Put down those saucer cups and get chugging, tea is officially awesome for our health. Before loading up on Red Zinger, make sure that “tea” is actually tea. Real tea is derived from a particular plant (Camellia sinensis) and includes only four varieties: green, black, white, and oolong. Anything else (like herbal “tea”) is an infusion of a different plant and isn’t technically tea.
But what real tea lacks in variety, it makes up for with some serious health benefits. Researchers attribute tea’s health properties to polyphenols (a type of antioxidants) and phytochemicals. Though most studies have focused on the better-known green and black teas, white and oolong also bring benefits to the table. Read on to find out why coffee’s little cousin rocks our health.
Why Tea Is (Healthy and) Awesome
1. Tea can boost exercise endurance. Scientists found the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea extract increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, which accounts for improved muscle endurance.
2. Drinking tea might reduce the risk of heart attack. Tea might also help protect against cardiovascular and degenerative diseases 2.
3. The antioxidants in tea might help protect against a boatload of cancers, including breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, prostate, and oral cancers. But don’t rely solely on tea to keep a healthy body: Tea might not be a miracle cure, after all. While more studies than not suggest that tea has cancer-fighting benefits, current research on cancer is mixed.
4. Tea helps fight free radicals. Tea is high in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (“ORAC” to its friends), which is a fancy way of saying that it helps destroy free radicals (which can damage DNA) in the body. While bodies are designed to fight free radicals on their own, they’re not 100 percent effective—and since damage from these radical oxygen ninjas has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and neurological degeneration, we’ll take all the help we can get.
5. Tea is hydrating to the body (even despite the caffeine!).
6. Drinking tea can lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease. When considered with other factors like smoking, physical activity, age, and body mass index, regular tea drinking was associated with a lowered risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women.