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Food Facts: Tea & Coffee

If you love coffee, tea, or chai, keep on sippin’—there’s good news in that steaming mug.


All Kinds of Tea

Tea is the second most popular beverage after water. And the amazing thing is that all tea comes from one plant—Camellia sinensis. Whether the tea is black, green, white, or oolong depends on various degrees of oxidation and how the leaves are processed. Antioxidants in green, black, and oolong teas may help prevent plaque from forming on artery walls and help repair and prevent DNA damage that can lead to cancer. Tea has also been found to improve healthy cholesterol. 
 
Chai is made with tea from Camellia sinensis, heated milk, and a combination of spices. Cardamom, ginger, cloves, allspice, pepper, or fennel bring their own unique health properties to chai.
Tisanes—herbal teas from other plants, such as chamomile, peppermint, lemon, or cinnamon—are caffeine-free infusions of plant parts—roots, leaves, flowers, seeds, or bark. They may be the oldest medicinal delivery system on Earth: The body quickly absorbs and utilizes the health-giving properties of these plants.  
 
Rooibos (say “roy boss”) is in a class by itself, as is honeybush. Rich, red rooibos is brewed from leaves of the African Aspalathus linearis bush and offers an antioxidant that is highly effective in scavenging a specific free radical. Honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia), a South African plant, yields a tea rich in compounds that may offer other health-protective actions.
 
Benefits of Tea:
∗ Black tea:  Linked to heart and bone health. In a Swedish study, women who drank at least two cups a day had a 46% smaller risk for ovarian cancer. May help the body recover from stress and reduce LDL cholesterol.
 
∗ Green tea: Contains ECGC, a powerful antioxidant, plus catechins that help lower cholesterol levels and may reduce stroke. Also linked to weight loss and reduced cancer incidence in some studies. 
 
∗ White tea: May offer antifungal activity and antibacterial activity to fight staph and strep infection, pneumonia, and tooth decay. Its polyphenols may help prevent cancer.
 
∗ Rooibos (red tea): Only known source of aspalathin, an antioxidant highly effective in scavenging a specific free radical.
 
∗ Honeybush: May offer antioxidant and chemopreventive actions. 
 
Benefits of Tisanes (herbal teas) 
∗ Chamomile: Calming, mildly sedative effects; may boost immunity and relieve menstrual cramps. 
∗ Echinacea: Initiates a strong immune response at the first sign of a cold or flu. 
∗ Ginger: Settles an upset stomach.
∗ Lemon: With honey, relieves sore throat. 
∗ Peppermint: Helpful for digestion and upset stomach. 
 
What to Know About Joe
For some people, tea will never replace that cuppa joe—and that’s okay. Coffee offers many antioxidants and minerals shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, making it beneficial against diabetes. Italian researchers linked another coffee compound, trigonelline, with antibacterial and antiadhesive properties to fight dental caries. Other studies suggest that coffee may protect against Parkinson’s disease, gallstones, and colon cancer. It may also help manage asthma, relieve headache, and enhance mood. 
 
One caveat: Remember that heavy caffeine use—four to seven cups daily—can cause restlessness, anxiety, and irritability and may interfere with sleep. 
 
How Much Caffeine per Cup?
Researchers who tried to answer this question found wide variations, depending on brands, cup sizes, brewing methods, and other variables. For tea, steeping time influenced caffeine amounts. Our chart offers basic caffeine content, but be aware of differences.
 

Beverage (8 ounces)

Amount of Caffeine (milligrams)  

Coffe, plain, brewed

95

Coffee, instant

62

Decaf coffee, instant or brewed

2

Black tea, brewed

47

Green tea, brewed

30-50 

 

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