If you want to choose one of the healthiest beverages to drink (besides water), choose tea. It has a wide variety of evidence-backed health benefits and delivers them all with less caffeine than coffee. And while coffee can provide a lot of health benefits too, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may appreciate tea’s more subtle effects.
If you’re still not convinced, just review this impressive list of the benefits tea has to offer and see if it doesn’t change your mind. (We focused on the unique benefits of black and green tea for this article, though herbal teas have many benefits as well.)
1. Tea Has Powerful Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
We are all exposed to damaging free radicals every day. These are unstable molecules produced naturally in the body as a result of metabolism. Free radicals exist in foods, pollution, radiation, and more, and they can damage cells and tissues. This damage is called “oxidative stress.”
Antioxidants are substances that can neutralize free radicals. They rob them of their power so that they become calm, docile molecules that can no longer cause harm.
As we age, the body becomes less able to fight the effects of free radicals. That’s why getting enough antioxidants in your diet is so important. And though all fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, tea contains uniquely powerful ones called “catechins,” as well as a few others.
Studies have found that the antioxidants in tea can help protect cells from free radical damage. In a 2003 study, scientists noted, “Tea consumption consistently leads to a significant increase in the antioxidant capacity in the blood.”
Since many of today’s most deadly diseases—including heart disease and cancer—are at least partially linked to oxidative stress, it’s clear that drinking tea is a wise move!
2. Tea May Help Prevent Heart Disease
In addition to catechins, tea also has other antioxidants called flavonoids. These are plant chemicals also found in fruits and vegetables that can have health benefits in humans.
These flavonoids have been found in studies to be beneficial for heart health. In one 2012 study, researchers had one group of participants drink black tea every day for 12 weeks, while a control group drank the same amount of hot water for the same period.
The results showed that those who drank the tea experienced a drop in blood sugar levels and triglyceride levels, as well as a decrease in the LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio—all good outcomes when it comes to preventing heart disease. Other studies have also found tea to reduce levels of LDLs (low-density lipoproteins), commonly known as “bad” cholesterol.
3. Tea May Improve Cognitive Function
If you’re struggling to concentrate on a project, try drinking a cup or glass of tea. Some research suggests that it may help improve your brain’s thinking power.
In a recent 2019 study, for instance, researchers found that individuals who consumed green, oolong, or black tea at least four times a week for about 25 years had brain regions that were interconnected in a more efficient way.
The researchers likened it to a highway system. Imagine different brain regions as destinations, while the connections between them are roads. “When a road system is better organized,” said study author Feng Lei, “the movement of vehicles and passengers is more efficient and uses fewer resources. Similarly, when the connections between brain regions are more structured, information processing can be performed more efficiently.”
In an earlier review of 21 studies, researchers found that green tea improved mental cognition by boosting memory and attention.
4. Tea May Protect Your Brain from Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, and it’s a disease that we all want to avoid. Drinking more tea may help.
In 2017, Harvard Health reported on a study that showed drinking tea was frequently associated with a lower risk of dementia, particularly in those people who were genetically predisposed to the disease. After five years, tea drinkers had a 50 percent lower risk of dementia.
In a 2019 review, scientists also found support for the idea that green tea intake may reduce the risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive impairment.
5. Tea May Help You Live Longer
Could it be that your daily cup of tea will give you a couple of more years on the planet?
Some studies have found evidence supporting this idea. In 2006, researchers reported on a study of over 40,000 Japanese adults aged 40 to 79 years. They followed the participants for 11 years and found that those who regularly drank green tea were less likely to die of any cause, including cardiovascular disease. More specifically, women green tea drinkers were 23 percent less likely to die of any cause, and men 12 percent less likely.
In a later study of over 14,000 people aged 65 to 84 years, those who drank the most green tea were 76 percent less likely to die over a period of six years. And in a recent 2020 study of over 100,000 individuals, those who drank tea three or more times a week had a 22 percent lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke and a 15 percent decreased risk of death from all causes.
While there are many healthy beverages that offer numerous health benefits such as immunity building, tea has a lot to offer. A comforting warm beverage, it can take the place of a morning cup of coffee, or you can simply enjoy a relaxing cup of tea in the afternoon or evening to wind down after a long day. Tea is also often enjoyed cold in the form of iced tea for a tasty beverage that’s both healthy and refreshing.