Drinking almost any type of tea will likely improve your health in some way. But as you age, the health benefits become increasingly more important. Many teas have healthy levels of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. But what you may not know is not all healthy brews are actually tea.
True teas are made strictly from the camellia senensis plant, which contain high amounts of epigallocatechin, or EGCG, as well as other antioxidants and protective chemicals. These true tea varieties include white tea, green tea, oolong tea, and black or red tea. The difference in the flavor profile, acidity and tannins, antioxidant levels, and color of the teas derives from the different process each tea goes through to become those recognizable steep-able leaves.
1. White Tea
Although green tea is the most researched tea and has earned the reputation of being the healthiest tea on the market, white tea is actually even better for you. White tea is the least processed of all true teas. It has the highest antioxidants and lowest caffeine of true teas, and a host of benefits.
Research in white tea shows drinking several cups of white tea per day can protect and repair skin damaged by harmful UV light, shielding skin cells from premature aging. It can also reduce the risk of cancer while improving cardiovascular and oral health. The tannins and antioxidant polyphenols and flavonoids help inhibit growth of oral bacteria. The natural fluoride in white tea may also reduce the risk of tooth decay and cavities. The flavonoids are associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and reduced blood pressure.
The helpful compounds in white tea also contain antibacterial properties and support the immune system. This helps defend the body against pathogens, infections and some medical conditions cause by a weakened immune system.
Studies also suggest white tea may disrupt the production, or adipogenesis, of fat cells called adipocytes. This can help in weight loss and maintaining a healthy amount of body fat.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is fermented longer than white tea. Although still teeming with polyphenols and EGCG, green tea has less antioxidants and more caffeine than white tea. But the green variety can still protect your cells and DNA from damage by free radicals. It can also increase immunity, and naturally boost your energy levels, among many other benefits.
Oolong is a lightly fermented true tea with many of the same properties as white tea; such as boosting metabolism, promoting weight loss, lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar. Other benefits include aiding in digestion, increasing mental alertness, and promoting healthier hair and skin.
Oolong can promote healthier, fuller hair growth when applied as a rinse. It can also suppress immune responses associated with eczema and allergic reactions, keeping your skin clear and healthier.
Matcha is a powder made from green tea that is specially grown, fermented, harvested and dried. It is traditionally prepared in a tea ceremony, but can be made in a modern way. Drink it warm, not boiling, or add it to ice cream, desserts or chilled drinks. Because matcha powdered is a concentrated preparation of the classic brewed tea, it boasts higher levels of antioxidants per cup. Enjoy the beneficial properties of green tea in a condensed form.
5. Kombucha & Jun
Kombucha is a healthy beverage made from fermenting green and/or black tea with a special starter called a mushroom or SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Kombucha is a great source of B-vitamins, living probiotics and digestive enzymes. You can brew it yourself once you find a starter SCOBY or you can usually find bottled Kombucha in supermarkets of health food stores.
Jun is a more delicate and specially prepared tea ferment. You’ll likely have to brew this one yourself because it is not readily available in most stores. It is made with green tea, raw honey and a Jun SCOBY, not a Kombucha SCOBY. The flavor is milder and more complex than Kombucha, but is also easier to spoil and ferment improperly.
Red and black teas are also made from the camellia senensis plant. They are actually the same type of tea; called red mostly by the Chinese for its red color when brewed, and black by most of the rest of the world for the dark coloration of the dried leaves. Red/black tea is the most processed and oxidized, least healthy, and highest in caffeine of all true teas. It’s high tannin levels may also irritate drinkers who have sensitive stomachs or issues with acid reflux. If you’re going to drink tea for taste, black tea is a fine choice.
If you are interested in improving your health, try white, green and fermented teas!