According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc., over 159 million Americans drink tea each day. Last year, Americans consumed about 3.8 billion gallons of tea. About 80% of tea drank in American is iced tea. That’s a lot of tea!
In recent years, you may have seen tea and tea products touted as “health foods.” Does tea offer health benefits? If so, which type of tea is best? Does it matter how you prepare it? Keep reading to learn more.
Types of Tea
Teas come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, a shrub native to Asia. After this plant is harvested, the leaves begin to wilt and oxidize (a chemical reaction that happens when a substance is exposed to oxygen). Types of tea are differentiated by how long the leaves are allowed to oxidize.
|Type||Oxidation of Leaves||Flavor|
|Black Tea||Wilted, bruised, rolled, fully oxidized leaves||Robust flavor with the most caffeine|
|Oolong Tea||Wilted and partially oxidized leaves||Earthy and floral|
|Green Tea||Fresh leaves steamed||Earthy with sweet notes|
|White Tea||Young leaves and growth buds||Sweet and milder|
Black tea counts for about 3/4 of all tea consumed around the world. Green tea is the second most-consumed type of tea. Did you know? Herbal teas are not actually tea but blends of dried fruits, herbs, and flowers.
Health Benefits and Risks of Tea
Both black tea and green tea do appear to be beneficial in reducing the risk factors for heart disease because of tea’s antioxidant effects. Black tea appears to lower the incidence of heart attacks. And, green tea helps improve cholesterol levels.
Studies of green tea and cancer in people have been inconclusive so the National Cancer Institute does not recommend for or against using green tea to reduce cancer risk. Studies are still ongoing.
Based on research, green tea has not shown to speed, induce, or maintain weight loss. (Tea [without added sugar] is a low-calorie drink, so it can be part of a weight loss plan, but it does not increase the rate of weight loss.)
Be wary of green tea supplements. Talk to you healthcare team before you take any new supplements. Supplements can interfere with medications.
Myeloma patients receiving the drug bortezomib (Velcade®) should avoid green tea. The polyphenols in green tea can inhibit the effects of the treatment. If you are on medication or receiving cancer treatment, ask your doctor if there are any foods or beverages you should avoid.
Green tea can reduce the effectiveness of some other drugs as well. Green tea has been found to interfere with the drug nadolol, a beta-blocker used for high blood pressure and heart problems. A small number of people have also reported liver problems from taking concentrated green tea extracts.
What’s the bottom line?
For most people, tea can be part of your healthy menus! Enjoy a cup for the added heart-health and antioxidant benefits. Tea is low in calories, but keep an eye on what you add to your cup, specifically sugar. Lots of pre-brewed and bottled teas already contain sugar. Since tea contains caffeine, be careful with your intake. Too much caffeine can make you feel jittery and can make it difficult to sleep. Try decaf versions of your favorite tea instead.
Always discuss food restrictions with your healthcare team when starting a new treatment or medication.