Considering how perfectly relaxing it is to brew a hot cup of tea when it’s cold outside, it’s no surprise that January is National Hot Tea Month. Whether you’re a diehard coffee drinker who’s never so much as heard of rooibos, or you’re a tea aficionado with tins upon tins of loose-leaf blends in your cabinets, now’s the time to up your tea game and contribute to your healthy lifestyle. Tea has all kinds of health benefits, and no two blends have exactly the same properties. Here are some of the health benefits associated with different types of tea, as well as some ideas for how you can celebrate this month.
“Tea is the most popular drink across the globe.”
The health benefits of tea
Aside from water, tea is the most popular drink across the globe, according to Real Simple magazine. It’s been a staple of healthy diets for thousands of years in the East, and it’s finally caught on in the West, where researchers have been working hard to discover exactly what it is about these beverage varieties that keeps people coming back for more.
WebMD notes that multiple studies have found that some types of teas can help prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Other varieties can encourage weight loss, lower cholesterol or improve mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities, according to the source.
“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” said American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD, quoted by WebMD. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”
More specific benefits of drinking tea, according to Time magazine, include:
- Reduced risk of heart attack
- Increased exercise endurance
- Fights free radicals
- Reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease
- Ultraviolet radiation protection
- Lower body mass index
- Helps diabetics process sugars
- Improves bone mineral density and strength
- Reduced risk of degenerative cognitive diseases.
“Black tea accounts for about 75 percent of global tea consumption.”
Most popular varieties
Not all teas are created equal. There are tons of different varieties to explore, and each blend has its own special qualities and benefits that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re not sure which types of tea should make it into your shopping cart, check out this quick primer:
- Black tea: Real Simple noted that black tea is the most common type of tea, accounting for about 75 percent of global tea consumption. It’s made from eaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, and has the most caffeine – about 40 milligrams per cup. Black tea also has tons of antioxidants called theaflavins and thearubigins, which have been linked to lower levels of cholesterol, noted the source.
- Green tea: Green tea has a more delicate flavor than black tea and almost half of the caffeine. It’s one of the most widely studied types of tea, so its health benefits are well-documented. Green tea’s catechins, specifically EGCG, can help prevent all kinds of diseases, from cancer to heart disease.
- White tea: White tea has an even milder flavor and less caffeine than green tea. The leaves are picked when they’re very young, and are much less processed. Some studies have suggested that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to other types of teas, according to WebMD. White tea may also help diabetics better process sugar.
- Oolong tea: This type of tea is similar to black tea, but has a richer flavor and slightly less caffeine. It’s been suggested to aid in weight loss, and may help reduce levels of bad cholesterol.
- Rooibos tea: Also known as red tea, rooibos is made from a South African herb. It has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, but WebMD noted that scientific studies have been limited.
- Chamomile tea: This herbal tea is often marketed as a way to reduce stress and relax, but it has other benefits as well. The source noted that its antioxidants can help prevent diabetes complications like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, as well as stunt cancer cell growth.
Ideas for how to celebrate
Now that you know a little more about tea and its health benefits, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to pay homage to this important beverage this month. Grab your favorite mug, heat up some water and consider a few of these tea-centric ideas:
- Visit a specialty tea shop
- Try a new variety or flavor
- Buy yourself a new mug
- Make your own herbal tea
- Brush up on your tea steeping methods
- Purchase a fancy new infuser
- Buy a chic new teapot
- Swap your morning coffee for a morning cup of tea
- Cook with tea.
No matter what you do, chances are you’ll find that tea is a delicious, satisfying addition to your daily routine that can help you achieve your health goals. Just make sure you’re not adding unhealthy ingredients to your cup – stick to natural sweeteners and low-fat dairy.