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Why tea is good for your health

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Healthy tea tips & recipes

Tea is more than just a warm drink to start your day. This increasingly popular beverage can lower your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and gum disease, and reduce stress while helping you burn fat and lose weight. Ani Bailey, founder of www.CaliforniaTeaHouse.com, tells us why we should be drinking tea every day. The tea expert also shares her secret for making the best cup of tea and a few tea-rrific recipes.

Friends with a teapot

Born to tea

Some people are destined to follow their childhood inspirations. Some of us go from wrapping bandages around a dog's leg to being a vet, others of us take our affinity for writing and become contributing editors, and yet others, like Bailey, turn a love of tea into a thriving business.

"I first became fascinated with tea as a little girl, ever since my mother would spruce up plain teas with cinnamon sticks, cloves, lemon and honey," Bailey fondly recalls. "Tea parties with dolls were part of my daily play routine."

Bailey is the founder of www.CaliforniaTeaHouse.com, an online tea store with an impressive array of teas, including green, rooibos, herbal and even blooming teas. After spending countless days and nights during college in teterias (Moorish tea houses) in Spain when she studied abroad and the coffee and tea houses in Los Angeles while getting a law degree, the tea expert met her husband, who is also a tea connoisseur, and the two planned a tea-themed wedding.

"Our wedding favors consisted of blooming teas in silk pouches that hung on a candlelit manzanita wood centerpiece…we served our guests loose leaf tea with a slice of our wedding cake that was decorated with real, miniature pomegranates, figs, apples and berries…I even named each guest table after various tea types like Darjeeling, Rooibos, Earl Grey and Pu-erh," describes Bailey.

There was no question that Bailey's future would involve tea. "With the help of my husband, I launched my website with one mission: To introduce the US to the finest quality teas from around the world with the same charm and mystery as my Moorish tea house memories."

Tea for the health of it

Bailey isn't just a purveyor of fine teas. Ask her about the health benefits of this increasingly popular antioxidant-rich drink and she'll captivate you with the research.

Bailey says, "Of course scientists are always finding new connections on the health benefits of tea. A new study shows that drinking black tea can actually assist in growing and repairing bone tissue! Now that sounds like a boost for growing old graciously. And if looking great and energy are more on your list than age, drinking green tea is found to target belly fat. This makes green tea a valuable part of any diet and exercise program and could help you lose those final, difficult five to 10 pounds."

Here are some other tea health basics to wet your whistle:

Green tea

Made from unfermented tea leaves that contain a high concentration of polyphenols, green tea has been associated with a reduced risk for cancer and heart disease, lower cholesterol, and weight loss (particularly belly fat). Green tea may also be beneficial in lowering your risk of diabetes and Alzheimer's.

Black tea

Research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology demonstrated that black tea is effective in lowering the stress hormone cortisol. "The study found that people who drank black tea were able to destress more quickly than those who drank a fake tea substitute," explains Bailey. "Furthermore, participants were found to have lower levels of cortisol in their blood after a stressful event." Participants drank black tea four times per day for six weeks. Black tea is also associated with a reduced risk of cancer.

White tea

The lesser known, but no less healthy, white tea -- specifically white tea extract -- has been shown to retard growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus infections, Streptococcus infections, pneumonia and dental caries. "According to Milton Schiffenbauer, PhD, a microbiologist and biology professor at Pace University's Dyson College of Arts & Sciences, research also showed that the anti-viral and anti-bacterial effect of several brand name toothpastes was enhanced by the addition of white tea extract," adds Bailey. White tea is associated with improved functioning of the immune system.

Oolong tea

Often referred to as "vani-tea," oolong tea has been shown to boost metabolism, burn fat, help with weight loss, and promote skin health. In a study published in the Journal of Medical Investigation, "women who drank two cups a day increased their metabolism by 157 percent over those women who drank the same amount of green tea," says Bailey.

What about herbal teas?

Herbal teas differ from "true tea" in that they are not derived from the Camillia sinensis plant (tea plant) and don't contain caffeine. Rather, they are blends of herbs, florals and other plants. Despite not being tea in the technical sense, they do, however, offer myriad health benefits.

"According to the FDA, herbal tea, such as our South African rooibos, is wonderful for lowering stress, which is one of the contributing causes of heart failure and premature aging," explains Bailey. "Mixed with other organic ingredients like berries and rose petals, our herbal tea blends reduce stress, aid in digestion and have a lot of antioxidants -- which if you have read any health magazine in the last 20 years, you know their role in eliminating free radicals and helping prevent many diseases including cancer."

Another advantage of herbal teas is that because they don't contain caffeine, you can enjoy them throughout the day up until bedtime and they won't disrupt a good night's sleep.

Next page: Secrets for a delicious cup of tea

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