Learn how your favorite brewed tea can help your health.

By Lynn Andriani
April 30, 2021
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Many of us reach for a cup of tea when we want to relax or wake up, but there are so many other reasons why you might want to steep a pot. Tea has a long and storied history of doing a body good: Chinese and Indian cultures are well known for their tea-drinking cultures, with medicinal usage going back thousands of years. From liver health and digestion to metabolism and mood, tea's benefits are surprisingly wide-ranging. Teas contain plant chemicals called polyphenols (three main types are flavonols, theaflavins and catechins); it's these chemicals that give teas aroma and flavor, but they may also have health-promoting properties.

holding bellocq tea cup

Different varieties have different strengths of polyphenols, and whether your tea is hot or iced (if brewed), you'll still reap the rewards. Just be sure to drink up—most experts say the benefits are greatest if you drink two to three cups a day. A splash of milk or spoonful of honey won't offset the perks, so enjoy your tea as you wish.

The Health Benefits of Green Tea

This tea's reputation as one of the world's healthiest drinks is well-deserved: Its high concentration of antioxidants can protect against cancer, lower your risk of heart disease, improve brain function and even aid in fat loss. Nadia De La Vega, director of tea sustainability and content at DavidsTea, explains that all non-herbal tea types (including white, green, and black) come from the same plant—Camellia sinensis—so their genetic makeup of amino acids (building blocks of proteins and enzymes), polyphenols (popular for their antioxidant effects), minerals, and caffeine is similar.

However, the concentration of those compounds vary according to tea type, and that's why green tea packs such a health punch. The process of shading tea leaves increases their amino acids, so green tea and its ground form, matcha, will have a higher concentration of amino acids. Bonus: Green tea's L-theanine amino acid helps promote feelings of calm.

The Health Benefits of White Tea

This least processed variety of tea is also high in antioxidants, and research shows it may be effective in inhibiting the spread of cancer cells. It's also packed with polyphenols, which help reduce chronic inflammation by protecting against damage from free radicals. And white tea's significant amount of catechins (compounds abundant in tea, cocoa, and berries), fluoride, and tannins can also be great for dental health, strengthening teeth, fighting plaque, and helping teeth repel acid and sugar. If you're sensitive to caffeine, white tea is a great option as it offers the least amount of caffeine.

The Health Benefits of Black Tea

Thanks to its combination of high caffeine and L-theanine, black tea helps you wake up and stay alert and focused. Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert, and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen ($12.74, amazon.com), says that both green and black tea provide benefits for heart health, noting that some research shows these brews may lower risk of stroke and heart attack. And, points out De La Vega, contrary to popular belief, the caffeine in tea does not have a diuretic effect on the body. So, in addition to helping you stay focused, it also helps support hydration and circulation.

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