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Why Your Tea Should Be Organic

For both simple and serious reasons, tea is the superhero of all beverages—most simply because it is versatile. It can be drunk hot or cold, winter or summer, and morning, noon, or night. More importantly, tea is touted for its health benefits including high antioxidant and vitamin C levels and more. Tea has also stood the test of time. It spans both centuries and cultures, from its roots in Asia through Europe and India and to America. Tea has even played an important role in history. The taxation of tea led to the Boston Tea Party and, as a result, is thought to have played a part in starting the American Revolution. If that alone doesn’t give it superhero status, consider that tea can also serve as a natural dye! There are also less-tangible benefits of tea, as well. Tea soothes colds and comforts us through times of stress and sadness.

But what is tea, where does it come from, and why is it important to drink organic tea?

What Is Tea?
The truest tea comes from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, and depending on where it is grown and how it is processed it results in black, green, oolong and white teas. Herbal tea is also available, but it is not made from the tea leaf; rather, it is infused herbs. Specialty teas may include tea leaves and herbs with the addition of flowers, fruits, and spices. We discuss the varieties in more detail below.

The best tea is grown at high altitudes and consists of the smallest new-growth leaves and unopened leaf buds that are picked by hand.

A Short History of the Origins of Tea
The tea plant is native to China and was first cultivated about 2,000 B.C. The Japanese “discovered” it during the eighth century A.D., followed by the Europeans during the seventeenth century, when the British quickly adopted this drink. Tea has played an important role in English culture, and can be seen in the popular British observance of afternoon tea, a light meal served at about 4:00 p.m., and high tea, which became a substitute for afternoon tea in the nineteenth century. Because China could not meet Britain’s high demand for tea, Britain set up tea plantations and colonies in India to support this import. It was not until the twentieth century that America started drinking it iced, which is thought to have started at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

While tea has been around for thousands of years, it hasn’t been until recently that we have been able to select from the expansive variety of organic teas that are available today. Many organic tea companies are emerging with the awareness of organic farming methods on the rise. Even the larger, established tea producers, such as Celestial Seasonings and the Republic of Tea, are now using organic tea leaves for some of their blends.

Why Drink Organic Tea?
Organic tea is grown and processed without pesticides or artificial fertilizers and is also often Fair Trade. This means that you can reap the health benefits of organic tea knowing that small farms are being supported, workers on tea plantations are being treated fairly, and that both the workers and our environment are not exposed to the harmful chemicals used in conventional tea production.

Perhaps the most well-known benefit to drinking tea is for the high level of polyphenols found in tea leaves. Polyphenols are a type of natural plant antioxidant that has been found to help fight free radicals—molecules that occur in the environment that can cause damage to our cells. The accumulation of free-radical damage is thought to lead to heart disease and cancer. Green and black teas are the best known for their antioxidant benefits. Tea is also a wonderful alternative to coffee, with many varieties having just half of the caffeine. The antibacterial properties in tea are also said to improve oral health by preventing tooth decay and halitosis.

tea

Types of Tea
There are four “true teas” that come from the tea plant. They are black, green, oolong, and white and are so named for their production processes. Black is the most processed, followed by oolong, green, and white. All other teas are made with herbal, floral, fruit, spice, or combined infusions.

Black tea is the only “true tea” that is fully oxidized. In its production process, the leaves are picked and tumbled in a machine so that the juices from the leaves react with the air causing it to oxidize, or ferment and turn black. The leaves are then dried to produce the final product, which results in a strong dark reddish-brown brew. Popular varieties include Darjeeling, English breakfast, Earl Grey, and Lapsang Souchong—a distinctively smoky variety.

Green tea is not oxidized; it is steamed and dried, resulting in a slightly bitter, greenish-yellow blend. Green tea has the lowest amount of caffeine of the four “true teas.” Dragon well, tencha, and gunpowder are popular choices of green tea.

Oolong tea falls in between black tea and green tea in terms of taste and color because it is only partially fermented. Formosa oolong, which comes from Taiwan, is the best-known oolong tea.

White tea is the rarest of the four. It is the least handled in production, requiring only plucking and drying.

Rooibos tea is most commonly referred to as red tea, and does not actually come from a tea plant, but from a red bush in South Africa and is considered an herbal tea. Rooibos is reminiscent of the taste of green tea, but is less bitter.

Herbal tea is a hot water drink infused with herbs that often have medicinal properties and most often do not contain caffeine. Popular herbal teas include Peppermint and Chamomile.

Chai tea is a popular tea from India that consists of loose-leaf tea, milk and ground spices including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, grated nutmeg, and pepper.

Specialty teas have a base of one of the above teas with the addition of flora, spices, or fruit. The possibilities of tea in this category are virtually endless!

Selection
Tea is available at just about any grocery store. Organic tea is less widely available, but now that many major brands are developing and launching organic tea lines, they are becoming more popular. The best place to find a wide variety of high-quality organic tea is at specialty tea shops, coffeehouses, and gourmet stores. Herbal teas are also available in health-food stores. Tea comes loose or in tea bags. We recommend loose tea for its flavor, but if you prefer tea bags for their convenience, look for the environmentally friendly alternative—natural, unbleached tea bags, which should be free of excessive components like extra strings, tags, and staples.

