A Cup of Heart Health

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“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD in a WebMD article on the virutes of the leaf. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”

Celebrate National Heart Health Month with us as we explore the health benefits of tea drinking.

Here’s what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea:

  • Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
  • White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
  • Oolong tea: In an animal study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
  • Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One animal study showed that animals given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.

Is EGCG a Life Saver?

Its common knowledge tea has many health benefits. The main reason for these benefits is an antioxidant with a long name.

Antioxidants in tea called catechins cleanse free radicals from our bodies that can damage DNA and contribute to cancer, blood clots, and atherosclerosis (heart disease). Grapes and berries, red wine, and dark chocolate also have potent antioxidants. However, the unique catechin found in tea is called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, more easily referred to as EGCG.

EGCG antioxidants protect against the negative effects of UV rays, pollution, smoking, the aging process and some cancerous tumors.  EGCG may be beneficial to heart and circulatory health. Studies have also shown EGCG stimulates thermogenesis, a process that is central to weight loss.