Vanilla chai tea can be a great calorie-free alternative to hot cocoa or apple cider. Here are some other things to keep in mind when relaxing with a steaming cup of tea: Most health benefits attributed to tea are found when consuming green, white, or black tea. These teas come from the plant Camellia Sinensis, and the positive health benefits often ascribed to tea is due to the high levels of catechins, an antioxidant in the plant.
Black tea is processed more than green tea and white tea and therefore has lower concentrations of the antioxidants than the other teas. It is important to note that herbal teas, such as peppermint, jasmine, and chamomile tea are made up of herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots and are not actually considered tea. As such, they do not have the same health benefits.
Because of the high levels of catechins in tea, it has been thought to be effective in protecting against cancer, heart disease, and even promoting weight loss. Recent research, however, has been inconclusive. In 2011 the FDA reported that there is little scientific evidence correlating consumption of green tea with reduced risk of breast and prostate cancer. A study done in April of 2014 reviewed several studies on consumption of tea and oral cancer risk and found that consumption of green tea may protect against oral cancer, but not consumption of black tea. A study done in 2003 found a positive association between drinking white tea and preventing risk of colon cancer. However, the study was done on mice and it is hard to extrapolate the results to humans.
There appears to be more promising research when it comes to tea protecting against heart disease. In 2012 a meta-analysis was published in which 14 prospective cohort studies were examined to assess the relationship between tea consumption and possible reduced risk for stroke. The researchers found that subjects consuming three or more cups of tea a day had a 13% reduced risk of stroke. While this significant finding was attributed to both black and green tea, the effects appear to be greater when drinking green tea. A meta-analysis published this past July examined 22 prospective cohort studies and found that drinking three cups of tea a day or more was associated with a reduced risk for coronary heart disease, cardiac death, stroke, cerebral infarction, and intracranial hemorrhage.
Other studies have found that consuming tea may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In 2012, 14 randomized clinical trials were examined to assess if consumption of green tea can lead to weight loss. The authors found that regular consumption of green tea can lead to a small amount of weight loss in overweight or obese individuals, but had no significant effect on weight maintenance.
There are a few more things to keep in mind before brewing your cup of tea. Green tea (especially multiple cups a day) may interact with certain medications, including coumadin, and certain antihypertensives and antidepressants. The tannins in tea can bind to iron and reduce the body’s ability to absorb the iron. This effect is only found when consuming vegetarian sources of iron, such as legumes and green leafy vegetables, and the effect can be reduced when consumed together with a source of vitamin C, such as orange juice, peppers, or a lemon.
Be sure to read the labels of your favorite teas and avoid those that contain artificial flavoring or artificial colors.
Shoshana Genack is a local dietician with a focus on medical nutritional therapy. She can be reached at [email protected]
By Shoshana Genack, MS, RD