Athletes and consumers who want to live a healthy lifestyle are increasingly reaching out for enhanced waters and sports drinks. A growing body of scientific evidence, however, indicates that old-fashioned beverages — tea and coffee — are the elixirs for nutrition, health and workout recovery.
Modern science is only now verifying why ancient civilizations have, for millennia, depended on tea (Camellia sinensis) for medicinal purposes. The biochemical makeup of tea includes carbohydrates, enzymes, lipids, polyphenols, and proteins. Besides containing more polyphenols than many fruits and vegetables, the antioxidant-rich tea is also rich in phyto-compounds that fight cell-damaging oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a molecular imbalance that impedes the body's ability to eliminate harmful compounds that can cause cellular damage and has been associated with chronic health issues such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer. Because tea is loaded with compounds that shield cells from oxidative stress, tea is gaining popularity as a natural dietary aid to lower the risk of these conditions. Scientific research illustrates that compounds in tea are associated with the following:
• Prevention of atherosclerosis (cardiovascular health)
• Lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol (cardiovascular health)
• Protection against cancer
• Prevention of liver disease
• Improved weight loss
• Reduced risk of dying from all causes
• Prevention of blood-clot formation
• Improved recovery from heart attacks
• Lower blood pressure
• Lower risk of gallstones
• Prevention of type 2 diabetes
• Prevention of osteoporosis (bone health)
• Protection against Alzheimer’s disease (brain health)
Does the color of the tea matter?
Yes, it does.
Tea may be classified into four main categories: black, green, white, and oolong. These differ not only in appearance, flavor, potency of flavor, composition and concentration of phyto-nutrients, but also in how they are prepared and consumed.
Black tea is oxidized and fermented tea and is the strongest of all tea types. Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea made by a unique process that includes withering under the strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting into characteristic shapes. Green tea is less processed and less oxidized than the previous two types, and is steamed but not fermented like black and oolong. White tea is harvested from the delicate buds and very young leaves that are only allowed to only wilt in natural sunlight and prevented oxidation or further fermentation.
Black tea is richer in flavor and is therefore ideal for drinking with milk and a sweetener, or for making iced tea. White tea and green tea tend to be much higher in EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) an antioxidant also found in red wine, chocolate, berries and apples. Oolong tea is best when sipped in tasting cups than in a mug and may be brewed multiple times, the third or fourth steeping usually being the best.
Readers may want to know that although tea has been brewed for over 500,000 years, the tea bag, an American invention dating from 1904, is largely responsible for the ubiquity of tea around the world.
Next: Coffee perks: energy and a multitude of health benefits