Tea: a healthier choice

Tea: a Healthier Choice

Tea is one of the world’s second most popular beverage (after water), but most Americans consider it a poor second to coffee as a caffeine-laced pick-me-up or after-meal beverage. Recently, however, tea has gained new popularity, in part because of its medicinal value. A cup of tea contains only about half as much caffeine as a cup of brewed coffee, and many people prefer its taste and consider its buzz less jarring.

Cancer. Studies suggest that chemicals known as polyphenols in tea help prevent cancer. Researchers compared the diets of 900 people with esophageal cancer with those of 1,500 who did not have the cancer. The people with cancer drank significantly less green tea. The more green tea, the less cancer. In addition, green tea was added to the drinking water of experimental mice and then exposed them to chemicals known to cause a variety of tumors in rodents. The mice who drank the green-tea-laced water developed considerably fewer tumors than the mice who drank plain water. These studies prompted headlines proclaiming “Green Tea Prevents Cancer.” Unfortunately, few Americans drink green tea outside of Asian restaurants; most Americans drink black tea. It has the similar effect too.

Tooth Decay. Tea is a good source of fluoride, which prevents tooth decay. Both green and black teas contain more fluoride than fluoridated water. The tannins in tea also help fight the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Osteoporosis. Tea is a good source of manganese, an essential trace mineral that helps preserve bone.

Colds, Congestion And Asthma. As with coffee, the caffeine in tea eases breathing by opening the bronchial passages. Tea also contains another stimulant, theophylline. Physicians often prescribe pharmaceutical theophylline preparations to treat asthma.

Heart Attack. Men whose diets are rich in polyphenols have an unusually low risk of heart attack. Subsequent diet surveys showed that the heart-healthy Hollanders obtained some of their polyphenols from apples and onions but got a whopping 61 percent from black tea.

Diarrhea. Tea contains astringent tannins. Ancient Chinese physicians valued tea’s mild astringency for treatment of diarrhea. Today’s doctors agree, since mild astringents are widely used to treat diarrhea. Leading home medical guides suggest treating diarrhea with the BRATT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast and tea.

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