Tea Time!

As many of you know, if you go to my mom's, aunt's, sister's and cousin's homes, you will immediately be offered a cup of tea. Tea is not only a part of the ex-pat British community, though. People drink tea all over the world, in cups, in glasses, hot and cold. It is probably the most popular beverage going, having been enjoyed for thousands of years, by millions (billions?) of people.

Tea has also been shown to have many health benefits. And some of these benefits are thought to be related to tea’s antioxidant properties. These properties are from its flavonoids known as “catechins.” Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have a range of health benefits.

Green tea vs. black tea - What's the difference?

Tea comes from the camellia sinensis shrub that’s native to China and India. Green tea, hower, contains slightly more health-promoting flavonoids than black tea.

The difference lies in how they’re processed. When the leaves are steamed or heated, they stay green because the heat stops oxidation from turning them black. Then they’re dried to preserve the color and flavonoids (antioxidants).

When leaves are crushed and rolled, rather than heated, they continue to oxidize until they’re dry and turn black. This oxidation uses up some of the flavonoids’ antioxidant power, so black teas have slightly less ability to combat free radicals than green tea does.

Did you know? Adding milk to your tea reduces the antioxidant ability.

Both green and black teas contain about half of the caffeine in coffee. That translates to about 20-45 mg per 8 oz cup. You would never know this by me, I can't drink black or green tea unless it is decaffeinated. Otherwise, I am wide-awake past 2 am! However, I can drink caffeinated coffee - no problem. Weird, random.

Tea drinking, in general, seems to be associated with good health. Particularly heart health. Both green and black tea drinkers seem to have high levels of antioxidants in their blood compared with non-tea drinkers. Green and black tea drinkers also have lower risks of heart attacks and stroke. Drinking green tea, in particular, is associated with reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL oxidation, all of which are risk factors for heart conditions.

Antioxidants also reduce the risk of many cancers. Studies show that both green and black teas can reduce the risk of prostate cancer (the most common cancer in men). Also, green tea drinkers have a lowered risk of breast and colorectal cancers. Black tea is being researched for its potential to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Overall, antioxidant flavonoids in tea seem to help reduce the risk of some different cancers. Green tea may have a slight edge over black tea, but both seem to be associated with lower cancer risk.

Both green and black teas can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also reduce diabetes risk factors, like elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. For example, some studies have shown that both green and black teas can help reduce blood sugar levels. Other studies have shown that green tea can also improve insulin sensitivity.