Storage 
Tea may be stored for up to a year, and it should be kept in a cool, dark place in its original plastic or foil packaging in an airtight container.

Preparation
While tea bags are the most convenient method for preparing tea, loose tea provides the best tea experience as it allows the tea’s full flavor to circulate. For best results, bring filtered water to just under a boil. Place the tea bag or loose tea (one teaspoon per cup) in your tea cup, tea ball, or tea pot and allow it to steep 1–3 minutes for green tea, 3–6 minutes for black tea, and 6–8 minutes for oolong tea. Herbal teas need more time and should generally be steeped 8–12 minutes unless the packaging indicates otherwise. Use the above guidelines to determine which end of the spectrum you like your tea, weakest to strongest. Be sure to stir the tea to promote circulation. Remove the tea bag or tea ball and serve. Many people enjoy adding honey, sugar, milk, or soy milk, but many are purists and want to savor it unenhanced. Of course, a traditional crumpet, muffin, or cookie can be a wonderful treat alongside a hot cup of tea!


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Coffee vs. Tea: Is One Better for Your Health?

A hot cup of coffee can perk you up in the morning. A soothing cup of tea can help you relax after a stressful day. And the latest research about the health benefits of each might help you feel a little better about them, whichever beverage you drink.

After years of studies that seemed to swing between dire warnings and cheery promises about what our favorite caffeinated beverages do and don’t do, much of the recent science regarding coffee and tea is generally positive.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently took coffee off its list of suspected carcinogens, and some research suggests it could help keep colon cancer from coming back after treatment. Other studies suggest drinking coffee might stave off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Various studies have pointed to tea drinkers having lower odds of skin, breast, and prostate cancers. Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact ways that happens. But tea, particularly green tea, is rich in compounds like antioxidants, which can limit cell damage and boost the immune system; and polyphenols, which have been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It also may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease through a polyphenol known as EGCG, which prevents the formation of plaques that are linked to that brain-damaging illness.

Is one better for you than the other?

Experts say that’s hard to say. That’s because it’s difficult to separate out their different ingredients, their role in your diet, and their effects on different body systems.

“I think people are looking at both coffee and tea and how they affect everything, including cancer and GI disease and cardiovascular diseases,” says Elliott Miller, MD, a critical care medicine specialist at the National Institutes of Health.

Miller and his colleagues recently looked at signs of heart disease in more than 6,800 people from different backgrounds across the country. About 75% drank coffee, while about 40% reported drinking tea. Drinking more than one cup of tea regularly was linked to less buildup of calcium in arteries that supply blood to the heart, a development that can lead to heart disease.

Coffee didn’t have an effect either way on heart disease, but that was significant in itself, Miller says.

“Very often patients will ask their doctors, ‘Hey, doc, I’ve got coronary artery disease, or I’ve got risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol. Is it safe for me to drink coffee?’ Because everyone thinks drinking coffee makes your heart excited and is potentially bad,” Miller says. “So finding that it’s neutral, I think, is pretty important.”

Researchers say it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how both drinks affect health. Both coffee and tea are “complex beverages” that contain a variety of ingredients. They include caffeine, polyphenols, and antioxidants – compounds researchers are studying for their potential cancer-fighting properties, says Lisa Cimperman, a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

“It’s more of a dynamic interaction than one single compound,” Cimperman says. Some people have tried to isolate one element in tea or coffee that they think is the secret to one effect or another, “and then they realize that it doesn’t have the same effect.”

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Cimperman said drinking tea has been linked to lower risks of cancer and heart disease, improved weight loss, and a stronger immune system. Meanwhile, studies point to coffee as a potential way to head off not just Parkinson’s but type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart problems, Cimperman says.

Another recent study, led by Charles Fuchs, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, found regular coffee drinking may help prevent colon cancer from coming back after treatment.

In his study of nearly 1,000 patients, Fuchs says, there was a “significant and linear” association between drinking coffee and lower risk of colon cancer returning in those who drank four or more cups a day. “The more coffee they drank, the lower risk of recurrence.” But the researchers aren’t clear on which element of the drink contributed to that result, and there didn’t seem to be any effect from drinking tea, he says.

“I think you can have two or more cups a day without any concern, and certainly that may benefit you,” Fuchs says. But what about for those who don’t drink coffee? “If it was somebody who hates the stuff and asks, ‘Should I drink it?’ I’d say no. I’d counsel them about diet and exercise and avoiding obesity as measures I think would have a similar benefit.”

Other researchers are asking questions about what role genetics and lifestyle play into the effects of drinking coffee or tea. For instance, coffee and cigarettes once went together like … well, like coffee and cigarettes, which cause cancer and heart disease.

Some people’s bodies process coffee differently than others, says Martha Gulati, MD, head of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. Meanwhile, a preference for tea over coffee might reflect other healthier behaviors, she says.

“Does someone who drinks tea do yoga or meditation more?” Gulati says. “I’m not necessarily saying they’re associated, but do they exercise more? Are they drinking things like green tea to maintain their weight better than other types of drinks?”

