A culinary staple in many cultures for centuries, tea has become a symbol of mindfulness, restoration, and even health protection in recent years, leading to what some may call a tea craze. From boutique-style tea bars to large tea retailers, business owners and consumers alike are jumping on the tea train. But, does all the hype have any validity? The short answer is: yes. But, read on learn how to make wise selections, because like most food choices, not all tea drinks are created equal.
One of the most immediate benefits of enjoying a cup of tea is that it offers an invitation to slow down and relax. Simply taking the time to notice the warmth and aroma of freshly brewed tea, and to savor the variety of tastes it may offer, enhances well-being. This kind of break lets your brain to relax and recharge, and encourages your internal stress system to calm down (something we can all benefit from!). Selecting non-caffeinated herbal teas or blends that include fragrant ingredients such as ginger, cinnamon, or mint may enhance this effect.
Tea drinking has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers, and type-2 diabetes and may even encourage weight loss. These effects are due to natural, plant-based compounds (known as phytonutrients) in the leaves of Camellia sinensis, of green, black, and white teas. For the most antioxidant benefits, choose white or green teas as they undergo the least processing. Black teas are still a good option, but processing may lessen some of the antioxidant activity. Need a boost? Caffeine and threonine are also present in these types of tea, especially black tea, which can heighten mental alertness and endurance during athletic activities.
If caffeine gives you the jitters, herbal teas, which are made by steeping plant components such as roots, leaves, or berries in hot water, are worth a sip. While they are less studied, they offer a broad range of plant-based compounds that support wellness. For instance, rooibos and rosehip teas both offer significant amounts of Vitamin C, which can help reduce the duration of the common cold when you consume it on a regular basis.
And finally, tea does count toward your daily intake of hydrating beverages — even if it is caffeinated!
So, is there any downside? Consuming tea that has been sweetened with sugar or doused with cream or nondairy creamers will undercut any health benefits by adding unnecessary calories to your diet. This can especially be the case with choices such as Southern-style “sweet tea” or super-sweetened Thai-style iced tea.
Tea has a long history of offering delicious hydration that is simultaneously soothing and stimulating. So, sit back with a fragrant cup in your hands and give yourself the gift of slowing down to truly savor and enjoy tea’s unique benefits.