Soak Up Tea's Nutritional Benefits by Ruth Underwood - CNN
Can you drink your vegetables? We're not talking smoothies here.
We're talking tea. It might seem an exaggeration to compare a cup
of tea to a serving of veggies, but there are some
Tea is "a plant-based beverage," says Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., a
Tufts University professor of nutrition. "You put those leaves in
water and you heat them up and what you're doing is extracting
these phytonutrients that are very similar to those that you find
in fruits and vegetables.
"It doesn't have some of the vitamins and minerals and the fiber
that you find in fruits and vegetables, so it's not quite
equivalent, but if we're looking at those phytochemicals, then boy,
there's actually a fair amount in tea." (
Caffeine may have benefits, too.
Phytochemicals are natural substances found in fruits and
vegetables that are believed to benefit health and reduce the risk
When you hear about the health benefits of tea, it's often those
phytochemicals that get the credit. Tea has been linked to
everything from lower risk for osteoporosis to lower incidence of
halitosis (bad breath), but more research is needed for definitive
Blumberg says substantial data do exist on tea's effectiveness
in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. For cancer, the
evidence "is strong but mixed," he says. "It's a very difficult
area. The animal-model data on tea and cancer are remarkable, and I
would tell you absolutely if you were a rat you should be drinking
lots of tea. It's a little harder, though, when you look at the
human data, where again, it's mixed."
Whatever additional benefits may be discovered, Blumberg says,
tea already has plenty of positive points that make it a great
choice as a drink. "Number One, it's a zero-calorie beverage. So,
without naming any particular sodas out there, if you think, 'Hmm,
should I have a can of soda or a cup of tea?' I can tell you from a
very professional nutrition science point of view, pick the
Before you put the teakettle on, here's something else to stew
over: Leave the dairy in the fridge. A study this month in the
European Heart Journal found that diluting your tea with milk also
dilutes the benefits. Black tea significantly improved blood flow
compared with drinking water but adding milk decreased the effect
of the tea. So, to get the full benefits, according to researchers,
you have to take your tea black.
So, how much tea should we be drinking, and what kind? Real tea
-- including varieties such as black, green, oolong and white, all
come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal teas are made from
various leaves, roots, bark or flowers. Because they can come from
so many sources, there's not as much information on their possible
But when it comes to Camellia sinensis, Blumberg says drink up.
"I tell people...if you don't drink tea, try it. Have a cup. I find
it an aromatic and delicious drink. If you already drink a cup a
day, consider having two. And so if you drink it frequently and
consistently, that's where the benefits are seen."
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