Did you know tea is the second most consumed beverage worldwide (just behind water)? Humans have sipped this popular beverage for thousands of years. It’s not just because it tastes good, though; tea offers possible health benefits. Studies link consumption of tea, particularly green tea, with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Some people drink tea to wake up, others to wind down. Some do it for the taste while others for the health benefits. No matter why you like tea, there’s a good chance you’re a fan of this beverage. And if you’re not, maybe now is a great time to start. But are there ways to make your next cup of tea even healthier? Yes, and here are seven of them:
Use loose-leaf tea instead of teabags
To get more health and taste benefits from tea, switch from teabags to loose-leaf. It takes a little more effort to make your next mug of tea, but it’s worth it. Loose-leaf tea has higher levels of antioxidants than tea bags. And when it comes to flavor, loose-leaf reigns supreme. Using loose tea leaves allows for better water flow, meaning that the leaves infuse the water with their essential oils faster and more efficiently. If you’re concerned about the environment, loose-leaf tea is a better option: paper teabags contain plastic coatings that go into waterways.
If you’re not ready to throw out all your teabags (or if you’re stuck with only a hotel room kettle), there are ways to optimize your cup of bagged tea: squeeze out the wet bags before tossing them, so that less plastic ends up in an ocean somewhere.
Use a water filter
Use filtered water when making tea. Filtering water removes chemicals and heavy metals like chlorine, fluoride, lead, and mercury. They also reduce bacteria and parasites such as giardia and cryptosporidium. Plus, some filters remove microplastics, tiny particles of plastic in the water supply, which may negatively affect health.
A good quality water filter should improve the taste of your tea too. Some types of water filters are better than others, though, so choose carefully when purchasing one to ensure it fits your lifestyle and budget.
Water quality affects both the taste and nutritional value of brewed beverages, including coffee and tea. Therefore, choose purified water for brewing your cup of tea instead of tap water.
Add fruit, herbs, and spices to your tea
If you’re looking to get creative with your tea, add fruit, herbs, or spices to your next cup. Whether you’re enjoying a relaxing cup of white tea after a long day at work or sipping on green tea in the morning, there’s an ingredient out there that will help take your brew to the next level.
For example, orange peel pairs well with most herbal tea and adds a lovely citrus aroma and flavor to the mix. Plus, orange peel is rich in flavonoids, compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Similarly, rose petals are an excellent complement to Earl Grey black tea and add a delicate floral taste.
If you like your tea spicy, ginger root is great for green and black teas as it gives off a warm flavor that enhances the sweetness of both types of tea. When preparing any of these ingredients with your tea, be sure to steep them together for the best results. The flavor herbs and fruits added will reduce the need for sugar.
Add a squirt of lemon to your cup of tea too. Research shows citrus boosts the bioavailability of antioxidants in tea, so you can get more antioxidant benefits. Adding fruit, herbs, and spices not only boosts the flavor of your favorite brews but also makes your beverage a free-radical fighter.
Try out different types of tea
The world of tea is vast so there are many options to choose from. Green and black teas are the most popular types of tea but experiment with other varieties like white or oolong teas.
White and green teas are the highest in compounds called catechins while black tea contains compounds called theaflavins that may have health benefits. Some studies suggest that oolong tea modestly boosts metabolism and may help with weight loss.
Avoid bottled tea. Most contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and studies show that most contain only a fraction of the antioxidants that homemade green and white tea have.
Skip the sugar
If possible, drink tea straight, without added sugar. If you can’t do that, choose a natural sweetener with no calories or calories like Stevia. Sugar is nothing more than empty calories that contribute to weight gain and health problems.
Avoid drinking tea with meals
Drinking tea with food reduces iron absorption from that food. So, sip your tea between meals and wait at least an hour after eating to enjoy a cup of tea. Just as adding lemon to tea increases the absorption of antioxidants from tea, the ascorbic acid in citrus also boosts iron absorption by as much as three-fold.
Watch your caffeine intake
Black tea is higher in caffeine than either green or white tea. Oolong tea falls between green and black tea in terms of caffeine content. If caffeine makes you nervous, white tea is your best bet as it’s lower than the other choices. Plus, it’s rich in antioxidants, even more so than green tea. Avoid drinking black or oolong tea after 2 p.m. if you have trouble sleeping. That applies to coffee and caffeinated soft drinks too!
The Bottom Line
Tea is a healthy beverage by itself but now you know how to make it even healthier. Enjoy this popular beverage!
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- Leung LK, Su Y, Chen R, Zhang Z, Huang Y, Chen ZY. Theaflavins in black tea and catechins in green tea are equally effective antioxidants. J Nutr. 2001 Sep;131(9):2248-51. doi: 10.1093/jn/131.9.2248. PMID: 11533262.