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7 Facts About Tea That May Surprise You
hot tea

Judging from our local coffee shop’s drive-thru line, which snakes out onto the street and up the block every morning, coffee dominates the morning caffeine scramble for a lot of people. But tea actually outshines coffee worldwide. Here are some other facts that may surprise you:

It’s the most widely consumed drink in the world. After water, tea is the most popular drink for people around the globe. China, Turkey, and the U.K. have some of the biggest tea drinking populations. On a given day, half of all Americans drink it -- though the vast majority is consumed as iced tea.

Truth About TeaIt doesn't take all the tea in China to reap its health benefits--about three cups a day will do you.124.991


Narrator: Tea could well be the world's most renowned drink.

: Are you going to have the light tea or the full tea?

Narrator: So important is this beverage that many cultures have designed ceremonies around it.

: Thank you, we have stressful jobs and we thought this would be a great way to relax in the afternoon.

Narrator: Today tea is more the rage than ever—as is made evident by the many teahouses that have cropped up in recent years and the ever-expanding selections found on store shelves.

Many experts are drinking up what they see as a healthy trend:

Brunilda Nazario, MD: There have been studies that have shown that large consumption of tea can reduce the risk of alzheimer's, can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, can even increase bone density.

Narrator: That's because teas are filled to the brim with antioxidants—microscopic compounds that rein in less friendly agents, called free radicals that can cause disease.

Brunilda Nazario, MD: Antioxidants are thought to stabilize these unstable molecules—these 'free radicals'.

Narrator: If left un-checked 'free radicals' can trigger a host of illnesses, like cancer, Parkinson's and heart disease.

Bear in mind that popular herbal teas do not come from the actual tea plant itself and don't necessarily contain antioxidants.

Brunilda Nazario, MD: Based on the maturity of that leaf, and the processing of that leaf, you can create, white tea, green tea or black tea.

Narrator: Many believe white tea to contain the highest degree of antioxidants because it's the less processed tea, followed by green tea and then black.

But all have significant amounts of disease-fighting agents, antioxidants and caffeine.

Avoid large consumption of caffeine if you're pregnant or have high blood pressure and avoid green tea if you are on the blood thinner Coumadin.

Otherwise, you don't need all the tea in China to get tea's healthy benefits, just about three cups a day would do it.

For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.

National Institutes of Health American Cancer Society Harvard Medical School/delivery/8a/bf/8abf468e-f3e8-432b-b6c3-c575678ce7e8/truth-about-tea_,750k,4500k,400k,1000k,2500k,.mp403/05/2010 05:21:4000person pouring tea/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/dam/editorial/womens-health/miscellaneous/truth-about-tea/graphics/thumbnails/final/truth-about-tea-280x190.jpg091e9c5e80511ad0

It’s a heart-healthy drink. One popular tea brand got approval from the FDA to display a health claim on plain black and green tea that states, “Can Help Support Heart Health." Tea contains natural plant compounds that are known to be heart-healthy, and studies have found tea drinkers to have lower rates of heart disease.

It’s basically calorie-free. Like coffee, plain tea contains just a couple of calories per cup and no sugar. But what’s added can change that. A medium sweet tea and a large iced matcha latte from fast food restaurants both pack about 7 teaspoons of sugar. (The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6-9 teaspoons for the whole day).

It all comes from the same plant. Varieties may look and taste different, but all real tea originates from the Camellia sinensis plant. The varieties -- black, white, oolong, and green -- are made by processing the plant differently. For example, black tea comes from leaves that are exposed to the air longer (called oxidation) than green tea. Herbal teas, on the other hand, don’t come from that plant. Instead, they’re infusions of different plants.

It’s just as hydrating as water. You may have heard that beverages that contain caffeine somehow don’t “count” when it comes to hydration. But that’s actually not the case. Tea is more than 99 percent water, so tea’s hydrating qualities offset any diuretic effects.

It contains the same healthy compounds as broccoli. Flavonoids are natural plant compounds that have potential health benefits, and foods like grapes, berries, and broccoli all contain them. Tea is an especially rich source. According to a USDA database, 1 cup of black tea has 170 milligrams of flavonoids, while 1 cup of broccoli has about 3 milligrams.

It’s sometimes topped with cream cheese. Bubble tea is still enjoying popularity. (Is it bad for you? Read about it here.) But look out for the latest fad that’s brewing: cheese tea, which is topped with a frothy, foamy mixture of milk, cream cheese, and whipped cream and a sprinkle of sea salt. (It doesn’t exactly compete with plain tea as a healthy drink, but it might make a unique dessert!)


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Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Registered dietitian

Sally Kuzemchak is a registered dietitian in Columbus, Ohio. An award-winning reporter and writer, Sally has been published in magazines such as Health, Family Circle, and Eating Well and is an Advisor to Parents magazine. She is the author of the book The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids. She blogs at Real Mom Nutrition, a "no-judgments" zone all about feeding families.

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