A sip of good health
Life with its bundle of stressors can take a toll on us, unless we guard our body and mind with the necessary shields for defence. Take a quick look at your lifestyle and evaluate if you are eating healthy, exercising enough, taking time to relax, and managing stress well. If you are taking steps in this direction, then give yourself a pat on the back and keep doing it; if not, this can be your chance to rethink your lifestyle and give it your best shot!
Any form of stressor triggers oxidative stress in our body a chemical reaction that generates free radicals & peroxides that can damage our cells. Oxidative stress is linked to most of the chronic diseases of modern life – atherosclerosis, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease etc. With a healthy lifestyle, our body is equipped with ways to counteract this stress and prevent the damaging consequences. Anti-oxidants play a very important role in counteracting this oxidative stress.
A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, balanced amounts of whole grain, pulses, nuts and oil can provide necessary nutrients and a host of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) to afford protection from the damaging effects of stress. Add beverages like tea to your diet and you can ensure that you have additional protection. Read on, to see how tea can benefit you and choose a tea to suit your lifestyle.
Tea is one of the most popular beverages consumed all over the world. Leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis, once harvested, begin to wilt and get oxidized due to enzymatic reactions, leading to changes in color and aroma of the leaves & chemical composition. Heat is applied to dry the leaves and stop this reaction at variable stages depending on the type of tea that needs to be produced. The most common teas are green tea, white tea, oolong and black tea. The difference in treatment of the leaves gives each tea its unique taste, color, and flavor.
- Green tea – unwilted, unoxidized.
- White – wilted, unoxidized
- Oolong – wilted, bruised, partially oxidized
- Black – wilted, bruised, fully oxidized.
Tea contains polyphenols, a group of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that have the potential in humans to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and other disease states. Polyphenols, as antioxidants, fight free radicals and peroxides that are caused by oxdidative stress, that could damage our cells leading to DNA changes or cell death, implicated in aging and cancer. They prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol that could lead to atherosclerosis, which in turn leads to heart disease.
Polyphenols exert a wide range of beneficial effects in our body. There is some evidence to indicate these effects and include:
- Immune-modulatory properties
- Influence on blood pressure
- Modulate blood glucose levels
Polyphenol content varies with the type of tea, size of the tea leaves and amount of tea used per infusion. Detailed polyphenol profile will be discussed in the specific article dedicated to the type of tea.
Tea also contains alkaloids- caffeine, and small amounts of theophylline, and theobromine, that provide the stimulant effect by increasing alertness. Caffeine content varies with the type of tea, amount of tea leaves used and duration of brewing. Caffeine content of tea is usually lower than coffee.
L-theanine, another component of tea, produces general calmness by reducing mental & physical stress, and boosts mood & cognitive function. Its content also varies with the type of tea.
Two cups (1 cup= 240 ml) of tea can help with hydration by increasing your daily fluid intake by almost half a liter.
Tea also offers a great way to replace high calorie beverages such as colas and other high sugar beverages with a healthier lower calorie beverage such as black tea, green tea with honey, or no calorie beverage such as green or white tea without honey or sugar. They can be highly refreshing and nourishing at the same time.
I am sure after reading the positive effects of tea and its importance in today’s lifestyle, you are curious to know more about specific teas – green, white, oolong, and black tea. Stay tuned for this information and visit again to read our articles in the series.
Public Health Nutritionist