. That’s not too surprising since popular varieties of tea – green, black, oolong and white – are from the same evergreen shrub, the Camella sinensis, and the difference is from levels of maturity when picked and oxidation when processing.
So-called herbal teas, or tisanes, are not teas but infusions of boiled water with leaves, roots, bark and/or flowers.
Researchers suspect that natural components in tea, particularly a class of polyphenol antioxidants known as flavonoids, are responsible for tea’s health benefits. Blumberg says the nutrients are “very similar to those that you find in fruits and vegetables, in tree nuts, in soy.” By drinking tea, “you’re adding more plant food to your diet” he says.
Tea’s increasingly high health profile has propelled its popularity. Retail supermarket sales passed $2.1 billion in 2010; for the first time ever, more tea was imported into the USA than the United Kingdom.
Tips for maximum health benefits
Ready-to-drink tea (canned/bottled and refrigerated) is nearly half of the $7.8 billion -a-year US tea market. Ready-to-drink and instant teas, like most homemade iced tea, are diluted, so you’re not getting as strong a dose of flavonoids as you would from a cup of freshly brewed hot tea. Blumberg says, For optimum flavonoids, drink tea soon after it’s brewed.
When you add sugar or buy tea sweetened, your turn a zero-calorie beverage that’s great for hydrating the body and has half the caffeine of coffee into a drink “loaded with sugar and calories, sometimes as much as soda. The effect of adding milk to tea is unclear, Blumberg says.
How much should you drink? “Three cups throughout the day is prudent from a physiological point of view according to experts. However, many healthy populations drink as many as sic cups a day.
Tea for two?
Not everyone who sips tea is focused on potential health benefits. Many tea enthusiasts enjoy a cuppa primarily for its many other fine qualities. Not only is there a world of tastes and flavors to explore, but preparing and drinking tea provides a quiet time to think and contemplate. Also, tea is a wonderful catalyst for conversations. “According to the Tea Pages blog at teapages.blogspot.com, “It has such a communal property to it. When I brew it, I want to share it with others.
Learn about types of tea at food.usatoday.com.
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