There's a reason you associate tea with the vision of health--and it's not just because of that one super Yogi friend who sips their daily cup of tea while meditating. Tea is much more than just a prop in someone's healthy routine; it's a beverage packed with secret health benefits.
Different teas offer many different health benefits, from aiding in digestion to easing anxiety. Tea consumption is often correlated with lowered blood pressure, reduced risk of cancer, and lowered stress levels. One of the most beneficial aspects of tea may not be the first to come to your mind, but easily can provide some of the greatest effects: the antioxidants found in tea.
In this blog, we'll learn more about antioxidants in tea, how they make it to your cup, and the kinds of beneficial effects they provide.
Where Does Tea Come From?
To understand the health benefits brewing in your tea cup, it's helpful to understand where your tea came from in the first place. While different teas come from different places, the three main teas (green tea, black tea and oolong tea) come from the same plant: camellia sinensis. The difference between these teas is thus in the way they are fermented and processed. While green tea is not fermented, black and oolong tea are both fermented to achieve their unique taste.
The camellia sinensis plant is rich in antioxidants, specifically polyphenols. In fact, tea has about eight to ten times the polyphenols found in most fruits and vegetables.
Tea also contains antioxidants that are not typically found in fruits and vegetables, including thearubigins, epicatechins, and catechins. All of these antioxidants are considered flavonoids, and green tea and black tea contain a great deal of flavonoids.
What are Antioxidants?
In short, antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals, while not bad in themselves, can be harmful to the body when in excess. Your body is constantly producing free radicals naturally, for tasks like helping your immune system ward off disease. But free radicals must always be in balance with their counterpart, antioxidants. If there is an excess of free radicals, your body will go into oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can damage your DNA and lead to negative health outcomes, ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. To prevent oxidative stress from occurring, it's important to help boost your body's natural production of antioxidants with external sources.
In the same way that human bodies have their own antioxidants to ward off free radicals, plants have their own unique antioxidants that do the same. By intaking certain antioxidants through our diet, we help support our bodies and keep them alive. This is one of the reasons why plant-focused diets are associated with overall good health.
Foods that Contain Antioxidants
If you've heard that eating dark chocolate or drinking red wine will make you live longer, that's because of our good ol' friends antioxidants. Studies have shown that these two indulgences contain antioxidants.
While you could try to live on a diet of chocolate and wine alone for your antioxidant intake, you would be missing out on some other key antioxidants. As it turns out, there are different kinds of antioxidants.
Beyond dark chocolate and red wine, many fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants. Broccoli, spinach, carrots, pumpkin, beets, berries and kale are some of the many produce items known to give you an antioxidant boost. But when it comes to bevs, green and black tea are known to be the true antioxidant superheroes, and for good reason.
Antioxidants in Green Tea and Black Tea
Green tea often gets the most credit for its antioxidant capacity, likely because it is rich in polyphenols. But black tea, which comes from the same plant as green tea, also has a high antioxidant capacity.
Green tea is particularly rich in epigallocatechin 3 gallate, while black tea is especially rich in theaflavins.
What are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols are chemical compounds that act as antioxidants, and green tea contains a great deal of flavonoids, which are a kind of polyphenols that are also associated with their anti-inflammatory properties.
One of the most well-known and well-researched flavonoids, EGCG, is a catechin that is found in particularly high amounts in green tea and black tea. EGCG is associated with a lowered risk of cancer, heart disease, and even neurodegenerative diseases.
Both black tea and green tea also contain phenolic acids, which are easily absorbed by the body and act as a great source of antioxidants.
What Impacts the Antioxidant capacity of Tea?
There are many possible reasons that the antioxidant capacity of different teas is different. This can range from where the tea plant was grown, to how it was processed. When purchasing tea, consider purchasing from a brand that thoughtfully sources their tea to ensure the greatest amount of health benefits. Mosi Tea, for example, sources their garden-picked teas with antioxidant capacity in mind.
Interestingly, what you add to your tea may also impact its antioxidant levels. For instance, adding milk to green and black tea can alter the body's ability to absorb the antioxidants.
Some flavonoids have been shown to "deactivate" when they bind to certain proteins, which may be why the addition of milk alters the antioxidant absorption. But, even with the small addition of milk, tea is still an incredible source of tea polyphenols and should be incorporated into your diet.
Health Benefits of Antioxidants
There has been a great deal of research done on the effects of antioxidants on the body and the specific health benefits they provide.
Tea Polyphenols May Prevent Cancer
Research has shown that polyphenols can protect your DNA from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are associated with many negative health outcomes, including cancer of the lungs and breast.
Studies have even shown that tea polyphenols can actually help treat cancer. For instance, the polyphenols theaflavin and thearubigin (found in black teas) have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Tea Polyphenols May Prevent Heart Disease
Studies have shown that drinking just two cups of black tea per day for one month can significant reduce the risk of heart disease. Other studies have shown that consistent consumption of green tea and black tea can lower blood pressure, which also helps prevent heart disease.
Atherosclerosis, which is a common heart disease, may occur because of the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Polyphenols are known to help prevent this oxidation, lowering cholesterol at the same time.
Tea Polyphenols May Help Slow the Anti-Aging Process
Aging is a natural result of consistent oxidative stress. Polyphenols found in tea are known to help prevent this oxidative stress and thus act as anti-aging mechanisms.
Free radical activity can speed up the appearance of aging through premature fine lines and wrinkles. Tea polyphenols help fight off this free radical activity and regenerate cells.
Green tea catechins and flavonoids are known to be especially powerful warriors against aging. And black tea's EGCG contents also works to prevent oxidation that can lead to dull, dry skin.
How to Incorporate Antioxidants Into Your Diet
Antioxidants might just be your best secret weapon to achieving longevity and health. And while we certainly agree that incorporating dark chocolate, berries and red wine into your diet is a great way to start seeing their benefits, incorporating a daily cup of tea into your routine will give your body the boost of extra antioxidants that it craves. Tea is an accessible, tasty and easy way to add a boost of antioxidants to your diet.
"True teas", which are the teas that come from the camellia sinensis plant, contain the highest levels of antioxidants. We recommend starting to incorporate oolong tea, black or green tea into your diet to see the effects of antioxidants on your health.
Antioxidant-Rich Teas to Try
If you're just starting out on your tea journey, we recommend looking through the varieties of loose leaf tea on the Mosi website. For each of our teas, we share a rating from one to three for antioxidant content.
Some of our three-star, antioxidant-rich, garden-picked teas include:
Assam black tea with a subtle sweetness. High in caffeine and high in antioxidants.
A premium, creamy and rich green tea concentrate with a light sweetness of vanilla. Medium in caffeine and high in antioxidants and l-theanine.
Assam black tea with tangy, floral, citrusy bergamot. High in both caffeine and antioxidants.
A soothing, sweet and lively green tea with lemongrass, peppermint and spearmint. Low in caffeine and high in antioxidants.
A bold, woody black tea with a subtle floral sweetness. High in both caffeine and antioxidants.