Many people need a daily cup of coffee or tea in the morning to feel ready to start their day. But in terms of health, coffee is often given a bad name while tea is praised. Some people even call tea a “superfood”—but why?
Tea can be divided into two categories: those made from the plant Camellia sinensis, and those made from other plants. Camellia plant-derived teas are all naturally caffeinated and include green, black, white, pu-erh and oolong tea; the differences between these teas come from the various ways they are processed. Teas from other plants are all non-caffeinated and include mate, rooibos, and herbal tea.
The healthy compounds in tea are called flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants, which means they prevent free radicals from damaging biological processes in your body. Free radicals are unstable, highly reactive compounds that react with your body’s most important molecules (like DNA and proteins) and tamper with their normal functions. Black and green tea contain especially high amounts of flavonoids, but other good sources include red wine, dark chocolate, blueberries, apples and citrus fruits.
The flavonoids in tea–theaflavin in black tea and catechin in green tea–can keep your heart healthy. A study in 2014 showed that flavonoids’ healthy benefits are almost immediately effective. The study participants were given either pills of catechins and theaflavins or placebo pills on 6 different days, and various measures of their cardiovascular health were taken at 2, 4 and 6 hour time points after the pills were taken. The study measured factors dealing with “microcirculation,” which refers to blood flow in small vessels in your organs (as opposed to macrocirculation, which focuses on blood flow from your heart to your organs). The study found that even in this short time span after taking the pills, the patients’ microcirculation improved.
Another study looked at the effects of flavonoids on high blood pressure. Half of the study’s participants (all of whom had high blood pressure) were given regular treatments of high blood pressure medication, and the rest were given flavonoid infusions in addition to the regular treatment. The infusion contained flavonoids from red apples, dark chocolate and green tea. The participants who were given the flavonoid infusion showed greater improvements in their blood pressure, triglyceride levels (a type of fat that indicates risk of heart disease), and inflammation.
So, the next time you’re at Starbucks, consider skipping the sugary coffee drink and ordering a cup of tea instead. This heart-healthy option has a refreshing taste and can be enjoyed, guilt-free.
Feature Image Source: Sandra Rybicki