Dietitians Dish: Brewed teas give great benefits to physical health

By Lisa Hagan
April 9, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 8, 2013 at 11:09 p.m.

Just like the roasting of the coffee bean produces different flavored coffees, the fermenting of tea leaves produces different flavors.

There are four common types of tea made from the same plant. The evergreen shrub is native to China and India. The Camellia sinensis plant is made into white, green, oolong and black teas.

Each type of tea has its distinct flavor and health benefits. The teas are given their names according to the way they are processed. Studies are finding that all these tea types have heart health benefits.

White tea is produced from the buds and leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub. It is the least processed. The unfermented buds and leaves are immediately steamed.

It has the highest antioxidant properties. White tea not only has heart health benefits, but it also has more cancer-fighting potential than the other teas.

Green tea is made from unfermented leaves. It is widely known to have heart health benefits. It is made from leaves that are streamed.

Green tea has more heart protective properties than other teas primarily due to the higher concentration of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Studies have shown that EGCG in green tea gives it its heart health properties.

Oolong tea is made from partially fermented tea leaves. It, too, has heart health benefits, but it is high in caffeine. Currently, it is being studied for its potential weight-loss effects.

It is believed that the combination of caffeine and other antioxidants in the tea promotes fat burning. People with irregular heart beats should be careful to limit beverages with caffeine.

Black tea is made from fully fermented tea leaves. The antioxidants are lower than the other teas, but the fermentation process produces a different type of heart health benefits. One study published in Preventive Medicine indicated that individuals who drank three cups of black tea a day for 12 weeks had reduced sugar and triglycerides levels. However, like oolong tea, people with irregular heart beats should limit this beverage.

Herbal teas are made with other plants. Some herbal teas are lower in antioxidants than those made with the Camellia sinensis plant. However, some teas, such as rooibos (red tea) and hibiscus, have heart health benefits.

Overall, tea is a good choice in beverage. Brewed tea is best because as tea leaves are processed it looses the powerful antioxidants, therefore, choose brewed tea instead of instant or bottled teas. Avoid adding milk or sugar to tea as it can decrease the health benefits. Try a squeeze of lemon instead.

Lisa Hagan is a registered and licensed dietitian with DeTar Health Systems. Send questions or comments to



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