And Robert Eckel, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of Denver, says an overall heart-healthy diet is “probably the most important aspect” of preventing heart disease.

“We’re talking about fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and avoiding saturated fat. That nutritional message is unchanging,” Eckel says.

There are other variables. The WHO’s ruling on coffee nonetheless cautioned that any kind of extremely hot drinks could raise the risk of esophageal cancer, while Cimperman says dumping a lot of cream and sugar into your drink can blunt any benefits.

“No one beverage or food will make or break your diet,” she says. “The quality of your diet is always the sum of all the parts.”

By Matt Smith      Dec. 23, 2016         WebMD Health News Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Sources:
International Agency for Research on Cancer: “Evaluation of drinking coffee, maté, and very hot beverages.”
American Journal of Medicine: “Associations of Coffee, Tea, and Caffeine Intake with Coronary Artery Calcification and Cardiovascular Events.”
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: “Caffeine as a protective factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
News release, American Academy of Neurology.
Journal of Clinical Oncology: “Coffee Intake, Recurrence, and Mortality in Stage III Colon Cancer: Results From CALGB 89803 (Alliance).”
National Cancer Institute: “Tea and cancer prevention.”
Current Pharmaceutical Design: “Reported Effects of Tea on Skin, Prostate, Lung and Breast Cancer in Humans.”
Critical Reviews in Food and Science Nutrition: “Tea and its consumption: benefits and risks.”
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Catechin- and caffeine-rich teas for control of body weight in humans.”
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Tea and flavonoid intake predict osteoporotic fracture risk in elderly Australian women: a prospective study.”
The Journal of Nutrition: “Coffee and tea consumption are inversely associated with mortality in a multiethnic urban population.”
The Journal of Nutrition: “Effect of increased tea consumption on oxidative DNA damage among smokers: a randomized controlled study.”
The Journal of Nutrition: “Black Tea Consumption Reduces Total and LDL Cholesterol in Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Adults.”
Diabetes Journals: “Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.”
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: “Coffee consumption and risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”
Circulation: “Long-Term Coffee Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.”
Journal of Clinical Oncology: Coffee Intake, Recurrence, and Mortality in Stage III Colon Cancer: Results From CALGB 89803 (Alliance).”
Neurotoxicology:  “Onset and progression factors in Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review.”
Nature: “Effect of green tea consumption on blood pressure: A meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials.”
Elliott Miller, MD, critical care medicine specialist, National Institutes of Health.
Lisa Cimperman, dietitian, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Robert Eckel, MD, former president, American Heart Association; University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Martha Gulati, MD, head of cardiology, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix.Charles Fuchs, director, Gastrointestinal Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.


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What is Oolong Tea and What Benefits Does it Have?

Oolong tea represents only 2% of the world’s tea, but it’s well-worth discovering (1).

It combines the qualities of dark and green teas, giving it several interesting health benefits.
For example, it may boost metabolism and reduce stress, helping you feel great each day.
This article explains everything you need to know about oolong tea and its health benefits.

What is Oolong Tea?

Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea.
It’s made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant used to make green tea and black tea. The difference is in how the tea is processed.
All tea leaves contain certain enzymes, which produce a chemical reaction called oxidation. Oxidation is what turns the green tea leaves into a deep black color.
Green tea is not allowed to oxidize much, but black tea is allowed to oxidize until it turns black. Oolong tea is somewhere in between the two, so it is partially oxidized.
This partial oxidation is responsible for oolong tea’s color and characteristic taste (2).

This is what oolong tea looks like:

oolong-tea
However, the color of the leaves can vary between different brands, ranging from green to dark brown.

 

Bottom Line: Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea made from the partially oxidized leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.

Nutrients in Oolong Tea

Similar to black and green teas, oolong tea contains several vitamins, minerals and helpful antioxidants.
A cup of brewed tea will contain approximately (34):
  • Fluoride: 5–24% of the RDI.
  • Manganese: 26% of the RDI.
  • Potassium: 1% of the RDI.
  • Sodium: 1% of the RDI.
  • Magnesium: 1% of the RDI.
  • Niacin: 1% of the RDI.
  • Caffeine: 36 mg.
Some of the main antioxidants in oolong tea, known as tea polyphenols, are theaflavins, thearubigins and EGCG. These are responsible for many of its health benefits (5).
Oolong tea also contains theanine, an amino acid responsible for the tea’s relaxing effect (6).
 
Bottom Line: In addition to caffeine, oolong tea contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids and beneficial tea polyphenol antioxidants.

Oolong Tea May Help Prevent Diabetes

The polyphenol antioxidants found in tea are thought to help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. They’re also thought to increase insulin sensitivity (78).
Accordingly, several studies report links between regular tea consumption, improved blood sugar control and a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (9101112).
However, the specific effects of oolong tea are generally not as well researched as those of green or black tea.
That being said, a recent review observed that those drinking 24 oz (720 ml) of oolong tea per day had a 16% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (13).
Another study reported that diabetics who consumed 50 oz (1.5 liters) per day had up to 30% lower blood sugar levels at the end of a 30-day study (14).
Similarly, consuming 33 oz (1 liter) of oolong tea each day for 30 days decreased average blood sugar levels by 3.3% (15).
Nevertheless, not all studies agree and one even reports an increased risk of developing diabetes for those drinking 16 oz (480 ml) or more per day (161718).
Researchers cite pesticide contamination as a likely cause of the negative effects in this study, and do not recommend avoiding oolong tea because of it (18).

