Sip Your Way to Good Health
Joe. Java. Mud. No matter what you call it, coffee is a huge part of American culture, with 62 percent of us drinking the stuff every day. And for many of us, that morning cuppa is simply non-negotiable. While coffee does have health benefits (regular consumption has been linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes and depression), it may not be the best choice for everyone. With its high caffeine content, your morning coffee may lead to dependency, increased anxiety, caffeine jitters and crashes, worsened heartburn, and even trouble sleeping. However, swapping coffee for tea can provide you with those same health benefits—and so many more—without the nasty side effects.
All "TRUE" TEA—that is, black, white, green, and oolong tea—comes from the leaves of the tea plant, camellia sinensis. What differentiates each of the four types is when they are harvested and how they are prepared. Research shows that drinking tea is associated with a number of health benefits including reduced inflammation; a decreased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes; and the prevention of cancer and cognitive decline. While all tea is healthy and packed with antioxidant compounds called polyphenols or flavonoids, each type of tea offers its own benefits:
• Green tea is perhaps the healthiest tea as it is especially rich in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a kind of polyphenol known as a catechin that has been linked to a number of health benefits. These include improved heart, brain, and liver function; increased metabolism, cancer prevention, lower blood sugar, increased insulin sensitivity, and skin health. While there are at least 20 different kinds of green tea, matcha may be the best of the best when it comes to health benefits. Green tea leaves are ground into a fine powder to make matcha, and the powder is then blended in water—no straining required. Because you consume the whole leaf when you drink matcha, you are getting the cup richest in disease-fighting EGCG.
• White tea is the youngest and least “processed” form of tea, as it is made from the buds and very young leaves of the tea plant, and like its slightly olde
r cousin green tea, it is not oxidized. This mild tea has a slightly higher amount of antioxidants than most green tea varieties as well as the lowest caffeine content, making it a great swap for the caffeine sensitive and/or those looking to reduce their caffeine intake. White tea is particularly rich in manganese which supports bone health and lowers the risk of age-related osteoporosis.
• Oolong tea provides a happy medium between green and black tea. It only undergoes partial oxidation and offers a less floral profile than green tea and a milder taste than black. It even offers a little extra bang for your buck, as many oolong varieties can be steeped multiple times. While oolong’s unique benefits have not been as widely studied as those of green tea, there is evidence to suggest that it may be especiall
y beneficial for weight loss and may even improve oral health. One study found that oolong tea is as effective as prescription chlorhexidine mouthwash at killing gingivitis bacteria!
• Black tea is on the opposite end of the tea spectrum from white tea being the fully oxidized form of the camellia sinensis leaf. Unlike white and green tea, catechin polyphenols are converted to theaflavins during the oxidation process; however, they are no less powerful in their antioxidant capabilities. Black tea, as well as green, also contains l-theanine, an amino acid linked to improved concentration and cognitive ability, less stress and anxiety, and help for insomnia. Black tea has the highest caffeine content of the four tea types (typically averaging 47 mgs per serving), making it a great alternative to coffee when you need an energy boost without the crash or the jitters.
Finally, there is a fifth type of tea—HERBAL TEA. However,
herbal tea is not true tea, but a tisane. Tisanes are blends of dried fruit, flowers, herbs, and/or spices brewed in water and have been used as natural medicines and remedies for centuries. While the world of tisanes is virtually limitless, I’ve included some of the most popular tisanes and what they’re most commonly used for.
• Ginger tea is a reliable nausea remedy and contains the powerful antioxidant gingerol which makes ginger root such a powerful disease-fighter.
• Peppermint tea has long been used to soothe an upset stomach as well as irritable bowel symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory powers aren’t limited to digestion, however. Peppermint tea is also great at easing congestion when you’re dealing with a cold or allergies.
• Chamomile tea may be best known for its calming powers before bedtime, but the chamomile flower can do so much more. Research links it to several possible benefits including lowering the risk of heart disease, boosting the immune system, preventing age-related bone loss, and treating PMS.
• Hibiscus tea, made from the hibiscus flower, is colorful, tart, and has been linked to a number of health benefits in large part due to its rich antioxidant content. Hibiscus tea has been proven to lower blood pressure, LDL choleste
rol, and triglycerides as well as protect the liver from a variety of toxins.
While the world of tea is quite vast, tea simply isn’t everyone’s cup of tea! If you’re looking for a heartier COFFEE ALTERNATIVE, there are several unique options that will satisfy your taste buds while also providing health benefits.
• Yerba mate is unlike most herbal teas, made from the naturally caffeinated evergreen leaves of a type of South American holly tree. Yerba mate can be an excellent source of energy for the caffeine conscious as it generally cont
ains less than a cup of coffee but more than a cup of black tea. Yerba mate is also rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols and saponins, that boost the immune system and protect DNA from oxidation.
• Golden milk is a warm and soothing latte-like beverage made from ground turmeric. Curcumin, the powerful compound found in turmeric, has been linked to a number of health benefits including reduced pain and inflammation as well as help for depression. To make golden milk, whisk a half teaspoon of ground turmeric into your milk of choice along with freshly ground ginger, cinnamon, black pepper (which makes turmeric more bioavailable), and optional honey to taste. Enjoy hot or pour over ice for a
refreshingly anti-inflammatory drink.
• Chicory “coffee” is for those looking for a caffeine-free coffee alternative that’s just as earthy and flavorful. It is made from ground and roasted chicory root. Chicory root is rich in energizing vitamin B6 as well as prebiotic fiber and inulin, making it an excellent choice for improved digestion, regularity, and a healthy gut microbiome.
• Brewed cacao alternatively, is an energizing coffee alternative that won’t leave you jittery. Similar to yerba mate, cacao beans contain theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine but that offers a longer-lasting, more stable buzz without the spike and crash. You can enjoy brewed cacao as a powder whisked into milk or ground and brewed in water similar to coffee.
• Mushroom elixirs are a truly unique coffee alternative. While there are a variety of blends and types, mushroom elixirs are rich in antioxidants and full of prebiotics that support gut and digestive health. Additionally, they contain antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties. To aid exercise performance, look for
a with cordyceps mushrooms which contain adenosine triphosphate (ATP) responsible for transporting energy to muscles. For a supercharged immune boost, try reishi mushrooms which have been linked to white blood cell health.
Whether it’s a tea or a tisane, served hot or iced, there is a whole wonderful world of healthy brewed beverages for anyone looking to shake up their morning coffee routine.
you’d like to learn more about how tea and tisanes can help you achieve optimal health, contact me.