First introduced to Europe and then North America in the 17th century, but having an established history before then in China and the east, tea has long been a drink of choice for cultures across the world. Here we list some claimed health benefits of tea derived from the camellia sinensis plant, that is, green, black, white and oolong varieties.
1. Tea contains antioxidants called ‘flavonoids’. These compounds inhibit certain reactions in the body that release free radicals that can cause cell damage and even cancer.
2. Tea has negligible levels of carbohydrate (and calories), and provided it’s not sweetened, no sugar either. Given the numerous studies that have linked sugar to weight gain, tea is the perfect drink for inclusion in weight-loss diets where you want something a little more interesting than plain water.
3. A cup of tea has less caffeine than coffee. Technically, dry tea has more caffeine by weight than dry coffee. But more coffee is used to make the typical cup, which overall means an average cup of tea contains about 40mg of caffeine compared to 65mg for a cup of instant coffee. Caffeine in moderation means benefiting from its positive effects such as greater alertness and dopamine levels, while avoiding negative side effects such as raised blood pressure and insomnia.
4. Consuming green tea has been linked to reductions in LDL (‘bad cholesterol’) levels and body fat, though the size of any effect is debated and unproven. The antioxidants in green tea may counteract oxidative stress on the brain, prevent clogging of the arteries and help decrease the risk of having neurological disorders.
5. Black tea can supposedly help protect lungs from the damage of cigarette smoke, and also reduce the likelihood of having a stroke.
6. A large mug of tea helps keep the body hydrated, contributing to the 2 litres of fluid for men, and 1.6 litres for women, which are recommended for daily consumption by the European Food Safety Authority.
7. Finally, tea can indirectly help you to relax, having long-term benefits on blood pressure and susceptibility to all sorts of linked health problems. Just the act of taking a break from other tasks such as screen-based work, to sit down with a calming cup of warm tea, can be a great stress reduction strategy.