Bottom Line: The polyphenol antioxidants may help maintain normal blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, the evidence is mixed and more research is needed.

Oolong Tea May Improve Heart Health

Regularly consuming tea antioxidants may also improve heart health (19).
Several studies of regular tea drinkers report reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as a reduced risk of heart disease (2021222324).
In a recent study, people who drank more than 48 oz (1.4 liters) of tea per day were 51% less likely to have heart disease, compared to non-tea drinkers (25).
Several studies have also investigated oolong tea specifically.
One study of more than 76,000 Japanese adults observed that those who drank 8 oz (240 ml) or more of oolong tea per day had a 61% lower heart disease risk (26).
What’s more, a study done in China reports a 39% lower risk of stroke in those drinking 16 oz (480 ml) of oolong or green tea per day (27).
In addition, regularly consuming 4 oz (120 ml) of green or oolong tea per day may reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure by up to 46%. However, not all studies agree (2829).
One thing to remember is that oolong tea contains caffeine, which may slightly raise blood pressure in some people. That being said, this effect tends to fade with regular caffeine consumption (30313233).
Furthermore, since the caffeine content in an 8-oz (240-ml) cup is only about one-fourth of that found in the same amount of coffee, this effect is likely to be small.

Bottom Line: Oolong tea may help decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure in some people.

Oolong Tea May Help You Lose Weight

Scientists believe that some of the polyphenols in oolong tea may boost metabolism and decrease the amount of fat absorbed from your diet (34353637).
These polyphenol antioxidants are also thought to activate enzymes that help you use stored fat for energy (37).
One study found that both full-strength and diluted oolong tea helped participants burn 2.9–3.4% more total calories per day (38).
This could be partially due to the caffeine content of tea, but tea polyphenols may also play a role. To test this idea, researchers compared the effects of caffeine alone to a combination of caffeine and tea polyphenols (3738).
Both increased the amount of calories burned by about 4.8%, but only the tea polyphenol and caffeine mix increased the participants’ fat burning ability (37).
This indicates that the fat burning effects of tea are also caused by the plant compounds in tea, not just the caffeine.
That being said, none of the studies clarified whether this increased energy expenditure and fat burning led to any substantial weight loss in humans.
Furthermore, some participants responded better than others, so the effects likely vary from person to person (37).
You can read more in this article about green tea and weight loss. Most of it should apply to oolong tea as well.

Bottom Line: The combination of caffeine and polyphenols found in oolong tea may help increase the amount of calories and fat burned each day. This could ultimately help speed up weight loss.

Oolong Tea May Improve Brain Function

Recent reviews show that tea may help maintain brain function and prevent Alzheimer’s disease (394041).
In fact, several components of tea may benefit brain function.
For starters, caffeine can increase the release of norepinephrine and dopamine. These two brain messengers are thought to benefit mood, attention and brain function (4243).
Further research shows that theanine, an amino acid in tea, may also help boost attention and relieve anxiety (44).
One recent study reports that tea containing both caffeine and theanine increased alertness and attention within the first 1–2 hours after consumption (44).
Tea polyphenols are also thought to have a calming effect, especially starting two hours after intake (44).
Few studies have looked specifically at oolong tea, but one found that regular tea drinkers had up to a 64% lower risk of brain function decline. This effect was particularly strong for regular black and oolong tea drinkers (45).
Another study linked regularly drinking green, black or oolong tea to improved cognition, memory, executive function and information processing speed (46).
Although not all studies observed the same beneficial effects of oolong tea on brain function, none were found that showed negative effects (47).

Bottom Line: The caffeine, antioxidant and theanine content of teas may have beneficial effects on brain function and mood.

May Protect Against Certain Cancers

Scientists believe the antioxidants present in black, green and oolong teas may help prevent cell mutations that can lead to cancer in the body (4849).
Tea polyphenols might also decrease the rate of cancer cell division (50).
What’s more, one review reports that regular tea drinkers may have a 15% lower risk of developing oral cancer (51).
Other reviews report similar protective effects for lung, esophageal, pancreatic, liver and colorectal cancers (525354555657).
However, most research reports that tea has small or non-existent effects on breast, ovarian and bladder cancers (585960).
Additionally, most research in this field focused on the effects of green or black teas, with the biggest effects noted for green teas.
Since oolong tea falls midway between green and black tea, similar benefits may be expected. However, more research is needed on oolong tea specifically.

Bottom Line: Similar to green and black tea, oolong tea may have protective effects against cancer.

