November 12, 2012

Find out the truth behind 5 common myths about tea.

You probably already know that tea is an incredibly healthy beverage. In fact, studies show that if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and diabetes, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. But not everything you've heard about tea is true. Here are 5 myths about tea busted.

-Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.

Myth #1. Adding Milk to Tea Negates the Health Benefits

Although some studies have suggested adding milk to tea undoes its heart-healthy benefits, recent research says that's not necessarily the case... roughly the same amount of catechins (antioxidants linked with a reduced risk of some cancers) were absorbed from milk-tinged tea as from plain black tea, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Myth #2. Peppermint Tea Is a Good Choice for Tummy Troubles

While a cup of herbal tea can help to soothe an upset stomach, mint is not necessarily the best choice. Peppermint aggravates a condition known as GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease)-recurrent heartburn. A better choice for an upset stomach-especially nausea or motion sickness-is ginger tea. Just steep a quarter-size piece of fresh ginger in boiling water.

Myth #3. Tea Is Healthiest When Nothing Is Added to It

The citric acid in a squeeze of lemon juice-or lime or orange juice-will help to preserve the flavanoids in tea if you're brewing it ahead (such as if you're making iced tea). The flavanoids are the compounds deemed responsible for many of tea's health boons. Also, adding honey to your tea may make you more productive on the job, suggests a small 2010 study published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. When study participants drank the two together, researchers found that areas of the brain associated with attention worked more efficiently than when tea was sipped solo.

Myth #4. Herbal Tea Is Tea

Actually, true tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis. While black, green, oolong and white teas come from this plant, herbal varieties are usually made from the flowers and even bark of other plants. Herbal teas are technically tisanes.

Myth #5. Tea Doesn't Go Bad

Tea does have a shelf life: 6 months. After that, it starts to lose its antioxidants. A 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science showed that catechins in green tea decreased markedly over time. After six months, catechin levels were 32 percent lower. Make the most of the antioxidants by storing tea in a sealed container in a dark, cool place.