Apr 18

April 18, 2014

Tea’s good for you, have a cup!

Tea’s good for you, have a cup!

I’ll be honest, I’m exhausted trying to keep up with the latest food fads in terms of health benefits. I feel bad that I’m not making a chia seed smoothie or spooning coconut oil on everything I eat. That’s not to say I don’t like to take care of myself, though, because I do. Like many people, I have a busy life where, for five days a week, it’s a miracle I get my five cups of tea a day.

healthy glass of tea

A healthy glass of tea

I’ve heard people talk about the virtues of green tea, and how it can do wonders for your health. But how much of that is actually true? And what about plain old black tea? I drink buckets of the stuff!

Well for a start, in the Western world, we average four cups of tea a day. And if you have it with milk, then you’re getting around 15% of your daily calcium intake. Add to that, though, potassium, zinc, manganese and a few B vitamins (2,6, and 12) and you’ve got between 5-20% of your RDA for these nutrients. The amounts vary depending on number of cups and if you take it with or without milk.

While that may sound impressive, is it? Umm, yes, actually. Getting enough of the above nutrients is essential for growth. And I’m not just talking height. We all know calcium is important for healthy bones, but so is manganese as it also helps with cartilage formation. Zinc and B12 are central to tissue repair and nerve health, while potassium is also good for regulating fluid in the body. (Ladies, take note).

Tea is also chock-full of little health bombs called antioxidants. These protect us from nasties such as heart disease, cancers and strokes. They work in a mysterious way that has something to do with free radicals roaming your body trying to do harm. Antioxidants keep them in check. This means they help fight inflammation, boost your immune system and help counter-balance your cholesterol after a massive cheeseburger.

The particular type of antioxidants found in tea are called flavonoids. You can also find them in apples, onions and parsley. Personally though, I’d rather go for wine, tea and chocolate where they can also be found. The tea plant has the highest amount of flavonoids though and so counts for more than half the flavonoid consumption in tea-drinking Europe.

That doesn’t mean we can shun the fruits and vegetables however. The amount of flavonoids in your cup depends a lot on the quality of your tea—fresh loose leaf over tea bag is best. And also whether it’s black or green tea you’re drinking. Green tea has more of the so-called ‘simple antioxidants’ due to early picking, while black tea gets more oxygen and so has more ‘complex’ antioxidants.

 

Some recent studies have even gone on to suggest that around three cups of tea a day can help prevent against crippling long-term diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. There have been more concrete cases for tea helping with arthritis and preventing cancer.

For general, everyday health though, tea, green in particular, helps fight against plaque, wards off the flu and helps calm you down after a stressful meeting with your boss/mother-in-law/college professor thanks to its ability to help lower blood pressure. Plus, contrary to old wives tales, there is less caffeine in tea. Meaning you get that refreshed feeling without the mid-afternoon crash or not being able to sleep at night.

Of course, all of this goes out the window if you accompany your cup with a massive slice of cake. But everything in moderation. After all what is it they say about the 80/20 rule?

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Jan 15

January 15, 2014

Drinking Green Tea or White Tea and Weight Loss

Drinking Green Tea or White Tea and Weight Loss

Drinking tea can lead to weight loss. You’ve heard this before, I’m sure. In fact, if you search for those very words, you will get back thousands of results with articles about the weight loss benefits of tea, green tea and white tea especially. Many of those articles are trying to sell you something and that is why they are so excited about explaining how tea can help you lose weight. Sadly, the truth is that drinking tea does not directly lead to weight loss.

green tea plant

That is not to say that tea is not healthy and that it does not help you lose weight. It just doesn’t do so directly. What this means is that starting to drink tea one day will not result in the pounds melting off the next. In fact, if the only change you make in your life is drinking tea and everything else stays the same, you will not lose a single pound.

How can people say that drinking green tea or white tea leads to weight loss then? Well, first of all, when people begin drinking tea, they drink less of something else. We only need so much liquid per day, so every cup of tea replaces a cup of some other liquid and usually that other liquid is much less healthy than tea. The type of people who are trying to lose weight generally drink a lot of unhealthy drinks, like sodas and other drinks with a ton of sugar. When they start drinking tea, they will drink fewer of these unhealthy drinks and that will help them lose weight. The weight loss does not result directly from the tea intake, but from what was given up for that tea.