Oolong Tea Promotes Tooth and Bone Strength

The antioxidants found in oolong tea may help keep your teeth and bones strong.
One study showed that people who drank black, green or oolong tea daily over a 10-year period had 2% higher overall bone mineral density (61).
A study of 680 postmenopausal Chinese women found that those who drank oolong tea regularly had 4.5–4.9% higher bone densities than non-tea-drinkers (62).
In addition, several other recent reviews report similar positive effects of tea on bone mineral density (6364).
A higher bone mineral density could lower the risk of fractures. However, the direct link between oolong tea and fractures has not been investigated yet.
Finally, research links tea consumption to reduced dental plaque. Oolong tea is also a rich source of fluoride, which could help strengthen tooth enamel (50).

Bottom Line: Oolong tea may help increase bone mineral density. It may also strengthen tooth enamel and reduce the formation of dental plaque.

Oolong Tea May Help Relieve Eczema

The polyphenols in tea may also help relieve eczema.
One study asked 118 patients with severe cases of eczema to drink 33 oz (1 liter) of oolong tea per day, in addition to maintaining their normal treatment.
Eczema symptoms improved as early as 1–2 weeks into the study. After 1 month of the combined treatment, 63% of patients showed improvement.
What’s more, the improvement persisted. They were still observed in 54% of the patients 5 months later (65).

Bottom Line: The polyphenol antioxidants in oolong tea may help relieve symptoms of eczema, and the improvements may last for a long time.

Safety and Side Effects

Oolong tea has been consumed for centuries and is generally considered to be safe.
That being said, it does contain caffeine.
When consumed in excess, caffeine can lead to anxiety, headaches, insomnia, irregular heartbeat and in some, high blood pressure (66676869).
Additionally, consuming too many polyphenol antioxidants can make them act as pro-oxidants, which are not good for your health. Excess intake may occur from taking polyphenol supplements, but this is unlikely from simply drinking tea (66).
The flavonoids in tea can also bind the iron found in plant foods, reducing absorption from the digestive system by 15–67% (70).
Those with low iron levels should avoid drinking tea with meals and consider consuming vitamin C-rich foods to help increase iron absorption (71).
Both the USDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) consider daily intakes of 400 mg of caffeine as safe. This is equivalent to 48–80 oz of oolong tea (1.4–2.4 liters) per day (7273).
Given that the average cup is 8 oz (240 ml), you could drink a total of 6–10 cups of oolong tea per day without consuming too much caffeine.
However, pregnant women are advised to stick to a maximum of 200 mg of caffeine, which is about 3-5 cups of oolong tea per day (74).
Keep in mind that coffee, soda, energy drinks and chocolate also contain caffeine. So if you’re trying to reduce your intake, make sure to account for these sources as well.

Bottom Line: Drinking up to 10 cups of oolong tea per day is generally considered to be safe for most people.

Take Home Message

Oolong tea may not be as well known as green or black tea, but it has similar health benefits. These include benefits for heart, brain, bone and dental health.
In addition, it may boost your metabolism, decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and protect against certain types of cancer.
At the end of the day, oolong tea is an incredibly healthy and tasty addition to your lifestyle. Give it a try — you won’t be disappointed.


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Plastic and Cancerous Compounds in Tea Bags – A Surprising Source of Potential Toxins

April 24, 2013    By Dr. Mercola

I’ve long advocated drinking tea in lieu of coffee, but the downside of modern food technology is again rearing its ugly head and causing brand new health concerns over this otherwise healthful brew.

A recent article in The Atlantic1 raises questions about the safety of plastic tea bags, some of which have fancy pyramid shapes, designed to allow the tea leaves to unfurl during infusion.

Chances are you’ve never even given the tea bag a second thought. But indeed, some of the newer tea bags are made with a variety of plastics; some are nylon, some are made of viscose rayon, and others are made of thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene.

Anyone aware of the dangers of plastic chemicals leaching out of plastic containers and bottles is likely to be concerned about drinking tea steeped through heated plastic.

The other bad news is that paper tea bags may be just as bad, or worse, than the plastic ones because many of them are treated with epichlorohydrin, a compound mainly used in the production of epoxy resins.

Considered a potential carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health2 (NIOSH), epichlorohydrin is also used as a pesticide. Besides making its way into tea bags, it can also be found in coffee filters, water filters, and sausage casings.

When epichlorohydrin comes in contact with water, it hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It’s also been implicated in infertility (it has a spermatoxic effect in male rats3) and suppressed immune function4.

This chemical is already a well-known “process contaminant” associated with modern food production. According to the American Oil Chemicals Society5 (AOCS), 3-MCPD can also be found in variable levels in refined vegetable oils, which is yet another reason to avoid such cooking oils and replace them with organic coconut oil.

Do Plastic Tea Bags Pose a Health Concern?

As you probably know, chemicals in plastic containers and bottles have been found to leach into food and drink, thereby posing a number of health hazards. Examples include bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, all of which mimic hormones and act as potent endocrine disruptors.

Unfortunately, according to the featured article, neither the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have any information on the toxicity of plastic tea bags or the levels of plastic chemicals that might migrate into the tea when steeped in hot water. Hard to believe, but true, the US federal agencies are not supervising this potential toxic exposure.

