You know that a cup of tea can do you good, but are there different health benefits to the different varieties? Black, green, oolong, and white teas all come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis). It’s how they’re processed that sets them apart and gives them their distinctive flavors. Black is made from leaves that have fully oxidized; their chemical makeup changes when they’re wilted, bruised, and exposed to air (kind of like a cut apple that sits on the counter). Oolong is partially oxidized, while green is not oxidized. White is also not oxidized, and it’s made from young leaves or buds. And they all will deliver a slightly lower buzz than a cup of coffee: it takes up to four eight-ounce cups of black tea to deliver roughly the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Black tea may be a heart helper. While black tea is not quite as high in flavonoid antioxidants as its green counterpart, it is good for your heart and may help reduce cholesterol levels. And it can also help boost your energy levels. Feel free to tackle your afternoon slump with black tea, which tends to have a higher caffeine content than green tea.
Green tea is packed with good-for-you antioxidants that may keep you in great form long-term. It may also help fight certain diseases: “The polyphenols found in green tea not only reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering your total and LDL cholesterol but may also reduce your risk of breast cancer,” says Sonia Oyola, MD, of the University of Chicago.
Sipping white or green tea may help with weight loss, thanks to caffeine and antioxidants called catechins. It’s also a plant powerhouse. “White tea is the least processed,” notes Dr. Oyola, “so compared with other teas, it has a higher amount of polyphenols, which are known to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.”
Kombucha—tea that’s fermented using sugar and a starter culture from (good) bacteria and yeast—can be an excellent source of probiotics, which may help reestablish a balanced gut microbiome and improve the health of your digestive system, says Dr. Oyola. Just be aware that some varieties may contain alcohol (though usually less than 0.5 percent).
Weight loss teas
Are so-called “detox teas” for weight loss worth a try? Nope—here’s why: Some slimming teas combine caffeine with a diuretic, causing you to shed water weight, not actual fat. They may also contain herbs like senna, a natural laxative that can come with undesirable side effects (think stomach cramps and diarrhea). If your aim is fat loss, a clean diet and exercise are a safer bet, says Cynthia Sass, RD.