Beyond that, drinking tea functions as a type of signal. By this I mean it is a signal to yourself, to your mind, that you will now begin to live healthier. It is an easy first step on the road to a healthier lifestyle. In order to actually lose weight, you will need to change your diet and it would not hurt to exercise as well. The steps are fairly hard, but just adding tea to your daily routine is relatively simple. Because of this, many people begin with the tea and then take on incrementally more difficult tasks that can result in weight loss. In this way, a daily tea habit is a great beginning to a healthier lifestyle.

For this article I have mentioned green tea and white tea, but any other tea made from the actual tea plant is just as healthy. Herbal teas do not enter into the equation here. They come from different plants and as such have very different properties from real tea. Some of them are very healthy and some of them don’t do much at all. They are beyond the scope of this article and you’ll have to look elsewhere to find out about herbal teas.

As far as actual teas go, we have the two I have already mentioned plus oolong tea, black tea, yellow tea and pu erh tea. You will find a ton of articles on each of these, many of them claiming that whatever tea they are talking about is the healthiest and that you should buy their pills or supplements or whatever, but the truth is the health benefits of every one of these teas is about the same. The type of tea does not have as much effect on this as other factors, like the type of plant the tea leaves cam from or the location where the plant was grown or the manner in which it was processed.

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Jan 14

January 14, 2014

matcha green tea with dessert

Which Tea is the Healthiest?

You’ll hear a lot of different answers to this question and they’re mostly all right and all wrong. Others make it simple: the healthiest tea is matcha. This is a high quality powdered green tea from Japan. It is made by grinding the tea leaves from the highest-quality teas into a fine powder. Because of this the whole leaves are consumed, not just the brewed essence, which means the health benefits are multiplied by a factor of at least 10. For more on matcha green tea powder, go here.

matcha green tea with dessert

A cup of Matcha green tea with a sweet called mochi

Apart from matcha, it gets a little bit complicated. Mostly you’ll hear that white tea is the next healthiest, but that isn’t really true. It often gets credit for having less caffeine and more nutrients, but none of those things really depend on the type of the tea. They depend on the tea plant itself and the area and manner in which it is grown. This means that a white tea from a less healthy plant is less healthy than a white tea from a healthier plant. Similarly the less healthy white tea is less healthy than a black tea from a healthier plant. Does that make sense?

Because of this, I wouldn’t worry too much about what type of tea you’re drinking. It’s hard to know what kind of plant it came from and where it came from and how it was grown. You’re best off just drinking whatever you prefer and whatever one tastes best to you, as the differences in the health benefits are not generally all that great anyway.

The one thing you might want to look out for are human pollutants. By that I mean chemicals, pesticides, etc. You want to be especially wary of these in teas from China and even more in teas from India. Regulation is somewhat lax in these countries and enforcement is virtually nonexistent due to ridiculous levels of corruption. It’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting when you buy an Indian or a Chinese tea. That said, you could say the same thing for any food we buy. Personally, I tend not to even worry about it, since there is nothing I can do. If I like the taste of the tea, I’ll drink it.

So what was my conclusion exactly? Well, I guess I didn’t really have one. Basically, if you’re drinking tea especially for the health benefits, you’ll want to go with matcha. The main problem with this green tea powder is that it is very difficult to brew. Luckily, you don’t have to brew it. As a powder it can easily be added to all kinds of foods and there are hundreds of recipes to be found online. After that, I’d go for whatever you like. Personally, I enjoy green teas like sencha from Japan or, if you prefer milder tea, a Dragon well from China. White teas are also incredibly delicious. Here I’d recommend the highest-quality white hair silver needle, or the second highest-quality white peony. Whatever you choose, make sure to follow the brewing instructions carefully, so that you get a cup you’ll actually enjoy. Here’s to your new healthy lifestyle.

For more on white tea:

(1) White tea guide from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_tea

(2) White tea guide from Let’s Drink Tea: http://www.letsdrinktea.com/types-of-tea/white-tea/

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Jan 14

January 14, 2014

tea farm in kagoshima japan

Where does tea come from?

