Tea is an ancient drink that has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. This is partly because we have found that there are health benefits associated with every type of tea and partly because more and more varieties are have become available.
If you are trying to drink less coffee or sugary beverages tea can be a great alternative. It helps you to cut back by providing a tasty option, especially if you don’t like drinking water.
Regardless of the type of tea you choose, drinking tea without milk or sugar is an almost calorie free way to stay hydrated. Aside from that each type of tea has its own benefits. The three main types of tea are black, green and herbal.
One word (OK, actually several words) of caution. While there are benefits to drinking tea, some types of teas can interact with medications or may not be appropriate with certain conditions. Teas may contain potent herbs and quality is not always regulated. If you wish to add any of these to your diet but are unsure of the risks, consider doing more research (the list of references is a good place to start) or consult with your physician.
Black tea is made from a variety of leaves from the tea plant. The leaves get the black colour and stronger flavour because they have been allowed to ferment and oxidize. Black tea includes varieties like Ceylon, Darjeeling, and Assam. These teas have caffeine, but likely less than coffee, depending on how strong you brew it.
Black tea contains antioxidants which are believed to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. All studies were inclusive so it is good to not expect miracles.
Green tea is also made from the leaves of the tea plant, but it’s leaves have not been allowed to oxidize. Matcha is a powder made from ground green tea leaves. It has some caffeine, but lower amounts than coffee or black tea.
Benefits – Green tea contains even more antioxidants than black. It may help to prevent heart disease and cancer. There is some evidence that green tea helps with weight loss, but the amount loss that was attributed to drinking tea is small.
Oolong and white tea are also made from tea leave and have similar benefits to green tea and black tea.
Herbal teas are not true teas. They are not made from tea leaves, but are made from herbs and other parts of various plants. The flavours are endless, especially when you consider the different mixtures available. The benefits depend on the type of plant used. I will list some of the most common.
Rooibos tea comes from the leaves of a plant grown in South Africa. It is a great substitute for real tea if you want a tea like drink without the caffeine. It can substitute for black tea in chai or for coffee in lattes.
The benefits of rooibos are its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It may have some blood pressure lowering effects, although studies have been very limited.
Hibiscus tea comes from the hibiscus flower. It has a sour taste and is a popular component in many mixed teas.
The biggest benefit of hibiscus tea is its ability to lower blood pressure in people with prehypertension. You may be finding that your blood pressure has started to rise since menopause so this tea may provide some benefit. It may also help with weight loss and with anxiety and depression.
Lavender tea comes from the lavender flower. It has a strong, but relaxing scent. You either love or hate the taste and smell of lavender so try a little before buying a large amount.
Lavender helps to reduce stress. It also helps with sleeping and is anti-inflammatory. Lavender tea contains an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals.
Chamomile tea comes from the chamomile flower. It has a mild earthy taste. It is a popular component of night time tea blends.
The advantages of chamomile tea are reducing anxiety and depression, helping with sleep and reducing inflammation. It contains many helpful antioxidants.
Peppermint tea comes from the leaves of the peppermint plant. It has a clean minty taste and is great to drink after a meal because it makes your mouth feel fresh and it aids in digestion.
Peppermint tea may also help with weight loss by helping to control appetite.
What can you do?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of teas, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the benefits of the different types of tea. Here are some ways to enjoy the benefits of tea:
- If weight loss is your goal, stick to unsweetened tea.
- Looking for a cool beverage? Brew a pot of mint or hibiscus tea and pour over ice.
- Trying to cut back on caffeine? Replace your coffee latte with a rooibos latte.
- Take a travel mug of tea with you when you go shopping to stay hydrated and avoid the temptation of overpriced coffee or sugary drinks