According to the featured article:

“Could plastic tea bags also be bad for our health? They are most commonly made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential.
Both have very high melting points, which offer some assurance to consumers, as one would think the melting point of plastic is the temperature at which one would need to worry about accidentally eating it.
There is another temperature point for plastics, though, that we may need to worry about, called the ‘glass transition’ temperature (Tg). That is the temperature at which the molecule in certain materials such as polymers begin to break down. As a rule, the Tg of a material is always lower than the melting point.“

Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). In the case of PET the glass transition point (Tg) is about 169 degrees, and the breakdown point of nylon is even lower than PET.

“If the question is, ‘As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?’ ‘the answer is yes,’ said Dr. Ray Fernando, professor and director of polymers and coatings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,”  The Atlantic states.

So while these plastics are generally considered among the safest in terms of leaching potential, the molecules in these plastic tea bags may still in fact break down and leach out when steeped in boiling water—which is the recommended way to brew a good cup of tea, especially when you’re using higher quality whole tea leaves, which these newer tea bags are designed for…

tea

Paper Tea Bags May Be Just as Bad, or Worse…

The now defunct Dexter Corporation was the initial owner on the patent6 of a method for treating both tea bags and coffee filters with latex (plastic), to aid in preventing tears that allow the tea leaves/coffee grounds to leak. This invention “saturates and completely impregnates” the entire web material. Therein lies one of the problems with paper tea bags as they are frequently treated with epichlorohydrin, which hydrolyzes to the carcinogen 3-MCPD when contact with water occurs.

Dow Chemical Co is one of the largest producers of epichlorohydrin. According to safety literature7 from Dow, it’s a very dangerous chemical that requires using extra precautions when handling. Granted, that doesn’t automatically render it dangerous in the final product, but it can still be a cause for concern, particularly as it can turn into a carcinogen when water is added. There are many unanswered questions with respect to the potential hazards of using this chemical in products specifically designed to be used with boiling water…

A good way to protect yourself and your family in this area is to purchase your tea from manufacturers who can certify that their tea bags do not contain this compound. Organic India, for example, has sent me a confirmation that the paper used for their tea bags does not contain epichlorohydrin. In a 2009 article, Kristie Leong, MD also claims to have done her own inquiries and that Bigelow Tea Company does not use the chemical in their bags8. Many plastic tea bags are advertised as “silky” or “mesh bags,” or they’ll have fancy shapes or oversized bags. I’d suggest avoiding those as well if you want to be on the safe side.

Your best option would be to opt for loose tea. This does take longer, but it can be well worth the wait. One of my favorite teas is Royal Matcha Green Tea, which has one of the highest levels of the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Unlike other teas which you steep and strain, matcha tea is a powder made from ground green tea leaves. You add the powder right into the water. You are consuming the whole leaf, which makes matcha one of the healthiest green teas available. Another excellent option is loose Tulsi tea leaves. This well-known Ayurvedic herb is also full of antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body and prevent oxidation damage.

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea

There is an art to brewing tea using loose tea leaves, but once you find your “sweet spot” you may never go back to bagged tea again. Here are a few simple guidelines for making the “perfect” cup of tea:

1) Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle (avoid using a non-stick pot, as they too can release harmful chemicals when heated)

2) Preheat your tea pot or cup to prevent the water from cooling too quickly when transferred. Simply add a small amount of boiling water to the pot or tea cup that you’re going to steep the tea in. Ceramic and porcelain retain heat well. Then cover the pot or cup with a lid. Add a tea cozy if you have one, or drape with a towel. Let stand until warm, then pour out the water

3) Put the tea into an infuser, strainer, or add loose into the tea pot. Steeping without an infuser or strainer will produce a more flavorful tea. Start with one heaped teaspoon per cup of tea, or follow the instructions on the tea package. The robustness of the flavor can be tweaked by using more or less tea

4) Add boiling water. Use the correct amount for the amount of tea you added (i.e. for four teaspoons of tea, add four cups of water). The ideal water temperature varies based on the type of tea being steeped:

a) White or green teas (full leaf): Well below boiling (170-185 F or 76-85 C).
Once the water has been brought to a boil, remove from heat and let the water cool
for about 30 seconds for white tea and 60 seconds for green tea before pouring it over the leaves
b) Oolongs (full leaf): 185-210 F or 85-98 C
c) Black teas (full leaf) and Pu-erhs: Full rolling boil (212 F or 100 C)

5) Cover the pot with a cozy and let steep. Follow steeping instructions on the package. If there are none, here are some general steeping guidelines. Taste frequently as you want it to be flavorful but not bitter:

a) Oolong teas: 4-7 minutes
b) Black teas: 3-5 minutes
c) Green teas: 2-3 minutes

6) Once desired flavor has been achieved you need to remove the strainer or infuser. If using loose leaves, pour the tea through a strainer into your cup and any leftover into another vessel (cover with a cozy to retain heat)

After Water, Tea is One of Your Healthiest Beverage Choices

While some tea bags—whether plastic or paper processed with epichlorohydrin—may pose a potential hazard, please don’t let that deter you from drinking tea altogether. Although I still believe pure water should make up the majority of your daily fluid intake, high-quality tea has numerous health benefits to offer. Among them is growing evidence that the polyphenols in tea, which include EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and many others, can be protective against cancer. For example, the polyphenols in green tea appear to be even more effective at fighting the progression of cancer than the antioxidants found in red wine and grapes. Beyond this, the beneficial properties in tea have been known to:

