I talk a lot about tea because it is flavorful, versatile, and so very good for you. The benefits of tea are outweighed only by its flavor.
This is one of my favorite superfoods because it is inexpensive and readily available just about everywhere in the world. Second only to water in consumption globally, tea offers outstanding health perks you simply can’t find anywhere else.
What more can you ask for in the pursuit of a healthy eating plan?
A few interesting benefits of tea…
- Tea is sometimes (but not always) caffeine free. Black tea has double the caffeine as other tea varieties but is still naturally half the caffeine content of coffee.
- Just as with coffee, what you add to your tea raises calories but doesn’t negate the health benefits found in the leaves.
- It is naturally nutrient-dense with low calories and high nutritional impact.
- The benefits of tea are present whether it is served cold or hot.
- The earliest mention of tea was made almost 10,000 years ago!
- The most popular variety in the United States is black tea.
- Overall strength of health benefits relies heavily on tea quality but all teas (even cheap ones) contain antioxidants that help your body.
- There are more than 3,000 tea varieties but they are either black, white, green, oolong, or pu-erh categories. Each of these are members of the Camellia sinensis family.
- Teas are different from “tisanes,” which are not actually “tea.” Tisanes are primarily for medicinal purposes and are made from steeping certain plant seeds, roots, flowers, fruits, or herbs in hot water. True “herbal tea” will not contain the leaves.
There are literally thousands of varieties of tea around the world. Every country has a type that is unique to their culture. The same type of tea may taste very different depending on the region where you drink it each time. Climate, processing, and preparation easily changes the taste and appearance of teas.
With so many possibilities, I wanted to share my five favorite teas that I always make sure are in my pantry. They are easy to prepare, available in most markets, and absolutely delicious for any occasion.
1. Green Tea: The studies involving green tea over the last few years is impressive. One of the most powerful ingredients found in this variety is Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant that proven to protect your DNA from cell mutation. It also contains compounds that aid brain health, improve fat burning, and boost overall metabolism. According to the Cleveland Clinic, green tea protects your heart, lowers your risk of cancer, and fights infection.
2. Matcha Tea: This is a younger, powdered version of the mature green tea (a little harder to find) and is very popular in Asian culture for improving the mind and enhancing calm. It is made from young green tea leaves and ground into powder. Look for ceremonial grade, since culinary grade is used more for cooking and baking. Initial studies have found that it boosts energy levels, strengthens the immune system, and protects the body in even better concentrations that green tea due to more than 130 times the flavonol content. This is the tea variety with the most caffeine.
3. Peppermint Tea: This is an “herbal tea” – meant for more medicinal purposes – but I just love it. Peppermint is excellent for digestion and to settle just about every stomach ailment you might have (including morning sickness, according to several friends). It’s also proven beneficial to overall respiration, eases sinus discomfort, and helps to alleviate stress. It is an easy herb to grow on your kitchen windowsill and readily available in tea shops worldwide. It is naturally caffeine free and antimicrobial.
4. Ginger Tea: This is a great tea to select if you have fatigue, need to cleanse your system gently, or simply want to balance yourself mentally after a long day. The scent and antioxidants are well known for improving libido, easing pain, and even helping to settle an upset stomach caused by motion sickness.
5. Chamomile Tea: Another “herbal tea,” chamomile has been around for thousands of years. You probably know about it through older women in your family who have passed down the secret to calm. It has a gentle (and completely natural) sedative effect that soothes nerves, lowers stress, and aids in quality sleep. New research has also found it to be anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and excellent for controlling blood sugar. It is caffeine free.
Green tea is my particular favorite because it is always available locally but I love to supplement the other teas when I can find them in my area.
To encourage myself to drink more tea (and a bit less coffee), I brew a bigger batch to drink throughout the day.
I fill a full kettle and when the water reaches a full boil, I add the tea bags, turn off the heat, and steep it in the kettle for five minutes. I remove the tea bags, cool, and pour in a glass jar.
Note: For green tea, turn off your kettle just before boiling and steep for only three minutes. For black tea or herbal teas let the water come to a boil and then steep for 5 minutes.
After I’ve enjoyed my steaming hot cup of tea. I keep the leftover tea in my refrigerator.
Occasionally, I sweeten with a tiny bit of organic honey but I’ve found that my making my own tea bags with loose teas in unbleached paper tea bags let the true flavor of tea shine through.
You can even add an herbal tea bag (citrus or peppermint is an excellent option) or a sprig of fresh mint, rosemary, or chunk of ginger to your tea pot to provide enough natural sweetness that nothing else is needed.
It’s a healthy, unsweetened beverage that quenches thirst while providing all the benefits tea is so good at delivering.
A Word of Caution
As with every food (superfood or not), if you have pre-existing health conditions, you must make sure you are able to drink herbal tea without incident.
Pregnant or nursing mothers are cautioned to limit caffeine intake so it is important to select teas that are caffeine free. They should not take their prenatal vitamins with black tea. It may block vitamin absorption.
If you’re currently taking blood thinners, avoid green tea as it might block the pharmaceutical effects of the prescriptions you’re taking.
Last (but not least), if you have allergies, stay away from blends that contain flowers or herbs that may irritate your condition.
More on the Benefits of Tea
Tea is excellent when applied topically (after cooling) to your skin and several studies have tied many varieties to weight loss and sustaining a healthy body weight.
Do yourself a favor and avoid the bottled junk because it loses all the good stuff in processing.
Your easiest choice is loose green tea or other herbal teas found in most natural food grocers or online – as long as you brew it yourself.
As with most superfoods, consuming tea as close to its natural state as possible is best.
As Thomas G. Sherman, an associate professor with Georgetown University Medical Center explained, “We don’t clearly understand why tea is so beneficial, but we know it is.”
The options are endless! Drink up!