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Spilling the Tea on Drinking Tea

As many of you may already know, I'm a bit of a coffee and tea junkie. I'm an avid Starbucks lover, but don't always love all of the calories that go along with my fancy lattes. I started drinking flavored teas this past year, and it has helped me in so many ways. Not only is it enjoyable to drink, but tea also offers a lot of health benefits. And anything that is good for me and tastes good gets an A+ in my book.

I've done some research to better understand the health benefits of drinking tea, along with the best ways to drink it in order to get all of those lovely benefits. A few cups of tea a day is an easy way to add more antioxidants into your diet and may help protect you from many serious diseases. It's always good to talk with your doctor about your individual concerns prior to adding caffeinated drinks to your diet.

Below are some of the things I've learned about the health claims around drinking tea and how to get the most health benefits when you make drinking tea part of your daily routine.

Understand the Health Claims

1. Green and white teas are better for you. All tea comes from one plant called Camellia sinensis. Depending on how it's processed, it becomes green, black, white or oolong. All teas seem to have some health benefits, but those that are less processed are better for you (think green and white teas).

2. Boost your immune system. The power of tea comes from the antioxidants it contains that can slow down cell damage due to aging and diseases like cancer. In particular, tea contains a category of antioxidants called catechins that are even more effective than vitamins C and E in boosting your immune system.

3. Tea can potentially lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. The Food and Drug Administration concludes that there is insufficient evidence to allow tea manufacturers to put health claims on their labels about lowering the risk of heart disease or cancer, however, many health experts think a growing body of research is promising.

4. Drinking tea offers many health benefits.

Tea has been credited with reducing the risk for many cancers as well as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Other benefits may include lower cholesterol, improved memory and burning body fat more efficiently.

Manage Potentially Harmful Interactions

1. Iron absorption.

You may have heard that the tannins in tea and coffee interfere with your body's ability to absorb iron. Fortunately, most Americans get more iron than they need so it's usually not an issue.

2. Avoid mixing tea with aspirin and some prescription drugs. Consuming tea and aspirin together can cause internal bleeding because they both inhibit platelets from clotting. The same is true for prescription blood thinners. Follow your doctor's recommendations for all prescription drugs.

3. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about caffeine. Caffeine is a mild stimulant that's safe for most people in moderation. On the other hand, you may want to discuss consuming any caffeinated beverages with your doctor if you take drugs for conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease.

Get The Most Benefits

1. Give tea time to steep.

Steeping brings out the catechins in tea as well as the full flavor. Let it sit for three to five minutes.

2. Aim for about 3 cups a day.

Based on countries where people drink a lot of tea, it's reasonable to assume that several cups a day is a safe level. Brew a pot to make refills more convenient.

3. Visit a tea shop.

If most supermarket brands leave you feeling disappointed, visit a tea shop to discover new blends. You can sample a cup before buying a batch you like to take home. My own personal favorite is Yogi's Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy Tea. It's delicious and I drink it all day long!

4. Switch from soft drinks to tea.

Sugary soft drinks are taking a toll on public health. The empty calories contribute to obesity and colas may lower mineral bone density. Tea is a healthier choice. I'm someone that loves a good fountain soda, but I try to avoid soda as much as possible because I prefer not to drink my calories. Switching to tea has helped me swap out calorie-dense, sugar packed drinks for a much healthier option.

5. Read the labels on bottled tea.

Many bottled teas contain very little tea and may be loaded with sugar. Brew the real thing instead.

6. Opt for tea rather than supplements.

Scientists still know very little about the individual ingredients in tea. You're likely to get more advantages from drinking actual tea than taking a pill.



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