Lessons

Drinking Health: Benefits and Misconceptions

lesson #05

"Tea is good for you!" You've likely heard this time and again. But what's the realitea?

Over the past few years a flood of reports have come in declaring the nearly miraculous effects that can occur from drinking green tea. This has brought about an increased demand for tea, especially in the United States. In this lesson, we'll recount the variety and validity of these reports, in general, as well as what they mean for you. It is not the intention of TeaClass to espouse any medical advice or claim to be expert in medical findings as they relate to tea. The global research will continue for years to come, after all. Rather, this article is meant to create a dialogue about tea and health and to shed some light on some (still common) misconceptions.

In Asia, tea has been revered for centuries as the virtual elixir of life. Only recently has this proclamation faced serious scientific inquiry. The many diverse benefits of green tea that have (so far) been partially-confirmed by science include aid against cancer, better breath, lower cholesterol, weight loss and general immune strength. However, there are other studies that seem to have uncovered a flaw in these findings.

The problem with these health benefit studies is not the validity of the results, but rather the omission of other teas. Most studies only cover a specific tea, not all teas (because the types are so numerous). For example, when testing the effects of green tea on weight loss, the results are surprising. However, what is not mentioned in this conclusion is that black tea yields nearly identical results.

Studies confirming the fact that all teas' benefits are similar are now trickling in. In Europe, scientists have concluded that black tea's benefits are consistent with green's. Studies in Taiwan are concluding that Oolong also shares these benefits. Why have so many scientists missed this connection? In short, it's because that research was originally done to confirm or disprove the Ancient Chinese claims that "green tea is good for you," rather than to explore tea's benefits as a whole.

A little common sense confirms this: all teas come from the same plant (and therefore have the same basic composition), so we expect the benefits to be similar. Slight differences may occur in the varieties (due to the way that these teas are processed), but these are not considerable. So while White tea may provide a few more antioxidants than Black tea, this amount is negligible in relation to the benefits. To build immune strength, both will help pretty much equally.

Rather, the key to receiving health benefits is simple: drink what you like. To obtain full benefits, doctors recommend drinking at least 3 - 4 cups of tea daily. That's a lot of tea- so finding one that fits your palate would be advantageous. This is why we don't recommend the traditional, supermarket quality teabags (comprised mostly of "fannings" and "dust"). They usually are made from lower quality leaves (which may contain lower antioxidant content), and the small bags prevent the proper water circulation required to pull out all of the flavor and health benefits. The good news for tea bag lovers is that the availability of high quality pyramid or sachet tea bags filled with higher quality, premium leaves is increasing rapidly.

This is not true, however, for many of the commercial bottled teas. Many tea beverages are made from tea concentrate. These have been shown to offer much less in the way of health benefits. Further, some bottled teas are primarily comprised of natural and/or artificial flavors and include very little real tea. Finally, most of these "teas" are loaded with sugar and preservatives, further widening the gap between them and good health.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, "why have I never heard this before?" Many less reputable tea companies, globally and domestically, are simply trying to get more money from the same old product. For example, by simply adding the title "Slimming" to a run-of-the-mill variety green tea, they double the price. While it's true that green tea may help the body burn calories quicker, what they neglect to mention is that all teas help the body burn calories quicker.

With only a minor word adjustment, we can maintain tea's healthy mantra. While the full extent of tea's benefits has not been realized, all the information that is currently available points to this conclusion: "all tea is good for you."

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