Black, green, white, oolong, herbal. Lady and Earl Grey. English Breakfast and various blends. Tea is delicious—and it’s also good for you. If you’re one of those people that can’t live without tea, you’re not alone. It might be a delicious excuse to get out that fine china, or a way to stay awake during that 3pm slump, but science says your tea addiction might actually be a good thing.
If you’ve got your fingers poised over the “buy now” button, read on to justify your next tea haul.
The key to tea-related health is consuming catechins. Catechins are flavan-3-ols, but you might know them as antioxidants or phenols. They’re found in tea, apples, pears, wine, chocolate and other fruits in the Malinae subset of the Rosaceae family. In other words, it’s no hardship to consume these delicious nutrients.
There are four different kinds of catechins: epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epicatechin (EC), epicatechin gallate (ECg) and gallocatechin (GC). Green tea has by far the highest concentration of catechins, but black, white and oolong tea also contain significant amounts of catechins. (Note that herbal tea does not naturally have catechins—but it may offer other health benefits, or may have some catechins depending on how it’s processed, so don’t write it off just yet.)
A tea’s specific catechin content is based on how and where it’s processed. All you need to do to get the benefits are to let boiling water hit those tea leaves—then sip and enjoy. Who knew that something you love could be that good for you?
Benefits of consuming catechins
Catechins aren’t a magic solution (no food or beverage really is, much to our collective dismay), but they offer a number of different health benefits. Here’s what you can expect when you make tea a regular part of your beverage lineup.
- Prevent cancer. Cancer is so prevalent these days that it’s no surprise people want to ward it off however possible. Your regular tea intake can help. Catechins have been noted to prevent prostate and breast cancer. They do this by preventing damage to DNA strands, and may help inhibit existing tumor growth. In some cases, they can actually kill cancerous cells.
- Lose weight. If you’ve hit a plateau in your weight loss efforts—or just want to boost efficacy—try drinking tea. Catechins not only speed up your metabolism, but they can also increase your body temperature. They stimulate your neurotransmitters and send them a signal to boost your fat stores. It’s not the be-all end-all to weight loss (you still need to exercise and eat well), but it can help. And when a weight loss tool is this delicious, why not enjoy more of it?
- Keep your heart healthy. Heart disease is another incredibly prevalent health condition—and drinking tea can help. Catechins are great for reducing inflammation and soft tissue growth. Soft tissue growth can harden your arteries and increase blood pressure, so it’s prudent to avoid that whenever possible.
- Boost your brain health. Catechins also help reduce free radicals, which are caused by excessive alcohol consumption, pollution and environmental factors. This helps protect your brain from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- Kick your energy up a notch. Want to increase your endurance and reduce your exercise fatigue? Drink more green tea! Studies have shown that tea catechins increase fat oxidation and limit the body's need to produce glycogen. When you regularly drink tea, you’ll be able to work out harder and longer.
- Enjoy better sun protection. Summer is coming, which means sunburn is on the horizon. Drinking tea can actually help decrease the effects of UV radiation by 25 percent. You might also see a reduction in discoloration and peeling, but better skin elasticity and smoothness.
- Regulate your diabetes. Finally, if you have diabetes, the catechins in tea will help you regulate it. Tea has been shown to reduce symptoms of diabetes, including infections, blurred vision and fatigue.
All of these effects aren’t bad for an already delicious drink! The next time you brew a cup of hot or iced tea, you’ll know just how great it is for your body. Green tea usually has the most catechins, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying black tea, white tea, oolong and even herbal blends. It’s usually calorie-free—and it’s almost always delicious.