It’s the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water, and its health properties may have a lot to do with that. We’re talking about tea, the all-natural elixir that can pack some impressive health benefits — from better sleep to cancer prevention — into those tiny saucer cups.
Choosing Your Brew
What constitutes real tea isn’t all black and white (and green), though. According to the textbook definition, real teas are derived exclusively from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is native to China and India. The only teas that fall into this category are green, black, white, oolong and pu-erh tea. Other so-called “teas” are derived from different plants.
This means that favorites like peppermint and chamomile are actually imposters masquerading as tea. But regardless of their dictionary definition, herbal teas boast some indisputable health benefits, too.
Whether you go herbal or with the real deal, here are seven types of tea that top our best-of list. And when temps soar, remember you can go iced as well.
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The 7 Best Teas for Your Health
1. Green Tea
Green tea has a reputation for being a superfood, and the title is well deserved. According to McKel Hill, RD and creator of Nutrition Stripped, consuming green tea might help improve exercise endurance. One study (which was conducted on mice) theorized that it’s the catechins in green tea’s polyphenols that help boost stamina during a workout. And because green tea may also improve bone mineral density and strength, drinkers of the brew can worry less about breaking a bone during an exercise session gone awry.But that’s not all that green tea can do for your health. Regular green tea consumption may help protect against serious illnesses such as heart disease and a variety of cancers, including cancer of the prostate, liver, lung and mouth. The polyphenols in green tea have also been linked to anti-aging and mental health benefits. According to Hill, green tea can improve brain health and function. This might explain why the green stuff has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve focus and promote relaxation.
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2. Black Tea
Although green tea is in the health spotlight more than black tea, it is also packed with powerful flavonoids that may help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Black tea also provides a natural source of energy via caffeine, says Hill, and it’s been shown to improve concentration. Translation: Brew this cup when it’s time to cut through brain fog or get a temporary productivity boost. The best part? Even though it acts as a stimulant, black tea has also been shown to reduce stress. So the brew may provide a pick-me-up without the jitteriness that some people experience from coffee.
3. White Tea
You might have seen different variations of white tea at the grocery store, like orange blossom, pomegranate white, cucumber mint, to name a few flavors. White tea derives from immature tea leaves that are picked before the buds have fully bloomed. It gets its name from the silver fuzz that covers the buds and turns white as it dries. Although white tea doesn’t get as much attention as green and black tea, the drink is exceptionally high in antioxidants that can help prevent a slew of diseases and provide anti-aging benefits, says Hill. Like its green and black cousins, white tea has also been shown to protect against cancer. Surprisingly, white tea is high in caffeine with 30-55 mg per one eight-ounce cup.
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4. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile is well known for its restful properties. It’s been shown to effectively combat insomnia and promote high-quality sleep. But the herb’s benefits extend beyond relaxation. Preliminary research suggests that chamomile may assist with reducing the symptoms of a number of serious ailments, including diabetes, hyperglycemia and muscle spasms.
5. Dandelion Root Tea
Dandelion tea has a similar taste and texture as coffee and has been used as a caffeine-free brew. Tea made from dandelion roots boasts an impressive array of health benefits. For one thing, consuming dandelion root tea on a regular basis may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) possibly because it may function as a diuretic. Like green, black and white teas, dandelion root may help protect against some cancers. It should come as no surprise that dandelion root tea has also been shown to improve overall immune function and help the body fight off illness.
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6. Peppermint Tea
The cooling and refreshing taste of peppermint tea can soothe anything from nausea to tummy troubles. Peppermint tea is known for helping ease abdominal pain and digestive discomfort. There’s also some evidence that the brew may provide a mild energy boost sans caffeine.
7. Yerba Maté
Yerba maté has long been touted as a weight loss tool, and there’s evidence to suggest this benefit is maximized when paired with exercise. Maté’s benefits don’t stop at keeping waistlines in check. The tea has also been shown to alleviate fatigue, promote heart health, reduce inflammation and improve overall immune function. We think green tea finally met its antioxidant match.
Be sure to consult with your doctor before introducing anything new in your diet to avoid any contraindications with medications.