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A good time for tea

cup of tea

Nothing beats a warm drink on a cold day. Many people reach for a steaming cup of java or toast with hot cocoa or cider to celebrate the holidays. But, don't forget about tea! Teas can warm you up and benefit your health, if prepared the right way.

Teas are filled with antioxidants, which is the biggest health benefit, according to Ashley Pirisino, MD, family medicine physician with Methodist Family Health Center - Waxahachie. Antioxidants can help keep your heart healthy, and bolster up your immune system. Drinking tea also increases your water intake. Drinking 8 cups of tea isn't the same as drinking 8 glasses of water, but Dr. Pirisino says you can count some of your tea toward your daily water consumption.

Black vs. Green

So what's the best tea for you? Dr. Pirisino suggests picking out a green tea if you're searching for something that is good for your body. "It helps with blood flow, which can help with blood pressure. Some studies suggest it can help prevent you from developing Alzheimer's," she says. EGCG is an antioxidant particularly prevalent in green teas and is associated with great health benefits.

However, both black and green teas come from the camellia sinensis plant species. The teas are different in the way they are produced. Dr. Pirisino says black teas go through an oxidation process, while green teas go through minimal processing.

How to prepare the perfect tea

No matter what tea you choose to drink, Dr. Pirisino suggests the following to ensure you're getting the best tea for your body:

  • Choose something organic
  • No added sugars
  • No dairy products (milk or creamers)

Adding sugars or dairy products can neutralize the antioxidants that make teas healthy in the first place. If you really have to add something else, try using lemon. Studies show lemon provide extra vitamin C and can help your body absorb more of the antioxidants found within the tea, so it's the best option.

If allergies give you a hard time, putting some raw, local honey in your tea can be helpful. Dr. Pirisino says honey from bees can provide benefits similar to allergy shots.

The skinny on herbal tea

If you're drinking an herbal tea to help you go to sleep at night, it's technically not a tea in most cases. They're a mix of herbs and spices, sometimes a bit of tea, and plants. Many of them aren't caffeinated, either.

They're not teas because they don't come from the leaves of the evergreen plant species, like green and black teas. Though they aren't classified as teas, they can still benefit your health. Dr. Pirisino recommends:

  • Throat herbal teas (especially if they contain slippery elm and/or licorice)
  • Herbal teas for constipation (look for products with senna, a plant-based laxative)
  • Lactation herbal teas (look for products with fenugreek to help with milk production)
    • Only use these after giving birth!
  • Nighttime herbal teas (look for products containing passionflower or chamomile)

Before buying any of these herbal teas, consult your primary care physician. Dr. Pirisino notes that many of the products found it herbal teas can counteract with certain medications. Also, too much green tea can cause a build-up in your liver, so consulting a doctor is very important.

On those cold, blistery days, reach for a mug, water and tea, whichever your preference!

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