Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tea's benefits are color-blind.

The below article is taken from msn health & fitness. Written by Andrew Weil, MD, is a pioneer in the field of holistic health and founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona. He received his medical training at Harvard University.

All colors of true tea—which only comes from the Camellia sinensis plant—make especially healthful beverages. The lightest leaves, green and white, are minimally processed and, in general, retain more disease-protective polyphenols and other antioxidants. But darker teas contain healthy theaflavins, which form when their polyphenols ferment and turn orange red. (Teas brewed from herbs, such as peppermint or ginger, aren't considered true teas, but they may contain antioxidant properties.)

Research finds that regular tea drinkers are at lower risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis—and even bacterial and viral infections. Experiment with different teas and try to drink 4 cups a day. You can cut back on caffeine by pouring boiling water over tea leaves and letting the mixture stand for 30 to 45 seconds. Then drain the water and brew normally. This removes much of the caffeine, which is very water soluble, but leaves the more durable polyphenols.

The color refers to the leaves; the beverage is deep amber. Black tea varieties include Darjeeling and Earl Grey; flavors range from spicy to flowery.

Benefits: May lower risk of heart disease and colon cancer; inhibits bacteria that cause cavities and bad breath.

If you find the flavor too "grassy," try jewel green matcha, and Japanese sencha.

Benefits: Has been shown in numerous studies to help prevent many kinds of cancer, lower cholesterol, and boost immunity.

Midway between green and black tea in color, flavor, and antioxidant action, oolong has a fresh floral or fruity aroma.

Benefits: Drinking 3 cups a day can help relieve itchy skin rashes.

This dark red tea has an earthy flavor that reminds me of coffee and tobacco. It's considered a delicacy in China (you can purchase it online), where its processing is a highly guarded secret. The most oxidized of teas, pu-erh is said to mellow and improve with age, like wine.

Benefits: May reduce cholesterol.

Rare and expensive, this least processed tea has a flavor that's quite subtle.

Benefits: Contains more antioxidants than other teas. Test-tube studies show that it blocks DNA mutations (which trigger tumor formation); a study on rats discovered it prevented precancerous colon tumors.

Perfect Brewing
Dark Teas:
Heat water to a vigorous boil.

Light Teas: Heat water just to boiling. Pour over leaves in a tea ball or strainer, 1 teaspoon (or tea bag) per cup. Steep just long enough to develop color and flavor, but not long enough to become bitter: 4 to 5 minutes for white; 2 to 5 minutes for pu-erh, black, and oolong; and 1 to 3 minutes for green. One pound of tea yields about 180 cups of beverage.

Is both coffee and tea really good for your health? Does it matter which one you drink?
Evidence for the health benefits of tea greatly outweighs that for coffee. Tea, especially green and white tea, is the source of some of the most powerful antioxidants known.

Japanese researchers have learned that women who drink at least 5 cups of green tea each day cut their risk of dying from heart disease by about a third. Their study followed 40,000 healthy adults for 11 years and was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association last September.

Black-tea drinkers also appear to enjoy similar protection. Researchers from University College London subjected a group of volunteers to stressful situations over 6 weeks. Those who regularly drank black tea over that time period reported feeling calmer than those asked to drink a placebo beverage with the same amount of caffeine. Tea drinkers also had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that is thought to play an important role in heart disease. Be aware that adding milk to tea interferes with its antioxidant activity.

As for coffee, a 20-year study of more than 100,000 people reported in the journal Circulation found only modest benefits to the heart. My advice: If you are a coffee drinker, try substituting good-quality tea for some of the coffee you now consume.

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