Time For Tea
Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world, second only after water. Black, green, white, and oolong teas derive their leaves from a warm-weather evergreen tree known as Camellia sinensis. The leaves from this tree contain antioxidant polyphenols. Although all tea has the same origin, the differences occur in the harvesting and processing. As a general rule of thumb, the more oxidizing processing the leaves undergo, the darker they will turn.
Nutritional Breakdown of Tea
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of black tea (approximately 237 grams) contains 2 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fiber and 0 grams of protein as well as 26% of daily manganese needs and small amounts of riboflavin, folate, magnesium, potassium and copper.
Overall, this delicate brew contains few calories, helps with hydration and is a good source of antioxidants, such as catechins, known for having beneficial anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Green tea is the most studied for investigating health benefits. Studies have found that a cup of green tea contains about 105 mg of catechins and a cup of black tea only provides 10 mg. Chinese green teas are usually wok-roasted, unlike the Japanese steaming process. Both processes prevent the leaves from oxidizing and fermenting tea’s natural polyphenols. This results in a fresher, lighter flavor.
Matcha tea, which is recently gaining popularity, is finely ground or milled green tea turned into a powder. Traditional matcha tea powder is then sifted into a bowl with hot water until frothy. When drinking matcha, you consume the whole tea leaf instead of just the infusion, which experts say make matcha nutritionally superior to green tea. Among all green tea, matcha contains the highest level of catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is 137 times more than regular green tea! Amazingly, EGCG has been shown to speed up your body’s metabolism, which may help to keep the weight off.
White tea is made in a similar fashion using the newest, youngest buds of the plant in early spring. These young leaves contain little or no chlorophyll, therefore they are silvery white. White tea is the least processed tea, almost unoxidized, therefore the polyphenols are extra potent.
Black tea possesses different antioxidants as a result of an additional oxidation process. Such process decreases catechin content, but produces other unique antioxidants, namely theaflavins and thearubigins. It is indeed theaflavins that is responsible for the unique red brewed color! Studies have found that these two compounds are capable of lowering cholesterol.
Oolong tea is semi-oxidized, falls right in-between green and black tea in terms of processing. Therefore it contains antioxidant profiles of both teas, that is catechins from green tea and theaflavins and thearubigins from black tea. Oolong tea boosts metabolism, helping you burn fat faster. Its unique catechin and caffeine combination ignites your body’s fat-burning furnace and raises your metabolism. Oolong tea also contains polyphenols that help block fat-building enzymes. Studies have shown that drinking oolong tea has led to sustained weight loss and a smaller waist size.
Popular in South America, yerba mate tea contains many antioxidants and vitamins and contains the fat-fighting compound mateine, which gives you a metabolism and energy boost. Matinee has been reputed to be a cravings-killer and saves you from consuming empty calories you’d normally reach for. Yerba mate does not produce the caffeine-related crashes that some people experience with coffee and can give you 3-4 hours of very stable, clean energy.
The vast majority of the research conducted has been observational, meaning scientists can’t know if the medical boosts seen in tea drinkers are definitely a result of that habit, or some other factor that makes these people healthier. All five types above are high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that seems to protect cells from the DNA damage that can cause cancer and other diseases. It’s the polyphenols that have made tea the star of so many studies, as researchers try to figure out whether all that chemical potential translates into real disease-fighting punch.
Although herbal tea and red rooibos tea are not proven for heart health and cancer prevention, they are still plant-based drinks. Most plants contain some levels of antioxidants, as it is a natural mechanism to protect themselves against extended sun exposure.
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Brew your tea for at least 3 – 5 minutes to bring out the beneficial polyphenols. Don’t forget to enjoy the wonderful aromas of all tea!