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Black, Red, Green and White Teas
Contrary to popular belief, black and red teas contain the same antioxidants (polyphenols) found in green tea that help prevent cancer, heart disease and stroke. However, green tea is less processed and has a higher antioxidant content, and white tea, the least-processed of all, contains the most antioxidants.
Although the drying, crushing and fermenting process used with black and red teas (as opposed to the quick steaming used for green teas) may lower antioxidant levels slightly, black and red teas are still excellent sources of polyphenols. Many experts maintain that there is little, if any, difference in overall antioxidant power among the four types of tea.
Health Benefits of Caffeinated Teas
Research indicates that caffeinated teas provide the following health benefits:
- Cardiovascular health – a Netherlands study found that the risk of fatal heart attack was 70% lower in tea drinkers (who drank 2-3 cups per day) than non-drinkers.
- Osteoporosis – Those who have been drinking tea for at least 10 years have stronger bones than non-drinkers, even when taking into account confounding variables such as smoking, exercise, body weight and age.
- Immune function – A number of studies indicate that tea may boost the immune system.
- Skin cancer – Studies suggest that tea provides benefits in the area of skin cell protection, diminishing skin cancer and skin aging risk in response to stressors such as UV.
- Colon cancer – A study found that moderate drinking of white or green tea may work as well as the prescription drug sundilac in treating cancerous tumors (though the best results were obtained using a combination of white tea and the drug).
- Other cancers – For animals, teas have shown significant protective effects against lung, skin, gastric, esophageal, hepatic, pancreatic, small intestinal, colon, bladder and breast cancer.
- Cavity prevention – Tea is a great source of fluoride and tannins, which help to prevent cavities.
- Weight loss – Research indicates that drinking 5 cups of green tea increases metabolic rate sufficiently to burn an additional 70 to 80 calories each day. Tea is a better choice for long-term healthy weight maintenance than coffee, which can promote short-term weight loss but increases the likelihood of weight gain in the long run. Experts maintain that black tea is just as effective as green tea in supporting weight loss efforts.
- Parkinson’s disease – Emerging evidence suggests that drinking tea cuts the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, which causes involuntary trembling, muscle stiffness and movement difficulties.
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – Studies support a link between tea drinking and lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Tea appears to assist in the maintenance and repair of brain cells and helps to prevent cognitive decline.
Maximizing Health Benefits
Benefits are generally achieved by drinking at least 2 cups per day, though John Weisburger, PhD and senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, NY, recommends having 6-10 cups over the course of the day. He also suggests that those who are concerned about caffeine can substitute naturally decaffeinated teas, which maintain their health-protecting antioxidants.
Health-Protective Effects of Herbal Teas
Herbal teas do not offer the same benefits as caffeinated teas. However, many popular herbal teas offer other health benefits that have been supported by scientific research.