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Healthy Living: Tea for your health

It makes sense that January is National Hot Tea Month. When the weather’s cold, and you’re possibly fighting off the cold and flu bugs that are making the rounds, a nice cup of hot tea sounds especially appealing.

But it turns out that tea is actually good for you all year long. A growing body of research has linked the consumption of tea to health benefits that may include weight loss, cancer prevention, and strengthening of the immune system. A big factor is that tea contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties, which help stave off many chronic diseases, including heart disease.

Also, if you’re trying to cut back on caffeine, tea is a wiser choice. The average cup of black tea (what’s in regular tea bags) has under 60 milligrams of caffeine, half what you are likely to get in an average brewed cup of coffee.

What’s more, the specialty tea market has also grown dramatically over the last decade. So even if most of the tea you drink is of the iced variety, like many Southerners, you may find that some of the newer flavors or blends of tea taste good hot, too.  And while almost all tea has some health benefits, each has a little something different to offer.

Green tea: This is the tea that’s gotten most of the attention health-wise. It is a mild, almost grassy tasting tea that has been linked to lots of good things.  It may fight diabetes and strokes, lower cholesterol, burn fat and slow down some signs of aging. If you don’t like the taste of green tea plain, try one of the many flavored varieties now on the market.

Black tea: Black tea doesn’t have as high a level as antioxidant as green tea, but its consumption has also been linked to the prevention of heart disease, stroke, some cancers and more mild maladies such as tooth decay. And, many drinkers prefer its clean, mild flavor, especially because this is the kind of tea most of us have grown up drinking.

Herbal teas: Strictly speaking, most herbal teas aren’t actually tea at all, but rather a mixture of dried herbs. Many of these herbal teas have long been used as home remedies or simply to promote good health. Chamomile tea, for instance, is often considered a natural way to help relax; so is lavender. And hibiscus tea, known as jamaica in Spanish-speaking countries, offers Vitamin C and antioxidants, and has been linked to lowering blood pressure.

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