  • Neutralize the effects to your body of harmful fats and oils
  • Inhibit bacteria and viruses
  • Improve digestion
  • Protect against oxidation in your brain and liver
  • Help promote healthy gums

Drinking tea has also been linked to:

  • Improved mental alertness and slowing of brain-cell degeneration
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Protection again type 2 diabetes
  • Lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Lower risk of breast, colon, lung, ovarian and prostate cancers
  • Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke

Of course, there are some general ground rules to follow when selecting tea of any kind, and those are that it should preferably be:

  • Organic (otherwise tea may be heavily sprayed with pesticides)
  • Grown in a pristine environment (tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water, so a clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea)

So keep these tips in mind, and go ahead and enjoy a cup or two of your favorite variety. I personally prefer Matcha tea, a vibrant bright green tea made of tea leaves ground into a powder, and Tulsi tea, which is a powerful adaptogenic herb that provides important therapeutic benefits.


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6 Healthy Types of Tea

Amanda Pressner

It’s the world’s most popular drink, next to water—and it’s steeped in health benefits. Here, what six top brews can do for you.

Black Tea

The scoop: Black tea is the most common variety and accounts for about 75 percent of global tea consumption. Like many of the teas here, it’s made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which are typically rolled and fermented, then dried and crushed. Black tea has a slightly bitter flavor and contains the most caffeine—about 40 milligrams per cup. (A cup of coffee has 50 to 100.)

Health benefits: Black tea has high concentrations of the antioxidant compounds known as theaflavins and thearubigins, which have been linked to lower levels of cholesterol, says Rebecca Baer, a registered dietitian in New York City. Research has shown that people who drink three or more cups of black tea daily may cut their risk of stroke by 21 percent.

Green Tea

The scoop: Green tea has a more delicate flavor than black. The leaves are dried and heat-treated soon after they’re picked, which stops the fermentation process. It contains about 25 milligrams of caffeine per cup.

Health benefits: Green tea is full of antioxidants called catechins; a subgroup known as EGCG may ward off everything from cancer to heart disease, says Karen Collins, a registered dietitian and a nutrition adviser at the American Institute for Cancer Research, in Washington, D.C. One study found that each daily cup of green tea consumed may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 10 percent.

Oolong Tea

The scoop: Oolong is similar to black tea, but it’s fermented for a shorter time, which gives it a richer taste. It contains about 30 milligrams of caffeine per cup.

Health benefits: It may aid in weight loss. “Oolong activates an enzyme responsible for dissolving triglycerides, the form of dietary fat that’s stored in fat cells,” says Baer. One study showed that women who drank oolong tea burned slightly more calories over a two-hour period than those who drank only water.

Tea

White Tea

The scoop: These leaves are picked when they’re very young, so white tea has a much milder flavor than any other variety, not to mention less caffeine—about 15 milligrams per cup. Loose tea may also contain more antioxidants than tea in bags, because the leaves are less processed.

Health benefits: White tea is another health multitasker. It offers the same potential cardiovascular and cancer-fighting benefits as other teas, says Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA, in New York City. And some research suggests that it may offer benefits to people with diabetes. An animal study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that consuming white tea resulted in improved glucose tolerance and a reduction in LDL cholesterol. Some experts believe that this may eventually have implications for humans.

Flavored Tea

The scoop: In this category, aromatic extras, such as cinnamon, orange peel, and lavender, are paired with black, green, or white tea leaves.

Health benefits: Flavored teas have the same levels of antioxidants and the same health benefits as unflavored ones. Those flavored with superfruits, such as blueberries, may contain even more antioxidants, says Lisa Boalt Richardson, an Atlanta-based tea expert and the author of The World in Your Teacup ($25, amazon.com). But skip the sweetened varieties in bottles: You’re better off without that extra sugar, says Baer, who also cautions that flavored tea drinks are often watered down. “Some have such a low amount of antioxidants that you would have to drink 20 bottles to get the amount you would in a single brewed cup,” she says. One good antioxidant-rich, low-sugar bottled brand: Honest Tea (honesttea.com).

Herbal Tea

The scoop: Technically, herbal teas are not teas at all—they’re usually some combination of dried fruits, flowers, and herbs. Herbal varieties contain no caffeine. Avoid herbal weight-loss teas, which may contain dangerous laxatives.

Health benefits: There has been less research on herbal blends than on traditional teas, but one study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily could help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. And evidence suggests that chamomile tea may promote sleep and that peppermint tea may calm the stomach.


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Tea: 6 Brilliant Effects on the Brain

The British are rightly famous for their tea drinking.
They–I should say ‘we’, as, yes, your humble author is a Brit–manage to down 165 million cups every day, and there are only 62 million of us.

