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How to Maximize the Flavor and Health Benefits of Tea

By Joyce Hendley, "Tea Time," July/August 2009

What to add to your tea to make it healthier, how to make your own iced tea, plus 5 tips from a tea expert.


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Sure, a tall glass of iced tea on a hot day is refreshing, but did you know it might also do your body good? Studies show if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. How? Tea is rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids.

“True teas,” such as black, green, oolong and white teas, come from the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. What many of us call herbal teas, such as chamomile and rooibos, are actually tisanes or infusions. The differences in true teas result from how the tea plant’s leaves are processed: black teas are oxidized (exposed to oxygen) a few hours before rolling and drying, deepening their color, while white teas and green teas are simply steamed, rolled and dried. Think of oolongs as hybrids; their leaves are partially oxidized before drying.

Regardless of the variety, maximize the power of its flavonoids by drinking it freshly brewed. If you want to keep a batch of cold tea in your refrigerator, “add a little lemon juice,” recommends Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. The citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon—or lime, or orange—help preserve the flavonoids.

How To Make Iced Tea »



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