Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Health Benefits Of Tea

Do you know that tea, not coffee, is the most widely consumed beverage in the world ... second only to water?  And perhaps that's good, since many studies indicate, drinking 4 to 6 cups*per day has huge health benefits.  Tea is produced from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tree.  It is loaded with antioxidant polyphenols -- microscopic compounds thought to help stabilize free radicals, which trigger diseases like cancer, heart disease and Parkinson's.  While debatable, scientific studies say drinking a lot of tea helps to thin the blood, as well as, lowers the risk of strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer's. Other studies suggest, tea aids digestion and helps to prevent dental cavities and gum disease -- if you omit the sugar.

 As it turns out, tea is an important source of vitamins and minerals, such as carotene (turns into vitamin A), vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, nicotinic acid, pantothenic acid, folic acid, manganese, potassium, and fluoride.

Based on the maturity and processing of the leaf, you get different varieties of tea, including the familiar: 
White – It's the least processed; unoxidized
Green – Also unoxidized
Oolong – Partially oxidized
Black – Most processed; fully oxidized.

If not dried quickly, tea leaves oxidize.  Oxidation turns it darker.  Whereas, white and green are the least processed -- their tea leaves are simply steamed quickly;  oolong and black teas are dried, crushed and fermented.  But regardless of processing, all 4 varieties contain polyphenols, so you can reap the health benefits by drinking the tea you like best.

Interestingly, herbal teas are not produced from the Camellia plant, so although some may have healing properties, they lack polyphenols along with those benefits.  Most herbal teas aren't really tea at all, but are blends of flowers, herbs and spices.  They are properly called "tisane" beverages.  Personally, I'll continue to call them "tea," thank you very much.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I believe in treats.  Perhaps most of the time, we can be happy with just tea.  But people can't live on tea alone.  So here's a “healthy” version of a favorite sweet.  Like many of you, I tend to use what's in my pantry, so here's the original recipe along with my tweaks in blue:
Art Smith's Healthy Hummingbird Cupcakes [with my tweaks]
Dry Bowl
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, or spelt flour
¼  cup whole wheat pastry flour [I use one flour, 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour]
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder [I use 1 teaspoon.]
¼ teaspoon salt
Wet Bowl
1 ripe banana, mashed
½ cup crushed pineapple, with juice
2/3 cup organic granulated cane sugar [I use honey, instead.]
¼ cup canola oil
1/3 cup applesauce [I use all crushed pineapple, so extra 1/3 cup]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, finely chopped

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners.  
2) In a large bowl, shift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
3) In a separate bowl, mash the banana with the pineapple, then whisk in the sugar, oil, applesauce and vanilla until completely incorporated and relatively smooth. Fold in walnuts.  You can also add coconut flakes.
4) Gently mix the wet bowl into the dry bowl, stirring until just combined.
5) Pour batter in the paper liners, which are resting in the muffin pan.
6)Bake for 25 minutes, until a tooth pick is inserted and comes out clean.
7) Cool on a baking rack.  Next top with icing and sprinkle with walnut pieces.

Frosting Preparation:
1 container tofu cream cheese (or non-dairy cream cheese) [I substitute low-free cream cheese]
½ cup soy margarine [I use 2 tablespoons real butter and skim milk, adding a little at a time]
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

Combine the cream cheese and margarine.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, then vanilla and lemon juice.  Do not over beat the frosting.  Makes 8-10 servings.  Now get ready to throw a tea party!

*Doctors say avoid too much caffeine if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure or take coumadin.

You may also enjoy:
Coffee, People Love It!
Can Needle Flowers Improve Your Health?
Healthy Spices In A Well-Stocked Kitchen
Chocolate Was Once A Beverage Only for the Rich


  1. Thank you! I enjoyed that bit of tea knowledge!! =) (Yummy recipes are always appreciated too)

  2. Coffee_pot, so glad you stopped by! What a cute user name!!

  3. great write-up on the benefits and types of tea.
    Gorgeous cupcakes and looks so yummy.

  4. Hi Nava.K,
    The cupcakes are a lighter variation of Southern Hummingbird Cake.

  5. The cupcakes sound delicious. I like to use real butter, too, whenever I can.

  6. This is the best treat for everyone. Tea has been known to have anti-oxidant just like coffee.

  7. Hello!
    Thanks for the tips. I have used some of your information for my honey and tea article.