The Health Benefits and Risks of Tea

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We all know what tea is; and most of us are under the impression that tea is rather a safe drink. Or is it?

tea, food safety, toxins

Photo courtesy of Samneang Lina Sin via Flickr

Where does tea actually come from?

Its history is long and complex. It goes across multiple cultures, over the span of thousands of years. Tea most likely originated in southwest China during the Shang dynasty, and was  used as a medicinal drink. During the 16th century, it was introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants visiting China, and made its way to Europe. In Britain, drinking tea became popular during the 17th century. It was the British who introduced tea production, along with its consumption, to India.

So what’s the deal with drinking tea?

An extensive research has linked tea consumption to a number of mental and physical health benefits. These include lowering the risk of depression, ovarian cancer, Parkinson’s disease and dementia, and more.

However, certain teas can contain or absorb various toxic compounds. This depends on several factors, including the soil and environment it is farmed on, as well as its harvesting, storage and brewing methods. Several recent studies have found excessive levels of toxic elements in many different types of teas. These potentially dangerous compounds include:

  1. Heavy Metals
  2. Fluoride
  3. Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids
Photo courtesy of A Girl With Tea via Flickr

Photo courtesy of A Girl With Tea via Flickr

So how can we enjoy this ancient drink without the added risks?

There are several simple steps we can take to lower or limit the risks:

  1. Brewing time: keep it under three minutes

  2. Avoid teas from more contaminated regions including China, India and Sri Lanka. As researcher Gerry Schwarfenberg, MD, of the University of Alberta in Canada, explained: “Tea from China has high levels of lead and aluminum, likely from contaminated soil due to coal fired power plants. Therefore go with white tea instead, its leaves are young and have less time to absorb heavy metals.” Also, serve tea in glass instead of china, which could contain lead in its glazing. You can also minimize the effect of heavy metals by taking essential minerals and vitamin D.

  3. Opt for tea leaves instead of bags, or lemons teas.
  4. Choose higher quality teas over cheep options to reduce fluoride exposure. Pure blends such as Assam, Ceylon, Oolong or Darjeeling are the best choice.
  5. Don’t drink on an empty stomach.

Read more details in the original article on Yahoo Beauty.

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