5 Reasons To Put The Kettle On This Winter

by Carrie Ruxton

Nowadays, everybody's so focused on the latest, greatest protein shakes, superjuices and plants waters, all claiming to have that special 'fix all' ingredient to make us healthier but, actually, the healthiest drink this winter could already be lurking in your cupboard.

Studies show that the humble tea plant – raw material for both green and black teas – is rich in antioxidant compounds. These have been linked with a host of health benefits, such as heart health, blood pressure, brain function, hydration, weight control and even dental health. Yet, fewer and fewer people are reaching for the kettle, with research showing that typical intakes of tea have more than halved since its heyday in the 1950s.

Here are 5 great reasons to have a cup of tea and, importantly, the best types to try at home.

Drinking 3-4 cups of tea daily can protect your heart and guard against high blood pressure. A study in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that drinking just three cups of tea a day reduced the risk of heart disease by 26%. Similar findings were seen for green teas. The effects are thought to be due to compounds called flavonoids, which reduce inflammation, relax blood vessel walls, and protect cells from free radicals (nasty chemicals which attack cells).

White tea which has the highest flavonoid content because the leaves are from the very tip of the plant. Clipper Tea's organic white tea (£1.90 / 26 tea bags) is delicious and is made from the fresh buds and young leaves of Fujian tea bushes. Or, for extra antioxidents, try their white tea and raspberry or white tea and vanilla.

Tea contains two brain-boosting substances – theanine, which is a type of amino acid, and a small amount of caffeine. People who drink tea on a regular basis are less likely to lose cognitive power as they age. Tea is also a de-stresser and an effective pick me up in the office when the post-lunch dip kicks in. In one study, people who performed a difficult computer task felt significantly less stressed after they drank a cup of tea.

Gyokuro and matcha teas. They have the most theanine at 46mg per cup compared with 5mg in green tea. We love Whittard of Chelsea's fresh matcha teas and gyokuru teas. Deliciously aromatic and full of flavour, and made from 100% fresh, natural ingredients, you'll wonder why you ever drank traditional tea in the first place. Plus, with so many other sensuous and exciting flavours to explore (Passionfruit and Mango, Jasmine Dragon Pearl, Goji Acai, Shanghai Chai and more), all with their own mental and physical health benefits, it's impossible to get bored.

If you’ve written off tea because of fears of staining – think again. Tea plants are actually one of the best natural sources of fluoride, which protects tooth enamel from decay. A standard mug of tea contains just over 1mg of fluoride, well within the safe limit of 7mg. Tea flavonoids also protect against bad breath by targeting harmful mouth bacteria and encouraging saliva production, according to a study in Archives of Oral Biology.

Decaffeinated tea as this has the highest fluoride levels. Take it without milk or sugar to freshen the breath after meals.

While adverts for green tea detox drinks are everywhere, a safer and less expensive option is to switch a sugary soft drink for a cup of tea. Detox drinks have been criticised for being ineffective or for containing laxatives which create health problems in high doses. Clinical trials on tea and tea-based supplements have found modest fat burning effects so they are worth having as part of a balanced weight loss diet.

Green tea is very refreshing and calming on the mind and body so perfect for staying healthy and mentally unwinding. It has the most supporting evidence so aim to drink 3-4 cups daily but don’t expect a huge weight loss - it's far more effective for maintainance. Try replacing your regular tea or coffee with it as, that way, you'll be creating long-term healthy habits and body changes and, importantly, maintaining them. Far more beneficial.

Reports that tea makes you wee are wide of the mark. In fact, the modest amount of caffeine in tea (about 40mg compared with twice that amount in coffee) has little or no effect on your bladder. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that tea was as hydrating as water at intakes of up of 6 mugs a day

Regular black tea is good when you’re thirsty but try Darjeeling if you want a lower caffeine option.

Visit Carrie's website for more great dietary tips and advice

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