Heart disease, osteoporosis, colon and ovarian and prostate cancers, gum disease and oral infections, anxiety, dementia, obesity—the list of human ailments goes on and on. And although there may not be a catchall solution, science says drinking tea is an effective preventative measure and good for overall health.
Be it black, white, green or oolong, every variety of tea comes from one single plant found in a small handful of Asian countries. Whether the leaves are steamed and parched or left to wither and ferment naturally—the way in which the plant is dried determines color, quality, and type of tea. Each drying method generates changes in the chemical makeup of the leaf, and it’s these unique chemical alterations that make tea good for our health.
For the digestive system, green, white, and oolong teas accelerate slowing metabolisms, helping our bodies burn nearly 16% more fat. When dieting, green tea increases satiation and satisfaction, curbing hunger longer and better than water. Research also suggests green tea fosters growth of “good” bacteria we need in our gut—without which the digestive tract becomes inflamed, often leading to an incredibly painful condition known as Crohn’s disease. A natural anti-oxidant, tea also affects bad bacteria, inhibiting its growth and reducing the subsequent risks of gum disease, tooth loss, the development of cavities, and the particular oral and pharyngeal cancers associated with them. Regular green tea drinkers are much less likely to develop coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases. And furthermore, studies suggest black tea lowers the risk of heart-attack and reduces overall stroke counts by 24%.
Drinking tea is good for men and women and their corresponding medical conditions. For men, risk of prostate cancer significantly lowers when they drink green tea. Remarkably, a study in Italy found just one case of cancer within a group of 30 men who daily ingested 600mg of green tea extract—contrast that with the nine tumors found amongst the group of men who did not. For women, a single cup of green or black tea per day lowers their risk of ovarian cancer by 18%, according to a recent Swedish study. And yerba mate tea is useful for women in the prevention of osteoporosis as it contains the very metabolite that contributes to greater levels of bone-mass-density.
The benefits of drinking tea extend well beyond the body as it aids in overall psychological health and improving cognitive functioning. With neuroimaging technology, scientists were able to visually see parts of the brain and monitor their responses to tea. They observed that green tea extracts actually increase neural activity in regions responsible for learning, improving overall working memory processes.
Alzheimer’s disease is the permanent loss of memory and impairment of working memory. Green and black teas aid in its prevention by constraining production of the very enzymes linked to its onset. Beneficial for psychological health, tea is one of the few natural sources of the amino acid—L-theanine. This acid helps the brain release serotonin and dopamine, and decreases overall intensity of nervous system responses, which is essential for managing anxiety.
Opting for sugary sodas, highly caffeinated lattes, or energy drinks with almost no nutritional value, only 15% of Americans drink tea on a daily basis. The rest of the world drinks tea more than any other beverage (after water), and they are reaping the benefits. Many claim that tea—well—just isn’t their cup of tea. It can certainly taste bitter if over-steeped and weak if under-steeped, but it’s nothing a little milk and honey can’t fix. And with all the suggested health benefits of drinking tea, it’s worth a try.