Only the Irish drink more tea than us per person.
We all know about the effects of caffeine on the brain, but research has found two more ingredients of tea with important effects…

1. Green tea may help fight Alzheimer’s

Scientists have found that a natural component of green tea may eventually provide a way of curing Alzheimer’s disease (Rushworth et al., 2013).
Early-stage research has found that a component of green tea–epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)–can disrupt the build up of plaques in the brain, which is what causes the cells to die.
Eventually this may help lead to a cure for the crippling disease.

2. Old brains love tea

While we’ll have to wait for the Alzheimer’s research to progress, tea has been shown to have more immediate effects.
A study of 2,031 people aged between 70 and 74 found that those who drank tea–which contain micronutrient polyphenols, like EGCG–had better cognitive performance (Nurk et al., 2009).
Polyphenols are also contained in red wine, cocoa and coffee.

3. Improved cognition

You hardly need me to tell you that tea makes you feel alert, but it’s down to more than just the caffeine…
Tea also contains theanine, a psychoactive amino acid almost unique to tea.
Although we know much less about the effects of theanine than we do caffeine, there are multiple studies connecting it with enhanced cognitive performance (Einother & Martens, 2013).
How To Get Natural Energy

4. That famous calming effect

Not only is theanine responsible for improving cognition, it also provides the famous calming effect of tea.
When theanine is given to people, their brains exhibit more α-waves, which are indicative of relaxation without drowsiness (Juneja et al., 1999)

5. Tea boosts memory

Theanine, along with EGCG, has also been implicated in improvements to memory.
Korean research by Chung et al. (2011) has found that green tea extract and L-theanine can produce memory improvements in people suffering from mild cognitive impairments.
Mouse studies on EGCG suggest that it helps memory by increasing the production of new brain cells (Wang et al., 2012)

6. Better mental health

All the benefits of drinking tea mean it could be a factor in improved overall mental health.
Hozawa et al. (2009) tested this in a population study of 42,093 Japanese. This study found that drinking green tea was associated with less psychological distress.
The same positive effect of drinking tea has been found in 1,058 elderly Japanese people (Niu et al., 2009).
Theanine has even been tested in the treatment of schizophrenia with some success in reducing anxiety and other symptoms (Ritsner et al., 2011).

Tea for me

Of course tea is a relatively benign substance and most of the effects described here are small.
But when you add these potential benefits to its other pleasures, tea becomes just that little bit more enjoyable.
And, as Henry James said:
“…there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
I’ll raise a cup to that.
source: PsyBlog


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Top 10 Brain Foods

by Daily Health Post on March 22, 2013

Boost your brain power and keep your cognitive processes running smoothly into old age with these top ten brain foods.

1. Olive Oil
Drizzling your salad with olive oil or using it to sauté veggies may help preserve your brain’s overall health and function as you age. A 2010 study found that diets rich in monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil, can improve scores on test of overall cognitive function as well as verbal memory.

2. Avocados
Like olive oil, avocados contain monounsaturated fats, which also contribute to proper blood flow to the brain and lower blood pressure. Since high blood pressure is a significant contributor to cognitive decline, eating foods like avocados that lower your risk of hypertension is a great way to ward off age-related brain power shortages.

3. Sardines
Rich in Omega-3s, sardines give your brain the fatty acids it needs to build and maintain cell membranes. Diets containing high amounts of Omega-3s have also been associated with improved memory and focus, as well as a lower long-term risk of dementia.

4. Walnuts
These fiber and protein-rich nuts contain another type of Omega-3 not found in animal sources: alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA. Plus, just about every type of nut, including walnuts, is rich in vitamin E, which can improve blood flow and ensure that your brain is getting the oxygen it needs to work efficiently.

5. Spinach
Popeye may have had the right idea. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that women who consumed more green leafy vegetables over 25 years exhibited fewer signs of age-related cognitive decline than those who avoided veggies like spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts.


6. Coffee
Women who drink coffee have a far lower risk of developing depression than those who don’t, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Although the effects haven’t been studied in men, it’s likely that this benefit translates to them, too.

7. Tea
If you’re not a fan of coffee, freshly brewed tea is an excellent alternative. Lower levels of caffeine may still protect the brain from depression and boost focus and memory without the risk of anxiety and jitteriness, while the antioxidants in tea improve blood flow to the brain.

8. Beans
Your brain runs on glucose, which means that maintaining steady levels of blood sugar help your brain to work better. Beans provide a steady source of energy to your brain, along with protein, fiber, and minerals that keep the rest of your body functioning well.

9. Blueberries
Since they’re frequently touted as an antioxidant-rich superfood, you may be getting somewhat bored of blueberries. But this little fact might reinvigorate your love for this fruit: a study in mice found that a blueberry-enriched diet can not only prevent, but can actually reverse memory loss related to object recognition.

10. Water
When it comes to immediate cognitive decline, dehydration is a serious culprit. In fact, when you don’t drink enough water, your brain actually shrinks. This means that your brain works far less efficiently than when it is hydrated, likely leading to impaired executive functions.
Have any other tips for good brain health? Share them in the comments section!

Sources:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S089990071000136X
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ana.23593/abstract
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3/
http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1105943
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20336685
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15852398
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eat-smart-healthier-brain

source: dailyhealthpost.com