Why tea is better than beer: the health benefits

An empty tankard. Photo: Nikolay Dimitrov, http://www.e-Cobo.com

Even though Americans see tea – especially iced tea – as “just another beverage”, tea deserves a much better reputation! Since green, black, oolong and white tea all originate from the same plant, the health benefits of all types of tea are almost identical. All types of true tea — Camellia sinensis — are rich in a kind of antioxidant called polyphenols, which neutralize harmful free radicals, preventing them from oxidizing cells, damaging them, and triggering many forms of disease. Along with adding antioxidants and minerals, tea helps hydrate the body (despite the caffeine), it is calorie-free, fat-free and has no carbohydrates (if you don’t add milk, sugar, etc.). Beer, wine, and strong brews of coffee and cocoa have similar antioxidants, but coffee also has more caffeine and beer, wine and cocoa have more calories!

Here is a summary of just a few of tea’s health benefits. Tea contains fluoride and phytoestrogens, and recent studies show that long-term tea drinking – even just a cup a day — may increase bone mineral density, and therby protect against osteoporosis. Another group of studies found that tea drinkers have nearly half to 1/3 the risk of heart attacks, especially fatal heart attacks, than non-tea drinkers, and that tea-drinkers tend to have better blood vessel and artery health, and about half the risk of developing atherosclerosis. Tea may also improve the artery health of people who already have coronary disease, especially women, and lab studies suggest that it does this by relaxing the blood vessels, inhibiting the formation of blood clots, and interacting with cholesterol to prevent it from sticking to artery walls. Tea is also showing promise as a cancer-fighter and as a cancer preventative, especially stomach cancer in men, by slowing the formation of carcinogens and cancer cells, and preventing the spread of cancer by protecting normal cells from oxidation damage. The studies have also shown that the more tea you drink, the more health benefits you reap!

While brewed loose-leaf tea has been shown to have the highest level of antioxidants, brewed tea from teabags, and even tea beverages made with tea extract, also contain a great deal of the good stuff. Decaffeinated tea retains some of the antioxidants that it had before decaffeination, so it can be a good choice for pregnant women and people with hypertension, although they should keep in mind that decaffeinated tea retains up to 5% of its natural caffeine. Many tea scientists consider brewed tea to have a higher amount of antioxidants than any whole fruit or vegetable, more than most commercial juices or beer, and as much as red wine, as well!  There are even those who say that tea is healthier than plain water, because it contains all those antioxidants.  Tea is really amazing, so start drinking more tea!

Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.

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For more info: “Tea vs. beer: does it have to be all or nothing?”
“How to find a tea for a beer drinker”
‘Why tea is better than beer: the tea vs. beer smackdown!”
“Tea history: what type of tea did American founders drink?”
“An Overview of Research on the Potential Health Benefits of Tea” by the Tea Association of the United States of America
“Do Real Men Drink Green Tea?”
“Health Benefits of Tea” by Gloria Tsang, RD
“Health Benefits of Tea” by Jason of 2basnob.com
“Put the kettle on: Tea is steeped in health benefits” by Rita Rubin
“Should you switch to tea?”
“Soak up tea’s nutritional benefits” by Ruth Underwood
“Tea Health Benefits: the Power of Antioxidants, Flavonoids, Polyphenols and Catechins” by Jeanie Lerche Davis
The Manly Teas blog
“Why Europeans Drank Beer and Asians Drank Tea” by Mark Bittman
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