It’s National Hot Tea Month! What better way to celebrate than learning about the health benefits of drinking it?
The Health Benefits of Tea
Tea has a long-standing history; it was discovered in 2737 BC nearly 5000 years ago. As legend goes, tea leaves flew into the Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung’s pot of boiling water; the rest was history. It wasn’t until the 1600’s, however, that tea became popular in European and American colonies. Today, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water and can be found in nearly 80% of American households.1
According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A., Americans drink over 80 billion servings of tea each year, the majority of which is black or green.1 There are many varieties of tea, including black, green, oolong, dark, and white. What makes these teas different is the way in which they are processed and the level of oxidation they undergo. Typically, the more processed the tea, the less polyphenol content. Polyphenols are micronutrients believed to help prevent degenerative diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.
The health benefits of tea likely stem from the compounds found within, specifically polyphenols as mentioned previously. Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which is why tea is believed to promote cardiovascular health and support healthy vision, teeth, bones, memory, and cognition. Tea has also shown promise with reducing the incidence of cancer and type 2 diabetes mellitus as well as boosting weight loss efforts. Whether the health benefits result from the tea itself or the healthy lifestyle that often accompanies tea consumption remains unclear. As with many things, more research is needed. The good news is that there does not appear to be any downside to drinking tea on a regular basis.
If left unsweetened, tea is naturally low in calories and free of sodium and sugar. In fact, most teas have only 1 to 2 calories per cup. The caffeine content of tea typically ranges from 20 to 60 mg per cup. No adverse effects have been noted with intakes of up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, which equates to 7 cups of the strongest brewed tea. Therefore, unsweetened tea is a great option for those who are looking to stay healthy and hydrated year-round.
A piping hot cup of tea on a cold winter day or an ice cold cup of tea on a hot summer day showcases tea’s ability to offer the best of both worlds. Its soothing properties are known to help people unwind and de-stress. Just be sure to leave out any added sugar as that adds calories and no nutrition. If you’re looking for a boost of flavor, try different varieties of tea or infuse your tea with fresh herbs and fruit (e.g. sprigs of mint and slices of lemon). In honor of National Tea Month, stock up on some tea bags or loose leaf tea and enjoy a cup as part of your daily routine!
- Tea Fact Sheet. Tea Association of the U.S.A., Inc. Website. http://www.teausa.com/14655/tea-fact-sheet. Published 2014. Accessed December 31, 2015.