I suppose most people know tea originated in Asia, but do you know which country? And you know where all it is produced today? The answer to the first question is China. The answer to the second is pretty much everywhere. Okay, not quite, but it is produced in a lot more countries than you might think.

tea farm in kagoshima japan

Tea plantation in Kagoshima, Japan

Originally, tea was grown in China. From there it spread to Japan (go here for a budget travel guide) and I suppose also to Korea (travel guide found here), although the Koreans don’t really drink tea the way the Japanese and the Chinese do. Eventually, tea was brought to India from China by the British. They were tired of having to trade with the Chinese for their tea and was looking to create a source of their own.

China Japan and India (head here for a guide) are probably the top three tea drinking countries in the world today. They are also three of the top suppliers. Japan produces almost only green tea, while India produces mostly black, although their Darjeeling tea, while considered a black, is actually an oolong tea. China produces every kind of tea. It is the biggest tea producer on earth.

Other countries that produce large amounts of tea are Sri Lanka (try here for a travel guide) which produces mostly black and some green and Kenya (Kenyan guide here). Even the US produces tea, with Hawaii beginning to grow more and more oolong tea. On top of these countries, there are hundreds of others that produce their own teas, but most of them are not well known yet. And they will probably never be all that well known.

The most famous and highest-quality teas come from four countries: China (travel guide for China found here), Japan, India, and Sri Lanka. Japan produces the highest quality overall, with China coming in second. China loses a lot of points because, although they produce some of the best teas on earth, they also produce a lot of really low quality crap. India is the same but to an even higher degree. Darjeeling is famous as one of the best teas on earth and it is a good tea, but there is just too much horrible tea being passed off as Darjeeling.

If you want to try the highest-quality teas on earth, try a gyokuro from Japan for the best green tea.. For the best white tea, you want a white hair silver needle from China. For the best oolong, you’ll want a big red rope from China. For the best black tea you what a Golden Monkey tea from China or perhaps a Darjeeling from India.

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Jan 14

January 14, 2014

healthy green tea

How Tea Led to a Healthier Lifestyle

I’m sure by now you’ve heard that tea is considered healthy. Drinking this ancient drink from Asia supposedly has all kinds of health benefits, but the truth is, none of tea’s health benefits have ever really been proven. That said, tea does make you healthier and I am living proof. How so you ask?

Well, what makes tea so healthy is not what is in it, though I have no doubt it is filled with healthy components despite the fact that none of the health benefits have been proven, but in what it replaces. When you start drinking a lot of tea every day, it’s only natural that you start drinking less of whatever you were drinking before. And unless you were drinking water or lemon juice with no sugar added, there’s a good chance tea is healthier than your previous drink of choice.

In my case, I had a liter a day coke habit. That’s the disgustingly sweet drink, not the white powder. When I started drinking tea, I stopped drinking Coke. I just wasn’t thirsty enough to drink more. And the most amazing thing happened: I started to hate Coke. Where before, I could drink it by the can or bottle to quench my thirst, now it does nothing for me. Drinking Coke doesn’t make me less thirsty; quite the opposite. It actually makes me thirstier.

healthy green tea

Just thinking about the sugary sweet liquid in my mouth makes my spit dry up and makes me crave water or tea or something that actually does quench your thirst. And this is a great thing. It means that my body and my taste buds have adjusted to not having so much sugar. As a result, sugar kind of revolts me. This has had much further reaching effects than just my drink choices. I no longer crave sweet foods either and in fact, I don’t even really enjoy them anymore.

If you’re thinking this could never happen to you, that’s exactly what I would’ve thought. You just need to start drinking tea and it’ll take a month or two, but eventually you’ll be in my position and you’ll want nothing but tea. If you don’t know where to get started, I’d check with some online shops. Here is a good tea website to help you buy online, with a page that reviews and compares some of the more popular tea retailers. That should be a good place for you to start. As for which teas to drink, I cover that in my post titled: Which Tea is the Healthiest?

So get yourself some delicious tea, preferably a loose leaf tea, and start drinking it every day. Trust me, despite how hard this seems at first, it will quickly get much easier. Soon, tea will be easily your favorite drink and you’ll find yourself wanting a cup anytime you get thirsty. Bottoms up!

For more on the health benefits of tea:

(1) 13 Reasons Tea is Good for You on Time.com

(2) Top 10 Health Benefits of Drinking Tea on ivillage

(3) Types of Teas and Their Health Benefits on WebMD

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